The science behind nature and emotional well-being

© copyright given photography 2018

© copyright given photography 2018

There is a body of growing evidence that demonstrates the healing power of nature. In the beautifully written and easy-to-follow book, “Healing Spaces,” author Esther M. Sternberg, M.D., explores the science of place and well-being. Throughout the book, she weaves together studies and science that shows the mind-body connection with place and healing.

Even though many of us intuitively seek out beautiful surroundings because they make us feel better, Esther Sternberg takes it further by providing the neuroscience behind the healing power of a beautiful sunset, a walk through an old-growth forest or the sounds of early morning bird-song.

The studies that show the healing power of places are so compelling that a relatively new field called evidence-based design has taken off. Simply put, it’s a field where evidence from studies are used to determine how a building is designed and built. Its roots are in architecture, neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics. And, evidence-based design is huge in the healthcare industry. Healthcare design professionals and architects collaborate using evidence from research to build and design in ways that optimize patient healing.

These compelling studies have shown that nature promotes healing. Patients exposed to hospital design elements such as nature scenes from windows, nature photographs and natural light-filled settings heal faster, ultimately, making their hospital stay shorter.

Although Sternberg spends much time in her book noting the importance and number of organizations that are working to determine how the natural environment affects and improves health, she emphasizes that we can do our part.

“Rather than rushing through our busy days without paying much attention to the spaces around us, we need to carve out a few moments here and there to allow ourselves to be aware of our place in the world and its place inside of us. We need to allow ourselves the time to see the sun glinting off the surface of the leaves, to listen to the sounds of silence and of nature. We need to stop and inhale the smell of the ocean salt or the fragrance of honeysuckle on a summer’s night. We need to feel the gentle touch of a spring breeze. We can do all of this whether we are healthy or ill.”

Her quote is so eloquent--reminding us to pay attention. To not forget the beauty and healing balm of our natural world that is often right outside our window.

Do you pay attention to nature's easy and simple pleasures? Or, are you surrounded by electronics, concrete and artificial light?

Do I have your attention?