Ever wish you could bottle that relaxed and recharged feeling you have after a vacation or camping trip in nature? Taking the time to connect with nature is an important aspect of our health and well-being. Take, for example, a zoo. Zoologists realized that animals which have been confined to concrete cages with little access to their natural environment had more health and behavioral issues than those that spent most of their time in a natural habitat. Scientific studies on the health and behavior of humans have found similar results. Humans, like animals, benefit from ample exposure to nature.
Forest Bathing and Biophilic Design are two areas of research focusing on human exposure to nature and natural elements. It’s undeniable that humans need earth’s natural environment for survival. Our bodies, not only require food and oxygen, but a complex balance of basic elements for optimal health. This includes the health of our mitochondrial DNA through our microbiome. Our microbiome or the microbes that cover our bodies inside and out, are essential to proper health. This delicate system is altered by spending time in nature. When we breathe the air, touch the natural elements, and bathe in the natural light, we are changing, diversifying, and strengthening our microbiome.
Shinrin Yoku or Forest Bathing is a Japanese practice of immersing oneself into the natural environment: breathing, touching, wandering, relaxing, listening and healing. In the 1980’s the Japanese realized that congested cities and the age of technology left the citizens of Japan lacking a solid connection to nature. The Japanese government implemented a program designating national forests for the practice of Shinrin Yoku. The idea is to spend as much time as you can in nature taking in all that it has to offer, allowing the natural elements to heal and rejuvenate your body.
Biophilic design is based on the research and book written by Edward O Wilson in 1984 called biophilia. The term means a strong attraction for or emotional attachment to the living world; a love of life or living things. In interior design we put great emphasis on form, function and aesthetics; however, much is often left out of that equation. There has been considerable research examining the benefits of nature and natural surroundings. Stephen Kellert, author of Nature by Design: The practice of biophilic design, outlined 14 key points to incorporate into a building’s design, to optimize a space for natural well-being:
Nature In The Space
1. Visual Connection with Nature
2. Non-Visual Connection with Nature
3. Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli
4. Thermal & Airflow Variability
5. Presence of Water
6. Dynamic & Diffuse Light
7. Connection With Natural Systems
8. Biomorphic Forms & Patterns
9. Material Connection with Nature
10. Complexity & Order
Nature Of The Space
By incorporating the 14 Biophilic Design elements into our everyday life, researchers believe we can improve our overall well-being. However, the incorporation of natural elements into our indoor environment does not reduce the need to spend time in nature. There are many natural elements that become depleted in our indoor environments. For example negative ions. According to Denise Mann, “Ions are molecules that have gained or lost an electrical charge. They are created in nature as air molecules break apart due to sunlight, radiation, and moving air and water. You may have experienced the power of negative ions when you last set foot on the beach or walked beneath a waterfall. While part of the euphoria is simply being around these wondrous settings and away from the normal pressures of home and work, the air circulating in the mountains and the beach is said to contain tens of thousands of negative ions — Much more than the average home or office building, which contain dozens or hundreds, and many register a flat zero”.
Independent research continues to expand our knowledge on this subject while introducing new areas of healing through nature. The Earthing Institute has been conducting research into how our bodies interact and communicate with the energy of the earth. Studies have found, when you walk barefoot on the earth, also called earthing or grounding, it has great health and healing benefits. As we continue to expand our knowledge into the effects of nature, it is easy to see and feel the importance of surrounding ourselves with the natural environment.
To learn more about Biophilic Design, Forest Bathing or other research into the effects of nature, continue following us at www.wellnessviadesign.com or on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Mocha – What is Biophilic Design?
The Earthing Institute
American Society of Landscape Architects
Dr. Zach Bush