Written By Aija Rozenberga - University of Derby
Many of us have a special memory we treasure from time spent outdoors. Perhaps that was a moment when you climbed that mountain with a gentle breeze rustling in your hair and watched the sunset at the summit paint the sky in vibrant colours. Or a warm summer day when you experienced swimming in a remote lake for the first time? It could be a memory about time spent camping, or in meaningful conversations with friends, whilst immersed in the warm glow radiating from a log fire. Maybe after dancing all night at an outdoor festival, you walked barefoot in the green, lush forest moss and your soul was singing because of a revelation - you are never truly alone. You belong. You are part of nature.
Arguably, intuitive knowledge about nature having a healing effect is as old as humanity itself. However, only in the past decades of solid scientific evidence, have various benefits of the natural environment emerged. As reported by Global Wellness Institute, ‘Prescribing Nature’ is one of wellness trends for 2019. Biophilia is a new buzz word and the biophilic concept is successfully used in architecture, design, fitness and wellness industry around the world.
The first who defined biophilia hypothesis was biologist Edward Wilson who proposed that humans are ‘hard-wired’ to be in contact with the natural world and other living entities. He concluded that without connection to the natural environment people can be prone to depression.Austrian biologist, Clemens Arvay claims that forest bathing is good for health as forest air contains chemicals called terpenes which significantly increase the human immune function and boost natural anti- cancer mechanisms. He argues that one day spent in a forest allows the immune system's natural protective cells to multiply by more than 50%.
Martin Jordan in his book “Ecotherapy: theory, research and practice”says that a holistic relationship with nature encompasses both nature’s ability to nurture people and human’s ability to cherish nature. He established that, when exposed to nature, people tend to feel more generous, caring and more connected to their community and surrounding environment.
There have been studies done in the field of atmospheric ions and their effect on human performance and behaviour. Negative ions were found to significantly improve all physiological states and affect body’s circadian rhythmicity. The abundance of negative ions are present in forest, mountains, moving air, near running waters sites such as springs, waterfalls, rivers and near seaside.It has been proven that nature has a calming, stress reducing influence and increase people’s capacity to focus.
Evidently, there is a wealth of research confirming the positive effects of natural surroundings. The simplest way to experience nature's healing powers is to spend time outdoors doing things you love. We are a bioelectrical species and grounding also called earthling- for example walking barefoot, can be an effective method of pain reduction and sleep promotion. However, as a large part of the world'spopulation lives in cities, natural resources are not always easily accessible.
Nowadays there are many options of biophilic design available for businesses with large budgets. Wellness and health centres could plan more outdoor space, with designated walking paths and places for practicing meditation and mindfulness in nature. However, if adding salt rooms, which are proved to emit negative ions, or if utilising outside space is not an option for your home or business, there are other things that could improve the physical environment:
Make the most of the space available and let the natural light in. For example, addingaskylight or bi-folding doorsorstrategically placing mirrors so they reflect the maximum of light possible. Another way to invite nature inside is by maximizingplant power. By creating a living green wall, you are adding a wealth of negative ions to your space. Green wall not only looks strikingly beautifully and luxurious but also hasproven health benefits. Potted plants such as Dracaena, Boston fern, Peace lily, AloeVera are good for purifying the air and removing positive ions from indoor environments. Learn to harness the healing powers of plants and nature to create space that nurtures the mind, body and spirit.Maybe it is worth investing in medicinal herbs. Modern physiotherapy combines traditional herbal medicine with the modern-day research into medicinal plants. Such simple steps as swapping your breakfast tea full of caffeine with a blend of medicinal plant tea may do wonders for your well-being and your customer’s overall health. Why not try fresh mint leaftea instead of the dried ones?To make the workplace more inviting, decorate space with elements found in nature and natural materials. Be creative and use flowers, vegetables, tree branches, moss and stones whilst ensuring you are mindful where you are sourcing them from. Use natural materials such as wood and stone in your decor and furnishing. Try swapping synthetic blankets and throws with high quality cotton, linen or other natural materials as they too reduce positive ions.Include a water feature in your spa or office. It is known that water based negative ions last longer. And finally,the sound of moving water may aid meditation and visualisation practices, increasing relaxation.
The more we understand the nature around us, the more protective and caring we will become. Everything that happens to nature, happens to us.