Nature has an undeniable impact on human well-being by providing food and resources. However, the amount of influence it has on our mental health is more fascinating. Urban living has decreased human access to nature, while the modern way of life has deprived us of free time to spend more time outdoors.
Based on a 2019 study, this issue can be remedied by increasing nature experience and enhancing opportunities for exposure to the natural environment. This is not a new thing, since restorative gardens have been present in the infirmaries throughout history. Wealthy people always had lavish landscapes by their estates to both show their power and give them mental peace, like the gardens of Versailles.
Since contemporary humans don’t have much contact with nature, it was necessary to find a way to include it in their concrete and glass worlds. A concept developed almost 40 years ago, biophilic design is intended to improve your lifestyle and health by incorporating nature into your daily environment. But to know what to do, we first need to understand the idea behind this concept and what it stands for.
Biophilia advocates a notion that humans and nature have a genetic connection, originating to the beginnings of evolution. Meaning love of nature, this hypothesis was first introduced by biologist Edward Wilson in his 1984 book Biophilia. Wilson adopted the term from German psychologist Erich Fromm, who first used it in his 1964 book The Heart of Man to describe attraction to everything alive.
A 2009 evaluation of more than fifty studies concluded that the absence of nature can harm health and quality of life. The research suggests that this is something affecting even those who don’t have an appreciation for nature. Biophilic design of homes, offices and other urban areas can bridge this gap between humans and nature, creating calming and comfortable environments.
Biophilic design and the modern world
With stress being one of the main causes of various physical and mental health conditions, it’s important to find a way to manage it successfully. The biophilic design uses elements of nature to reduce stress and contribute to your healthy lifestyle. Some of the biggest companies in the world, like Google and Apple, use this design for their office space to improve the cognitive ability of their employees.
But biophilic design is not only for workplace environments. The hospitality industry, education spaces, healthcare institutions, and homes can benefit from incorporating nature in décor. For example, schools with biophilic design experience a 20–25% increase in learning, raised concentration levels, and better test results. Furthermore, 8.5% of postoperative patients showed faster recovery, while the use of painkillers was decreased by 22%.
How to use biophilia to improve your well-being
Biophilic design is about using elements of nature that support life and are alive to create a harmonious space that is both beautiful and healing. To do it right, you need to understand its three categories:
- Nature in space,
- Nature analogs,
- Nature of space.
Nature in space is about creating a visual and non-visual connection with nature, manipulating temperature, and changing sensory stimuli. It uses air, water, and light to enhance the experience to your senses and give your space calming properties.
Nature analogs are materials, shapes, patterns, colors, and objects you can observe in nature that are now mirrored in furniture design, decorations, textiles, and artwork.
The nature of the space is about experiencing special configurations as a shelter, something with deeper meaning, and thrilling elements. Combining all three categories can give you a potent interior design that will affect your psychological, physiological, and cognitive systems. So, let’s go over the elements you can use to improve your lifestyle and health across these three biophilic categories.
Introduce fresh air through ventilation
The Air and temperature of the room are important for biophilic design since they are integral parts of nature. However, today’s homes are dedicated to contributing to efforts to preserve the environment, so many have airtight windows and doors. Installing a mechanical ventilation system and oxygen generator can give you both fresh air and an energy-efficient home.
Introducing fresh air and replacing stale ones can positively affect comfort, increase your concentration, and make you more productive. It will make you less drowsy and improve the quality of your sleep, helping you wake up well-rested in the morning. Moreover, stale air may contain pathogens from the use of cleaning products, dust, and living in general, causing respiratory problems and allergies.
Adding colors for biophilic design
Color is the best option to mimic elements of nature in areas where you can’t create a direct connection to the natural world. Earthy tones and those that remind you of some aspects of nature, like yellow, blue, and green are always good choices. But your dedication to biophilia shouldn’t end with picking up shades.
