It’s well known that humans have a preference for nature. That preference impacts our everyday decisions, whether we realize it or not. We prefer hotel rooms with a nice view of the outdoor landscape versus a view of the building next door. We take walks outside of the office on our lunch breaks simply to appreciate the fresh air and sunshine. We hang art in our homes showing forests, beaches, and an endless amount of other natural elements. It seems we simply can’t get enough nature in our lives, in some form or another, and there’s a good reason why.
Our Psychological Health
Researchers have long since begun studying the effects of nature on our psychological well-being. We know that spending time in forests has been proven to reduce stress by lowering the amount of the stress hormone, cortisol, in your body. A 2012 study by the University of Kansas showed that spending time outside increases our creativity, problem-solving, and even our willingness to work as a team. In fact, there has yet to be any proof showing that nature negatively affects our psychological health.
Our Physical Health
What about our physical health?
It turns out – surprise, surprise – that spending time in nature benefits us physically, as well, and in more ways than just getting vitamin D from sunshine. Researchers have compiled data showing that spending time outdoors lowers the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, preterm birth, and even increases our quality of sleep.
Biophilia means having a “love of life or living systems.” By incorporating natural elements into architectural design, we also incorporate the benefits of nature into the places where we spend most of our time. That’s biophilic design – bringing the outdoor world indoors in order to reap the same rewards as spending time outside.
Incorporating biophilic design elements into our healthcare buildings like hospitals and clinics is seemingly a no-brainer to improve patient experiences. If we benefit from nature so much in our day-to-day lives, it stands to reason that we will also benefit in typically stressful times like hospital stays.
Biophilic Design in Healthcare Settings
Modern hospitals are notoriously morose places because they’re designed for efficiency and cleanliness. Studies show that the environment plays a huge role in healing. Patients prefer hospital rooms with a nice view out the window and research has proven that surgery patients recovering in a room with art depicting a landscape scene needed fewer doses of pain medication than the opposite group of patients with abstract art. That’s an amazing outcome!
We know that nature reduces stress levels, and that is especially important in healthcare settings. Biophilic design elements benefit everyone in healthcare, including staff. Doctors and nurses have incredibly stressful jobs. Creating a better work environment for them increases patient safety by extension. Less stress on the people caring for you and your loved ones means better outcomes for them.
How to Incorporate Biophilic Design
Understanding the theory behind biophilia is one thing, but how can you incorporate it into your future designs? Keep the patients in mind. Adding indoor plants is an effective and low-maintenance way to reap the benefits of biophilic design. Likewise, adding an aquarium in the waiting room is an excellent way to calm people down, adults and children alike, and has been shown to decrease anxiety. Adding artwork of sunsets, beaches, forests, and mountains all create positive responses. Changing the lighting to reflect natural circadian rhythms has been shown to improve moods by mimicking the level and intensity of sunlight outside at different times throughout the day.
Healthcare settings no longer have to be the stressful and scary places they once were. We know that getting out in nature benefits our mental and physical health, so why not incorporate it into hospital designs and bring nature directly to patients?