How To Improve Wellness By Design

Improving wellness by design means getting closer to the outdoors while we are inside in order to be healthier. We all should be closer to nature, especially in this day and age.

The more and more that technology and design advance, we see more and more of a disconnect from the physical world around us. Some of these changes are inevitable and not always a bad thing, but we could all use a little more Mother Nature in our lives.

Using the environment in our architecture can look like natural lighting and ventilation, raw wood building materials, natural landscape features and other elements for creating a more productive and healthy built environment for people to live in and be a part of. The great indoors should mimic the great outdoors to improve people’s lives, an insight that is backed up with increasing amounts of research.

A large number of scientific studies indicate that being closer to nature, whether that’s in the form of houseplants or natural light, is beneficial for your health. A landmark 2019 study found that children in Denmark who had been exposed to more greenery had 55% less mental health problems later in life compared to those who weren’t exposed to nature. Other research has shown that plants can reduce stress, help with focus, and even increase immunity.

Nature used to be all around us. Technically, it still is, though the quality of the nature that surrounds us has changed. Currently, 54 percent of the world’s population live in an urban environment. By 2050, it’s estimated that percentage will increase to 66 percent—two thirds of the world’s population! Generally, humans spend 93 percent of our time indoors separated from natural elements.

The modern assumption that human beings no longer need to spend time with nature is revealed in the widespread practice of placing people in sensory deprived and artificial settings such as office buildings, hospitals, schools, shopping centers–with little if any contact with natural forces or elements.

Much of today’s built environment is designed lacking adequate natural light, natural ventilation, natural materials, vegetation, views, environmental shapes and forms, and other evolved affinities for the natural world. We are just beginning to find that these environmentally impoverished habitats foster fatigue, symptoms of disease, and impaired performance, and the simple introduction of natural lighting, outside views, and vegetation can result in enhanced health and productivity.

Fresh air is a huge factor in wellness design. Our homes should allow us to have plenty of fresh air and daylight with the ability to open windows whenever possible and let fresh air in.Through an open window we can also hear the sound of the rain, wind or birds singing, connecting us to the season and weather.

It’s a pretty simple concept but many people live in homes with windows that don’t open or they chose never to open them. Intuitively we map the time of day through seeing shadows and sunlight move across a room and we instinctively gather in sunny warm spots. So think about spaces where you can sit in the sun or create cozy pockets.

Make an effort to have green in every room in your home, office ect. Plants are beneficial because they are living, breathing organisms. Studies have shown that plants enhance creativity, performance, and productivity, something we want to increase in our office and home environments. In a series of two studies, researchers in Norway found that subjects who did reading and attention-based tasks surrounded by greenery improved their scores more over time than subjects who didn’t.

We spend a lot of time at work in intense focus, which leads to mental fatigue. Spending even a few seconds ripping your eyes from your screen to stare at a desk plant, relaxing piece of art, could help give your mind a break and restore your ability to focus.

This has led companies like Google, Etsy, and many more to embrace natural elements in design as a means of making employees happier, more creative, and harder working. Plants, leaf/nature wallpaper, green accent walls, green pillows and decorations; all of these things will reinforce natural aspects inside. 

Mimicking natural shapes and textures. Today, most of our building materials are dominated by straight lines and right angles. It is expensive to build the curved shapes and forms that we find in waves, flowers and shells, even though we have a deep affinity for these shapes and their sense of order, complexity and beauty.

Not every home can bring in natural forms in the shape of the building, but patterns from nature can be used decoratively as motifs and be powerful in connecting us to the natural world. If you have a very straight, angular building, bringing in circular mirrors, water features, and natural movement will help to transform your space.

Presence of water. A space with a good presence of water feels compelling and captivating. Fluidity, sound, lighting, proximity and accessibility each contribute to whether a space is stimulating, calming, or both.

The presence of water pattern has evolved from research on visual preference for and positive emotional responses to environments containing water elements; reduced stress, increased feelings of tranquility, and lower heart rate and blood pressure from exposure to water features and improved concentration and memory restoration.

Spatial variability is crucial. Nature offers a variety of spatial experiences from meadows to forests to mountains and providing a variety of spaces in our homes and work environments can mimic the spatial variability found in nature and allow us to have spaces for a variety of moods and tasks. Bring in varying heights, textures, colors and purposes for the things inside to mimic the imperfect perfection of the great outdoors. 

Having a deeper connection to nature when you are inside will contribute to your sense of health and wellbeing but it starts with one thing – go outside and learn about your place. If you watch, listen and learn about your ecosystem, then you will be ready to bring nature’s lessons and beauty inside.

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