Research has shown that spending time in nature can improve short-term memory, vision, concentration, and mental health. It can also restore mental energy, relieve stress, sharpen thinking, boost creativity and the immune system, reduce inflammation and the risk of early death, and it may even reduce the risk of certain cancers.
You don’t have to be deep in the forest to reap some benefits. A recent study showed that just observing nature – even indoors – increases general happiness and well-being. Holli-Anne Passmore, the author of the study and a researcher focused on the relationship between experiences in nature and various aspects of well-being, noted, “the difference in participants’ well-being—their happiness, sense of elevation, and their level of connectedness to other people, not just nature—was significantly higher”
Passmore continues, stating this, “wasn’t about spending hours outdoors or going for long walks in the wilderness. This is about the tree at a bus stop in the middle of a city and the positive effect that one tree can have on people.”
Considering that most people spend 90 percent of their time indoors, why not harness the benefits of nature in your own home by bringing the outside in? Sometimes, though, all of the decorating options can feel overwhelming. To create a sense of calmness for yourself and visitors, consider adding a touch of nature to your interior. Read on for our ideas about how to add a touch of nature (without allergens and dirt) to your home.
For some, decorating with natural materials comes, well, naturally. Wooden tables, leather chairs, cotton textiles, stone countertops — these things are all made from natural materials that connect us with the outdoors.
Lauren Liess, an interior and textile designer and host of HGTV’s Best House on the Block, explained it best this way: “I love to incorporate natural elements into my spaces because they add warmth, texture and a bit of earthiness. Items like natural woven rugs and shades, warm woods, worn stone and metals, and natural fabrics like flax and linen add depth and texture, which makes a room feel more inviting, relaxed and ‘touchable.’”
Because furniture serves practical purposes, it’s easy to focus on that when decorating a home. But decor is so much more than furniture! Perhaps the most subtle role is played by textiles. Textiles include carpets and rugs, pillows, sheets, throw blankets, kitchen towels, curtains and cloth upholstery. And though understated, they have a significant impact on how a room feels and is experienced.
Textiles can bring the outdoors in if they’re made from natural fibers and dyes, but also keep in mind that textile patterns are another way to add a touch of nature. A botanical motif on sheets, curtains or pillows is an example of this.
Artwork can include prints or photographs hung on a wall, freestanding sculptural objects and so much more. As with textiles, artwork can also feature botanical elements. Hang a photograph of a landscape or a favorite flower or an ocean. Above the sofa in my living room, I have a large painting of a blue sky with wispy white clouds. It gives me such a happy feeling to look at it, and it is a popular conversation piece when guests visit. If you don’t already know, you can find many great options for home decoration on Etsy for every style and price point.
Get Crafty and Think Seasonally
Many holidays are in some way connected to seasonal changes in nature. So why not incorporate objects from nature into your seasonal decor? Autumn leaves and gourds around Thanksgiving, pinecones or an evergreen garland or snowflake paper cutouts during winter, and bird feathers and dyed eggs in springtime. There are really far too many nature crafts on Pinterest to mention, but painting stones is a favorite!
Natural objects you collect can also serve as a reminder of a family vacation or a commemoration of a certain day. I collected sand from a beach on my birthday last year, and it now sits inside of a glass lamp on my desk. It’s a beautiful reminder of that day and place. If the touch of nature you add to your home is meaningful, it will give you a wonderful feeling whenever you see it. Who couldn’t use more of that in their home?
In addition to purifying your air, indoor plants lend texture, shape and color to a room.This one may seem really obvious, though it never fails to amaze me when I walk into a house that has no plants. Not everyone is born with a green thumb, so fortunately there are plants to suit every kind of interior, lighting situation and gardening ability. Succulents and air plants are nearly foolproof, and you can get more specific recommendations from your local garden center. Feel free to start small as you build up your plant-care confidence!
