Spending time in nature is good for us. I doubt this fact will come as any surprise to you. Scientific studies for decades have revealed the health and wellbeing benefits of being outdoors in the natural world. But what about the simple act of viewing natural images?
Can photographic prints of natural scenery imbue the same positive feelings? Can photos of nature even help soothe the sick?
As a professional photographer, I’m fascinated by the feelings and thoughts my images conjure. I’ve known for a long time that photos can help people to relax and feel more positive. It’s intriguing just how helpful they can be – specifically images of nature – for people who are sick or suffering from chronic illness.
The healing benefits of being in nature
As humans, we instinctively know nature is healing. We’ve all felt under the weather, only to feel revitalised after a walk in a natural setting. It’s tempting to put the boost in mood or health as a result of merely moving our body.
And that might be true to some extent. However, there’s a noticeable difference between walking in a city and walking in the country.
We are drawn to the latter.
Science backs up what we inherently know as well.
Studies have discovered the benefits of being in nature when it comes to improving cognitive ability, balancing mental wellbeing, and health in general. Spending time in green surroundings can even potentially improve physical conditions like hypertension, cardiac illness, and chronic pain see study.
Why and how? I think scientists are not altogether sure, but it’s likely linked to the reasoning behind the “theories of evolutionary biologists that people prefer views that are reminiscent of the savannas where humans evolved. Throughout human history, trees and water have signalled an oasis, and flowering plants have been a sign of possible food” – as noted in an article on the medical benefits of hospital gardens.
The healing benefits of looking at natural images
So how does this tally in with how photo prints of nature scenes can help soothe patients? Why is it a good idea for interior designers to incorporate more scenes of greenery in medical and therapy settings? Is healing nature
Well, a fascinating study carried out by scientific researchers in the Netherlands found there is a strong possibility photographic representations of nature can be effective in reducing stress.
The researchers showed participants in the study a series of photographs, some of which depicted urban scenes of buildings and streets, while others showed views of nature, including parks. All of the photographs were intentionally ordinary and not spectacular in any way.
Results showed participants’ stress levels lowered the most when viewing scenes of nature. The researchers noted:
“Viewing green scenes may thus be particularly effective in supporting relaxation and recovery after experiencing a stressful period, and thereby could serve as an opportunity for micro-restorative experiences and a promising tool in preventing chronic stress and stress- related diseases”.
The relaxing effects of looking at green scenes
And this correlates with another similar study carried out a few years previously. These researchers noted that “urban scenes caused increased activity in the amygdala compared to viewing nature scenes”.
Basically, looking at green scenes is more relaxing.
The researchers went on to note:
Recent research suggests that the primitive characteristic of colour, in particular the “greenness”, of a nature image is associated with improved mood. Through colour perception and reduced impact on the visual system, images of nature may evoke lower activity in the amygdala and visual cortex.
Research like this is fascinating.
But when applying these findings to medical interiors and how photographs of nature can potentially soothe sick patients, we need to look at another research study.
Images of nature in hospital settings
A well-known study by Roger S. Ulrich revealed that patients in hospital rooms with window views of green trees recovered faster than those with views of brick walls.
Yet the most interesting part is that pictures of nature had a similar effect.
A story by the American Psychological Association noted that Ulrich “found that heart surgery patients in intensive care units could reduce their anxiety and need for pain medication by looking at pictures depicting trees and water”.
This story leads me on to another fascinating study which asked patients themselves what they like to view. During a study on the impact of visual art in waiting rooms, researchers directly asked patients about their outpatient experience in relation to their environment.
When it came to the wall art, the “respondents expressed a preference for landscapes/nature scenes (84%) and paintings of animals/birds (84%). Fewer wished to look at abstract paintings (27%) or portraits (24%).”
I could write a lot more about this but let’s now touch a bit on where images of nature can be incorporated best.
Using photos of nature to best effect
Healing nature photography has an obvious place in medical interiors, including hospitals, clinics, elderly-care centres and related facilities. Photo prints and art of this kind are especially beneficial for medical interiors without window views of green spaces.
Instead of looking at a wall or an abstract painting, patients can instead gaze upon the soothing visual properties of a sun-dappled woodland scene, a panoramic green valley and lake, a majestic waterfall, or a meadow of flowers against a blue sky.
Healing nature photography can also find a place in the offices of psychotherapists and counsellors. As we discovered earlier in this article, natural scenes can help support relaxation and recovery after stressful
And away from healing and therapeutic environments, photos of the natural world can be incorporated into just about any type of interior setting. Office workers in the middle of urban metropolises, perhaps in small metallic or glass workspaces, can find some comfort in a beautiful natural scene – even if it’s a print.
As noted in studies, there’s a benefit to the human psyche of viewing nature scenes, whether real or photographic.
More examples of beautiful green nature prints
I love taking photos of nature. Some of my favourite places to take shots include the Royal Parks of London, the green valleys of Wales, and the rolling hills of Tuscany, among other locations.
I’ve incorporated some of my favourite images in this article, all of which are available to buy. You can purchase the photo prints individually, as a small collection, or in bulk, to any size you desire. Plus, you can find a lot more photo prints like them in my shop.
Adding soothing scenes of nature to your walls
Obviously, images of any kind cannot heal the sick in themselves, but they can soothe the mind and body. Reduced stress levels can lead to less complications when it comes to healing. They can also contribute to a boost in general wellbeing.
We are meant to be close to nature.
A little extra greenery – whether photos or real views of nature – in places of care and rehabilitation can put us in touch with the inherent healing benefits of the natural world.
Click here to get in touch with me today and let’s find the perfect healing nature photography for your interiors.