Bringing nature into your home is proven to reduce anxiety, boost creativity, productivity and joy.
Now that we’re spending so much time at home it should feel like a sanctuary not a prison. Incorporating nature into urban spaces, or biophilic design, can quickly turn an ordinary four walled box into a retreat you'll never want to leave (even after lockdown).
Create your paradise with the latest biophilic design trends.
1. See nature
Research shows that just looking at images of nature for five minutes helps the body recover from stress, as measured by studying heart rate, blood pressure and adrenaline.
Ensure your connection to nature by keeping vistas to surrounding trees and the garden open. If you don’t have views of nature, block out any unsightly objects with plants. Indoor plants are are a great way to naturally screen unwanted viewpoints while creating a cocooning effect. By using perspective, hanging a small plant from your ceiling in the living room may be just the thing to block out the sight of a neighbour’s large roof.
The beauty of plants is that even if we’re not sitting on a beach or hiking in a forest, we can still feel close to nature. Plants are a great way to quickly jazz up an interior without breaking the bank & investing in expensive furniture or refurbishments.
Adding nature prints to walls and introducing natural colours of greens, browns and blues can help. Textured wood finishes on floors and botanical wallpapers are increasing in popularity.
An article in Atlantic Magazine on how nature resets our minds and bodies, talks about a well-known hospital in Pennsylvania where nurses were amazed by the differences in recovery times of patients that had gall bladder surgery. As doctors poured over the charts they couldn’t see a definitive reason for the disparities. Then they realised something: some of the patients were facing a brick wall, while others looked onto a sunny courtyard planted with trees.
Image, Guardian.co.uk: The Morgan Stanley garden, Great Ormond Street hospital, London
As they compared the two sets of patients they found that on average, those who faced the brick wall needed an extra day to recover before returning home. These patients were also far more depressed and experienced more pain.
Patients who looked out onto the trees required a single dose of strong painkillers during their stay, whereas those facing the wall required two or even three doses.
Researchers became interested and ensured the patient profiles (age, weight, diet, smokers vs non-smokers etc) were spread evenly across the rooms and all other variables kept constant. The results were conclusive. Those facing the courtyard fared much better than those facing the brick wall.
The ritual of lighting a candle, running a naturally scented bubble bath or just inhaling the aroma of fresh rosemary in the kitchen is something many of us hold dear. Incorporating more natural smells in the home can help us de-stress. Whether through plant oils, naturally scented cleaning products, candles, or even dotting fresh herbs & flowers around the house. Our Swazi baskets have the most insanely divine smell of dried African grass. Sometimes I just stick my nose in there and inhale it. It reminds me of outdoor adventures, which is when I’m happiest. (Image: Pinterest)
When last did you touch a tree and felt its warm rough bark, or held a perfectly smooth pebble in your hand? What about running your fingers through tall wisps of veld grass? If you’re lucky enough to have a Hoya linearis in your plant collection, you’ll know how good it feels to stroke those soft and furry trailing stems.
Even if we’re stuck indoors, research shows that interaction with indoor plants like touching and smelling can reduce physiological and psychological stress.
Although digging in soil and getting dirt stuck in your fingernails might not seem as romantic, scientists have discovered that soil makes us happy, literally. It contains microbes dubbed "outdoorphins", or M. vaccae, which release serotonin. “So, just by being around soil, these outdoorphins flood your body and boost your mood," writes Joey Doherty, a Certified Wellness Counselor.
We’re all dying to be able to walk in the park right now, but in that absence, touching soil and gardening can be just as beneficial.
In addition, adding textured materials to the home can create feelings of coziness, safety and warmth. Think wool blankets and furry pillows, woven grass baskets, cane furniture, shells, stones and wood carvings, which are reminiscent of the textures we feel in nature.
If you’re waking up to the sound of traffic or barking dogs instead of twittering birds and ocean waves, try incorporating sounds of nature with a playlist like Nature Sounds on Spotify.
Adding a small bubbling fountain to your home can make a huge difference. The sound of water is incredibly relaxing and helps block out other noise. Even the soft steamy gurgling of a humidifier next to the bed creates a sense of calm while sleeping. You could also add a tree outside your window and enjoy the breeze rustling through its leaves.
A plant enriched diet is proven to help our immunity and health, and more people are turning to plant-based diets. Having herb and veggie plants in our households can make it easier to eat fresh greens daily.
If growing vegetables outdoors isn't possible, anyone can strive to have an indoor herb garden by a north-facing sunny window.
Even adding a sprig of thyme to a freshly brewed cup of tea, or placing lavender in the cupboards can inspire a connection to nature.
Image: Sarah Klassen/Getty Images
With increasing urbanisation, biophilia (human’s innate connection to nature) is growing stronger. We’re intrinsically linked to the earth, and our homes should be too.