Most of us feel good in nature. Ask people to imagine a place where they feel happy and relaxed, many describe a warm, sandy beach or time spent in woodland. Some might conjure up memories of camping under the stars, picnicking by a stream or pottering in the garden. Others talk of feeling the sun on their back, listening to bird song or seeing a magnificent, sweeping view.
That’s what ‘biophilia’ is. It’s the simple, core truth that humans need a connection with nature to be content. It’s the idea that people – since the beginning of time – must feel linked to their natural environment, and the other living things in it, to not only survive but to thrive. It’s a fundamental part of who we are. Based on her new book, Biophilia: You + Nature + Home, bestselling author Sally Coulthard picks out five of the easiest ways we can bring nature indoors during lockdown.
A home filled with plants has multiple benefits. Sharing your space with living greenery can boost wellbeing, creativity and productivity, whilst reducing stress levels and anxiety. While some plants have even been shown to benefit indoor air quality, perhaps less well known are the positive effects of looking after another living thing, tending to its needs and enjoying watching something living thrive. Share your space with indoor plants, fill your windows with pots of growing herbs and salads and rediscover the pleasure of fresh flowers.
Get the Light Right
Our bodies respond to changes in natural light. To feel awake and alert, we need bags of natural, blue-rich daylight. To feel sleepy and relaxed, we crave warm, red-rich light of the evening sun and dusk. Mimic this dynamic pattern of light in your home: maximise the natural light in daytime spaces – clear away clutter, stop things blocking the window, hang more mirrors and lighten up your colour scheme; change where you sit, socialise and work during the day, so you get as much natural light as possible; and warm up the light in the evenings. Technology and blue-tone lightbulbs, for example, keep our bodies alert and awake – not good for relaxing spaces or bedrooms. Candlelight, firelight and warm-coloured accent lights all help our bodies understand that it is time to unwind.
Rediscover Natural Colours
We evolved to respond to nature’s palette and patterns, whether we were looking for sources of food, reading the landscape or avoiding toxic plants and animals. There are no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ colours – but if we take the natural world and cycles as our cue, we can bring elements of nature into our homes that make us feel good – sky pinks and blues, plant-based greens, ocean greys and teals, and the warm tones of earth. Interestingly, when thousands of people were asked – across 100 nations – which was their favourite colour the overwhelming majority chose a shade of blue-green.
Listening to natural sounds – such as birdsong or babbling water – relaxes our nervous systems, while long-term exposure to man-made noise such as traffic can significantly raise anxiety and stress levels. Modern life can drown out our natural ‘acoustic ecology’ so, until you can escape for the hills again, use noise-cancelling headphones if you crave total peace or try one of the many nature sound apps available – you may just find the sounds of a crackling fire, rolling seashore or chirping of crickets brings a little biophilic calm.
Clean indoor air is more important than ever when you’re forced to spend time at home. Improve indoor air quality by stopping using chemicals in your living space that contribute to air pollution – everything from harsh cleaning products and air fresheners to hairsprays and high VOC household paints; keep fresh air circulating, whether that’s by throwing open the windows or making sure your extractor fans work properly; and consider some form of air purifier or filter if you suspect air pollution is an issue in your area.
BIOPHILIA: You + Nature + Home by Sally Coulthard (Kyle Books £14.99)
Featured image: Katya Austin on Unsplash