In the 1980s, experimental psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan studied the effects of nature on people. They found that small glimpses of the natural world—“nearby nature”—could have measurable effects on well-being. Even an insignificant or faraway sight, such as a few trees viewed through a window, could still give us a good feeling. The Kaplans found that people with access to nearby natural settings were healthier than those without. And these subjects also experienced increased levels of satisfaction with their home, job, and life in general.
Nearby nature does not have to be beautiful or complex. And, surprisingly, you do not have to be actually outside to gain the benefits. Many studies that have looked at this have taken place indoors, using images rather than the real thing. The effect is still potent when viewed through a window or seen in a photograph or video. A painting, even a wall calendar, can have a similarly beneficial effect.
These findings complement biologist E.O. Wilson’s writings on biophilia, the attraction to life and lifelike processes. They are also linked to biophilic design, an architectural practice championed by social ecologist Stephen Kellert. Biophilic design connects buildings to the natural world to create environments where people feel and perform better. Designs might include gardens, water features, and shapes mimicking those from nature like shells and foliage. There will be natural materials, plenty of light, and open spaces.
|Trees and Forests of America, photographed by Tim Palmer|
|Eliot Porter's In Wildness is the Preservation of the World has sold more than 1 million copies. This 50th anniversary edition combines the words of Henry David Thoreau with color photographs by Eliot Porter of New England woods and streams, taken in all seasons over ten years. Below, "Glen Canyon," 1960.|