If one frog in a pond was sick, we would treat the frog. If every frog in a pond was sick, we would instead treat the pond.
In Western culture, we tend to associate health with individual agency. We frame health behaviour as something that is personal, individual and internally driven. And while this is one part of the picture, there is also a benefit in examining the physical world around us and how our surroundings can impact our overall wellbeing.
Both “built” (buildings and physical spaces) and “natural” (nature and outdoor places) environments play an important role in supporting our individual, organizational and institutional health.
Five Ways to Enhance Your Health Through Spaces and Places
Shed Some Light On It
Light drives our bodies’ circadian rhythms. Too little or too much light can impact our overall wellbeing. Exposure to natural light throughout the day can improve cognitive function as well as visual comfort while performing tasks.
Try: Taking a 10-minute break next to a window or going outside for a quick walk.
Bring Nature In
Contact with natural elements such as plants and foliage can elevate mood and boost positive attitudes. It can also improve attention while reducing stress (good for our mental and physical health).
Try: Keeping a small plant at your desk or put up a picture that incorporates elements of nature.
Furniture and spaces that can be adapted or customized to suit a variety of needs help to increase productivity and accessibility while also boosting social connectivity and inclusivity.
Try: Thinking outside the box. Re-arrange your desk, plan a walking meeting, or spend time working in a collaborative area.
Spaces and places that feature art offer the opportunity to see things in a different way. In addition to exposing our brains to a variety of textures and colours, it can help reduce our stress levels and boost mood.
Try: Adding some art to your walls, or taking a walk through one of UBC’s many free galleries on a break.
Go Play Outside
Natural outdoor green spaces provide all kinds of opportunities for physical activity, leading to better heart, bone and joint health.
Try: Taking your lunch outside or sitting on the grass to enjoy a coffee.
Did you know that UBC’s Happiness Project has been logging the places on campus where people feel the happiest? Check out the map or share where you feel the best at UBC.
This month as you move through campus, and your community, take a moment to notice the built and natural elements that positively impact your movements, moods, interactions and experiences.
It’s also a great excuse to enjoy the beautiful weather!
All my best,
Clowney, D. (2013). Biophilia as an environmental virtue. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 26(5), 999-1014.
Grinde, B., & Patil, G. G. (2009). Biophilia: Does Visual Contact with Nature Impact on Health and Well-Being? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 6(9), 2332–2343.
Creating Wellbeing Through Physical Spaces, Healthy Campus Community, SFU
Huet, V. Literature review of art therapy-based interventions for work-related stress. Int. J. Art Ther. 20, 66–76 (2015).
Huss, E. & Sarid, O. Visually transforming artwork and guided imagery as a way to reduce work related stress: A quantitative pilot study. Arts Psychother. 41, 409–412 (2014).