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We all need nature, we need to feel the fresh air on our skin, the sun on our face and the sand between our toes. Not only does it feel good, it’s also been scientifically proven that being outside in nature can improve our wellbeing on a psychological and physiological point of view. 

MAKENOL PROFIL, "The pool of trees", Acrylic on canvas, 50x60cm, 2013

What if we can’t get out? It has also been proven that bringing nature inside and “views” and simulations of nature in our homes, workplaces, schools, and healthcare have a beneficial effect on us. Roger S Ulrich did a study in the 80s, where he proved that patients having views of nature improved their recovery rates and needed less medical intervention.

I have witnessed the difference having a view of trees or a stunningly calm image of water can have on mindset and recovery. It makes sense as we are essentially the same beings 50,000 years ago, not much has changed physiologically (our ears, taste, eyes, brain connections are still more or less the same).

MAKENOL PROFIL, "Mother Nature", Acrylic on canvas, 30x40cm, 2015

Ulrich has gone on to show the benefits of art in hospitals. In a recent paper he discusses how even in the ancient world, places of healing had fountains, gardens, sculpture, music, poetry. Art was seen as therapy in ancient Greece, creating a harmony, an almost spa-like environment intuitively enhances our wellbeing. Just think about where you like to be if you need to relax, it’s likely not the local factory, main road or noisy kitchen, it will be somewhere safe, a haven, where the physical environment creates a beauty around us. It stimulates our minds to relax. To be calm. To take time. To breathe. To heal. One is wise if one turns to views of or inspiration from nature to bring peace.

There is great beauty in nature. Keats, in his “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, I am sure you remember, said “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” There is something comforting and true in that. If you look up at a great Oak Tree, whether that’s in the early Spring when it’s blooming with leaves, or in the fiery russet autumn where the leaves rain gold on the floors of the forest or in the spectral winter when you can see his arms dance strong above your head, the shapes, harmony, colours and balance brings such joy to us. 

When I interviewed Dame Laura Lee, CEO of Maggies Cancer Care wards, we spoke about this phenomena, which is referred to by those of us in interior design and is increasingly understood and shared by the general public, as Biophilic Design, I asked her what it is about nature that speaks to us and has such a healing affect on us? She said, that it is “joy”. And you know what, I think that’s right. If you do one thing today, open the window, or take a walk among some trees, look at the flowers, the plants near you, even on your windowsill,  take a photo on your phone, print it out or set it as a screen saver, and let it brighten your working day.

Author: Dr Vanessa Champion

Artist, photographer, traveller, curator, humanitarian and founder of and editor of The Journal of Biophilic Design (online and international podcast).

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