Design Your Way to Wellness


Have you ever felt that a certain space feels toxic to you without being able to explain why? Sure, you might just say the feng shui is bad. But, there is research out there that is illuminating how buildings, offices, gardens, and other spaces can impact your health and wellbeing. The crazy thing is that it’s not just the chemicals that are lingering in the air that physically impact your biology - it’s also how these spaces are designed.

Biophilic design is a new field of design that looks at the impact of indoor and outdoor spaces on wellbeing by focusing on what make people feel better - nature. Integrative design studies are connecting points of light form different disciplines and showing that how you biologically respond to a space (such as indoor pollutants or amount of light impacting heart rate, breathing, vision, skin, circadian rhythm, and sleep) impacts your emotional experience and wellbeing, which in turn affects social supports by reducing satisfaction and engagement with other people. So crazy! So, with all of this, you deserve a space (home and work) that’s healing and in-tune with nature and your body’s rhythms. Scroll down for some Naturopathic design tidbits that can subtly improve your health and wellness.


Visual Design Cues


Natural sunlight determines our emotions and mood. Studies show that reduced exposure to natural sunlight leads to irritability, fatigue, illness, insomnia, depression, alcoholism, and suicide. 



People respond to wood very well, with most people even preferring fake wood over plastic, metal, glass, and stone. I know, wood can get super expensive. So, one article recommended using real, natural wood finishes for things that are regularly touched, such as hand railings and furniture.



Real nature has a greater impact on biopsychosocial wellbeing compared to simulated nature, but simulated nature is better than no nature at all. Studies show that having at least one plant in an space can greatly enhance morale and performance. Also, plants filter air, but you already read a past post about air detox. So, I won't belabor that one right now. If you want to increase the effectiveness of your plant-based biohack, do know that biodiversity of plants has a greater effect on mental-emotional health. Studies show that in a garden, the size of the garden does not matter - it's the amount of different types of plants that matter.



The presence of water (by seeing, hearing, and/or touching) has been shown to lead to positive emotional responses when a person is in a space. Studies show that when people are in a space with water elements, they experience less stress, have lower heart rate, have lower blood pressure, have improved concentration, and have better memory formation.


Space planning

Studies show than when a person is in a new environment, they like to be able to see things clearly. People feel most comfortable when they are bale to see more than 100 feet (30 meters) in a space. You can use this fact by biohacking a house, office, or garden. Make sure that when indoors, people can see from one room into others clearly for them to feel comfortable. If outdoors, just make sure that they are able to see far enough for them to feel comfortable and use the biohacks with water and plants effectively. With seeing clearly over 100 feet, there's also the idea of using mystery to retain fascination with a space. People naturally want to explore a space, but knowing how to use mystery to cause pleasure over fear is important. This all boils down to a person's visual depth of field - visual depths of field of at least 20+ feet led to less unpleasant feelings. Ultimately, if you have a large space, have an open plan where people are able to see from room to room clearly with spaces of "mystery" so that they are enticed to explore the whole space. 



I'm sure you already know that images of nature can reduce stress. Studies show that the human visual preference is looking "down a slope to a scene that includes copses of shade trees, flowering plants, calm non-threatening animals, indications of human battalion, and bodies of clean water." So, get those on your art-hunting checklist! Also, did you know that fractal patterns that imitate nature can also be beneficial for psychological wellbeing? Studies show that having iterations of three have more positive effects on stress than having patterns of two. Weird, right?


Non-visual Design Cues


Nature sounds are obviously soothing. But to confirm, studies show that nature sounds after a stressor led to faster physiological and psychological recovery by 37% compared to when listening to urban noise. The volume of the sound also has an impact on mental performance, with studies showing that moderate ambient noise (70 decibels) has a profound effect on creative performance.



Studies show that temperature variability increase a person's comfort in a space. Even though there is a narrow range of comfort for temperature, himidity, and air flow, research indicates that changing it up within that narrow range increases pleasure experienced in a space. Research also shows that light breezes or other natural movements improves concentration and that a slight gradient in temperature in a classroom led to better student performance.



Studies show that phytoncides (essential oils from trees) supported immune function and that aromatherapy in patients after surgery required less morphine and other pain killers than those without aromatherapy. So, get on that aromatherapy game indoors or increase your outdoor time amongst the trees.



So, you've got some naturopathic design principles that combine aesthetics, biology, and psychology all to support long-term wellness. Have fun shopping and making your space look pretty! (You know that this whole post is just an excuse to go shopping) Comment below and tell me how you end up using these design principles in your own space at home and/or at work!

- Dr. B





Gray, Tonia, and Carol Birrell. “Are Biophilic-Designed Site Office Buildings Linked to Health Benefits and High Performing Occupants?” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 11, no. 12, 2014, pp. 12204–12222., doi:10.3390/ijerph111212204.

Huelat, Barbara J. “The Wisdom of Biophilia—Nature in Healing Environments.” Journal of Green Building, vol. 3, no. 3, 2008, pp. 23–35., doi:10.3992/jgb.3.3.23.

Ryan, Catherine O., et al. “BIOPHILIC DESIGN PATTERNS: Emerging Nature-Based Parameters for Health and Well-Being in the Built Environment.” International Journal of Architectural Research: ArchNet-IJAR, vol. 8, no. 2, Dec. 2014, p. 62., doi:10.26687/archnet-ijar.v8i2.436.

Sorrento, Linda. “A Natural Balance: Interior Design, Humans, and Sustainability.” Journal of Interior Design, vol. 37, no. 2, Sept. 2012, pp. ix-xxiv., doi:10.1111/j.1939-1668.2012.01075.x.


DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. There are no financial ties to any supplement companies, pharmaceutical companies, or to any of the products mentioned in this post. This post is not meant to treat, cure, prevent, or diagnose conditions or diseases and is meant for educational purposes. As always, please consult your doctor before trying any new treatments or supplements.