To create a complete biophilic experience, opt for plant-based paints and without volatile organic compounds (VOC), harmful to your health. According to a 2006 study, looking at scenes of nature or those emulating nature can improve your attentiveness and mental engagement. Green is especially powerful to stimulate emotions since it’s dominant in nature, bringing peace and tranquility.
Incorporating wood in the design
Wood is one of the most commonly used materials for construction but also for decoration. A 2007 Japanese study investigated how wooden interiors affect physiological health. Subjects were exposed to rooms with different quantities of wood as visual stimuli in ratios 0%, 45%, and 90%.
The findings showed that the blood pressure and heart rate of subjects changed depending on the amount of wood in the room. The research team recorded a decrease in blood pressure and increase in the comfort of the subjects, with the best results for the room with 45% wood coverage. This means that too much biophilic stimuli can over excite the senses and have a stronger effect than desired.
Bring in natural light
Biophilic design or not, natural light is one of the favorite elements of interior designers and architects. Sunlight is good for your physical and mental health, allowing your body to produce vitamin D which is good for the bones and immune system. Also, exposure to natural light stimulates the production of serotonin and keeps you energized throughout the day.
There are many ways you can introduce natural light into your space, even when it seems impossible. Installing skylights and bigger windows is the favorite solution, but doors with glazed glass and strategically positioned mirrors can affect the amount of sunlight, too. If natural light is abundant in the morning, it can help you maintain a healthy circadian rhythm and improve your sleep.
Add water to your biophilic design
Water is one of the main biophilic principles, providing positive stimulation through sight, hearing, and touch. A water wall in your living room, a small fountain in the garden, or a pond in your backyard are some of the ways to introduce this aspect of biophilia into your space. Unlike environmental noise, sounds of water can reduce stress, lower your heart rate, and normalize blood pressure.
If these types of water features are not possible, then a fish aquarium can be enough. In a 2010 study, researchers placed an aquarium in an Austrian mall and measured the reactions of the passers-by. The results showed that people who stopped to look at the fish experienced positive emotional responses and a better mood.
Decorate with plants and flowers
Having fresh flower bouquets and potted plants throughout the house is the closest thing to the nature you can have in your home. Indoor plants can serve as air purifiers, making the air pollutant-free and fresh with oxygen. Looking at them can help you rest your eyes, clear your mind, and calm down, keeping the stress levels under control.
If you are working from a home office, surrounding yourself with plants may make you more productive and focused on your tasks. Flowers have an additional contribution to the biophilic design, and that’s introducing fragrances into space. They can evoke positive emotions, like feeling safe, relaxed, and creatively motivated.
Build an inner courtyard
When introducing nature into space, it usually ends up in the details, corners, or anywhere else in the outskirts of the room. This is contradictory to principles of biophilic design that want nature to become an intertwined participant in the décor. Building an inner courtyard may seem like a hefty investment, but it pays off in the long run to have access to a contained outside space.
Being in nature for at least two hours every week can bring good health for the body and mind, observed a 2019 research. Having such a green space in a highly urbanized environment can lower the risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, and anxiety — conditions triggered by stress.
Create the view
The biophilic properties you introduce to the interior are equally important as the ones you can see outside through the windows. Dedicate time and planning to landscape and create an awe-inspiring scenery you can look at every day. Create a window nook or place a comfortable chair by it to enjoy this biophilic element.
Finding time for self-care and rest is important to recharge the batteries and build up your strength to deal with challenging situations calmly. This approach to biophilia is also the most convenient one since it uses already available outdoor space and doesn’t need renovations. However, to experience all the joys of biophilic design, it’s best to incorporate as much as possible in both your interior and exterior areas.
Nature is always good for you, even when you look at it in pictures. It helps you detoxify your body and mind from stressors you are exposed to daily. For this reason, even the smallest extent of biophilic design can improve your lifestyle and health, giving you a mental and physical boost. When even a bouquet can make your day brighter, imagine what a whole biophilic concept can do!