Nature, Art, and Health

Most of us are aware, instinctively, that our well-being is a reflection of the health of the Earth. We don’t yet have the words to discuss the strands connecting us that are largely invisible, much less the tools needed to measure this awareness. Nonetheless humans have an inherent inclination to affiliate with Nature. In 1984, Harvard biologist Dr. Ed Wilson named this instinctive bond between human beings and other living things, biophilia, “the love of Life.”

We have dogs and cats, fish and house plants. We decorate with flowers, landscape our homes, offices, and roadways. In so many ways we celebrate life by gathering it around us.

The Japanese phrase “Shinrin-yoku”, literally means “forest air breathing”  or “forest air bathing”,  is used to describe the positive feelings and the restorative power of natural environments. is a recognized relaxation and/or stress management activity in Japan.

The use of evidence-based design in healthcare demonstrates how the physical environment can influence well-being, promote healing, relieve patient pain and stress, and also reduce medical errors, infections and falls.

Several scientific studies (Ulrich, 1979, 1981; Ulrich et al., 1991) have found that exposure to nature such as trees, grass, and flowers can effectively reduce stress, while other studies have shown that individuals sitting in a room with views of trees experienced more rapid declines in diastolic blood pressure, indicating greater stress reduction than persons sitting in a viewless room (Hartig et al., 2003).

Likewise, evidence-based art has been supported by researchers that also found that people tend to be less stressed in offices with art posters and, as a result, experience decreased levels of anger. This (stress- and anger-reducing) effect of art tends to be greatest when nature content is present. A large percentage of Americans experience stress in their workplace. One simple way to reduce their anger and stress may be to hang some nature art images on the wall.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”  ~Albert Einstein