These days, everyone’s lives seem to be full of stress, stress at work, stress at home, and especially, stress when you’re going to a doctor, dentist, or hospital. Your entire physiological system is directly (and negatively) affected by the stresses of your daily life, physical, mental, and emotional. To escape these stresses and find someplace to unwind, many city dwellers head for the hills; that is, head for anywhere they can find to be in — to be surrounded by — nature, to be with nature. Maybe a hike in the woods would do it, or relaxing near the foot of some scenic waterfall, or just sitting on a bench in the park. Nature calms us as nothing else can.
Many studies have been done on the effect nature has on stress both inside and outside the healthcare environment. The studies have produced strong evidence that even brief encounters with real or simulated nature settings can provide significant recovery from stress within three to five minutes, at most (Parsons & Hartig, 2000; Ulrich, 1999). Investigators have consistently reported that the stress-reducing or restorative benefits of simply viewing nature are manifested in patients in a wealth of positive psychological and physiological changes. Stressful or negative emotions, such as fear or anger, diminish, while levels of pleasant feelings increase. Also, laboratory and clinical studies have shown that viewing nature produces stress recovery quickly, as evidenced by rapid physiological changes in the patient, such as beneficial bloodpressure and heart activity (Ulrich, 1991). In addition, extensive research has demonstrated that looking at environment lacking the presence of nature, such as the walls of windowless rooms, buildings’ exteriors, and parking lots, is significantly less effective in fostering restoration and may even worsen stress.
Questionnaire studies have found that bedridden patients assign especially high preference points to having a hospital-window view of nature (Verderber, 1986). Mounting research is providing convincing evidence that visual exposure to nature improves outcomes in areas such as stress and pain reduction. For example a study in a Swedish hospital found that heart-surgery patients in ICU’s who were assigned a picture with a landscape scene incorporating trees and natural water, such as rivers, waterfalls, or lakes, reported less anxiety/stress and needed fewer strong doses of pain drugs than a control group assigned no pictures (Ulrich, 1991). However, another group of patients, assigned abstract pictures, had worsened outcomes compared to the control group. Ulrich (1984) found that patients recovering from abdominal surgery recovered faster, had better emotional well-being, and required fewer strong pain medications if they had bedside windows with views of nature, such as views of trees and grass and sky, rather than bedside windows looking out at things like a brick wall.
Studies have even been done on patients with Alzheimer’s disease and children with ADHD. The positive effects views of nature had on these patients and children were amazing.
It’s not always possible to have a view of nature from your home, place of business, or hospital room. As many studies have documented, just (simply) views of nature — even views of nature such as those of high-quality photographs — can help reduce stress levels. To benefit you, your family, your guests, your customers, or your patients, why not add to your indoor environment fine-art photographs of nature, of nature’s own wonderful works of art?