Aug 31, 2018
As human beings we have an innate connection with the natural world, referred to as biophilia. Throughout human history and across cultures our relationship with nature can been seen through ancient hieroglyphics, tomb paintings and even ancient ruins and texts. Today, it can be demonstrated by the powerful impact nature has on our mental health and wellbeing. In fact our connection with nature is innate. It’s hard wired into our psyche as we are genetically programmed to respond to nature physiologically and psychologically.
I can personally relate to this. I love running in trails. I started running on roads, and as much I still enjoy this, running through trails in the bush provides something special, almost spiritual. Being in nature just feels right, and it provides a mindful outlet and a way to disconnect from the stressors of our busy, technology driven lifestyle.
As much as being outdoors in nature has powerful anti-anxiety benefits, at times our life robs us of the opportunity to reap its benefits. It’s no-ones fault of course, however what this means is that by spending so much time indoors we can become detached from nature instilling a deep anxiety and inner conflict (according to Eric Fromm). As we are drawn more and more into a technologically driven world, our relationship with nature is almost becoming estranged. It’s perhaps interesting to reflect on how this impacts our moods, productivity and general wellbeing?
So how do we combat this, and restore our relationship with nature? One way is by bringing the outside inside. While UV light therapy is a sophisticated way to treat some psychological conditions, such as seasonal affective disorder, there are much simpler ways of bringing us closer to nature – by creating an environment using natural products such as sustainable timber.
Research demonstrates that a diverse natural environment promotes psychological restoration. Through this psychological restoration, we can experience the powerful benefits of less anxiety, and improved mood and general wellbeing. It’s then not too difficult to extrapolate this to imagine the secondary benefits of this process on productivity and even relationships. In fact, research also suggests that an environment devoid of nature may even act as a “discord” and have a negative effect on wellbeing. Think stress! Plants, natural light and natural timber all provide ways of providing this diversity and promoting positive mental health and wellbeing.
When it comes to design, even famous psychoanalyst Eric Fromm agreed that the framework of human psychological pathways overlaps with biophilic design principles. In other words, our innate hard wiring lends itself to the construction of environmental design. It fits, and much like my experience running in trails – it just feels right. As such, by using sustainable timber in combination with other natural design principles – our connection with nature can be restored, and we can enjoy the benefits of improved mental health and wellbeing.
Leanne Hall is an integrative psychologist who specialises in the combination of mental health, nutrition and fitness. Leanne is committed to motivating her patients to achieve a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle. She has worked extensively for Channel 10 as their Mind & Body Expert on The Living Room.