Artwork in homes or businesses is often chosen to complement the décor, bring back memories, evoke a certain feeling or to simply fill blank wall space. However, there are many additional benefits that artwork can provide, including stress reduction and overall health improvements. Research studies have shown that images of nature and specific colors can simulate an actual experience in nature, and provide the associated positive benefits. Below, we will look at how selecting artwork for your home or business can help foster an environment of health and wellness.
In today’s fast paced world, experiences in nature are often put on hold. Over 80% of the US population lives in urban environments, often in dense concrete areas. With such a large concentration of the population housed in cities, it’s not uncommon for people to go long periods of time without experiencing nature. Recent research indicates that this lack of nature causes negative effects to health, including increased stress, fatigue, depression and conflict. These negative outcomes can be halted and improved by spending more time in nature or “green spaces.” Spending time in nature is akin to taking a multivitamin that can boost your immune system on a regular basis.
One study found 21 pathways that linked time in nature to good health. The central pathway identified was an increase in immune system function. (Ming Kuo, 2015) Increasing the amount of green spaces within urban neighborhoods is a key factor that can lead to better air quality, less stress, more physical activity and better social integration. Beyond urban neighborhoods, walks in a wooded park, sitting by the edge of a lake surrounded by green foliage and strolling the beach are all great ways to lower stress and increase parasympathetic activity.
However, these outdoor activities may be limited due to location, time and work commitments. With that in mind, nature artwork can help bridge the gap between time spent in green spaces and time spent indoors or in urban environments. “The sights and sounds of nature also have important physiological impacts. Window views and images of nature reduce sympathetic nervous activity and increase parasympathetic activity, restore attention, and promote healing from surgery.” (Ming Kuo, 2015)
At first, the idea that images of nature can provide similar benefits to an actual experience in nature seems farfetched. However, think of the last time you visited a health spa and how you felt. Chances are, they had soothing music or nature sounds playing, eucalyptus scents in the air and images and décor depicting nature. As soon as you walk in you begin to relax and unwind, feel the stress leaving your body and your mind clears. This is the same functional role that nature artwork can play in your own home or business.
So, what kind of nature images are most effective at reducing stress and promoting wellness? Color plays a key role in how humans react to visual stimuli. Studies show that warmer colors like red tend to increase stress ratings, while colors like blue and green actually reduce stress. (Teresa M. Kutchma, 2003) Nature images that depict green foliage and blue water are shown to reduce blood pressure and calm nervous system activity. Small nature scenes with details of rocks, water and leaves are also useful in stimulating this reaction. When was the last time you were outside in nature? What was it that you particularly enjoyed? Perhaps it was the sound of the wind and birds, watching a waterfall splash over rocks or a panoramic mountain vista. Whatever it was, nature artwork can help recreate that same feeling on a regular basis.
To create your own personal green space inside your home or office, consider a multifaceted approach. Nature images on the walls, combined with quiet atmosphere (or recordings of nature sounds) and a scent diffuser with natural oils can effectively provide a stress reducing environment on a daily basis. This approach can help provide your nature fix until you are able to go on your next outdoor adventure!