Buy terracotta pots and paint and decorate them. Name plants to make it even more personal. Where you place your new pet plant is up to you, but you’ll be more likely to remember to water their plant if it’s in a bedroom, playroom, or bathroom. Succulents are beautiful and interesting, plus they’re easy to care for since they don’t need much watering. Simple vines like English ivy or small potted plants like peperomia are also great options.
Freshly picked flowers add a burst of color and beauty to any home. Depending on your skill set, patience, and time, there’s always a way to bring fresh flowers into your home.
Grow Your Own
If you want to regularly have fresh flowers in your home, the most affordable option is to grow your own. If you don’t want to cut into a carefully designed landscape, planting a wildflower mix for your growing conditions is an easier alternative. Many people also find gardening to be a relaxing activity and a great way to teach children about plants and ecosystems.
Most areas have farms that offer opportunities to the public to come and pick their own flowers for a great price. While it isn’t something you’d likely do on a regular basis, it’s a fun activity to do with kids or friends.
Grocery Store Flowers
Not all grocery stores offer the same flowers. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s offer more exotic varieties that you likely won’t find in your own garden, plus you’ll know they are ethically grown. Even the fillers they sell are interesting and work well on their own.
Flower Delivery Subscriptions
Whether from your local florist or an online company, there are many companies offering regular flower deliveries. Check Groupon for some great bargains!
Purify Your Air
While you can certainly buy electrical air purifying systems, why not make use of what NASA calls “nature’s life support system”: plants. Kids learn in elementary school that plants use photosynthesis to convert the carbon dioxide we exhale into fresh oxygen, but what researchers now know is that plants actually purify the air. One NASA experiment found that plants remove cancer-causing volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde, benzene, and other toxins from the air. Bill Wolverton, the former NASA research scientist who conducted the experiment explains that bigger is better, “the amount of leaf surface area influences the rate of air purification.”
When it comes to air purification, some plants are better than others. Wolverton states “the Boston fern is one of the most effective plants for removing airborne pollutants, but it is often difficult to grow indoors. I usually recommend the golden pothos as my first choice, since it is a popular plant and easy to grow.” Other easy-to-grow options for homeowners to consider include spider plants, Dracaenas, snake plants, rubber plants, and aloe vera. You might be wondering, how many plants do you need? Wolverton recommends two good-sized plants per 100 square feet.
Indoor Water Features
Humans are innately drawn to water. Marine biologist Wallace J. Nicholas says “we are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken.”
Our bodies are largely composed of water, and 80 percent of the people on Earth live near water. From a small tabletop fountain to a towering statue, indoor water features become the focal point of the room and have a calming and soothing effect.
Whether you consider it a form of therapy or simply like to add fragrance to the air, essential oil diffusers can transform your indoor experience in a simple but powerful way. AromaWeb offers a detailed online Aromatherapy Guide for those who want to learn more. There are many synthetic fragrances available, so be sure to only use 100 percent pure essential oils that are distilled from plant sources.
As anyone who has struggled with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) can tell you, light makes all the difference! Having more natural light in the home can boost your mood on a daily basis, and it’s also a subtle yet fantastic way to add a touch of nature to your home. Big windows and skylights are obvious choices, but you can also increase the amount of natural light in a room without renovating your home. Adding mirrors to reflect light, painting your walls in a light color, and removing dark curtains and blinds are three easy ways to amp up the natural light inside your home.
I have one word for you: Jungalow. It’s a design trend that I absolutely love because it’s all about bringing the outdoors inside. The woman behind the trend, Justina Blakeney, explained: “It’s all about decorating wild. That means different things to me at different times, but high level, it means decorating with color, pattern and plants. It’s also got a lot to do with the way different objects, colors and patterns contrast with each other to create tension and/or harmony together.” Even if Justina’s Jungalow style is a little too bohemian for you, check out #indoorjungle and #jungalowstyle on Instagram for a lot of great twists on the idea.
Ultimately, you can let nature be your guide. When out for a walk, take notice of which materials, colors and textures you are drawn to. No matter your personal style, there is always a way to incorporate natural materials into your home that expresses your uniqueness. Bringing the outside in will give your home a warm, welcoming, comfortable vibe.