May 10th - 17th 2021 marked Mental Health Awareness Week, with this year’s theme focussing on ‘Nature’. Here at Cantifix, we truly believe in the beneficial and healing power of nature when it comes to mental wellbeing, and wanted to share some of our thoughts on this vital issue.
Undoubtedly, this past year has been extremely difficult for all of us. Coronavirus has changed our world forever, forcing people to stay home and stay separated from their friends and family. Many people have inevitably suffered from a decline in their mental health as a result, without access to their usual environments and schedules. While the pandemic has unquestionably impacted our mental health, one potential positive is that it’s become more commonplace to speak about it - at least to a certain extent.
During the long months of the pandemic, many of us also found solace in the great outdoors. Millions of us turned to nature as an escape from restrictions, isolation and lockdown life. Going out for walks was one of our most popular coping mechanisms, and 45% of people said that having access to green spaces was essential for their mental health during 2020. Interestingly, websites that show footage of animals via webcam chalked up record hits, with some showing an increase in traffic of over 2000%. It would appear that during the toughest times, humans inherently choose to turn to nature and the outdoors - where they can - as a source of connection and wellbeing.
Nature and Wellbeing
Of course, there has been an intrinsic existing link between nature and mankind since the dawn of time - we’re animals, after all. Only in recent years have we separated ourselves more acutely from nature, as machinery and technology have changed the way in which we live, work and play. We now spend more time inside than ever before, living relatively sedentary lifestyles, and even restricting our access to natural light. In fact, a statistic we often reflect on at Cantifix is the fact that the average person spends around 92% of their day indoors, whilst around 12% of UK households have no access to a garden.
However, nature should not be a luxury. It is a resource that everyone should have access to experience and enjoy - even if that’s just by looking out of your window, or taking a stroll through the local park. Moreover, it’s measurably good for your mind, body and soul. Scientific research in recent years has shown a correlation between time spent in nature and good mental health and wellbeing. Not only does nature demonstrate a link with boosting our mood, but it also helps us to cope with stress, increases our creativity, empathy and sense of wonder.
Can Architecture Play a Role in Enhancing Wellbeing Through Nature?
Upon first glance, it may not be immediately obvious why we, as glazing specialists, take such an interest in mental wellbeing, and how the built world can play any significant role. However, we truly believe that buildings in the future must be designed to play an active role in our lives if we’re to effectively ensure sustained positive wellbeing. As the world continues to urbanise, and is increasingly disconnected from the natural world, considering nature when planning our designs is more vital within a built environment than ever before.
We understand the positive effects that biophilic design (integrating nature into interior design and architecture) can have on wellbeing, along with the important role that natural light plays in regulating our circadian rhythms (our sleep/wake cycle), helping our body clocks to function effectively and improve our productivity. Research has shown that natural light increases our mental capacity and general wellbeing, and let’s not forget that natural light is also the best source of vitamin D - another contributing factor towards a healthier, more productive you.
The science behind sunlight and wellbeing led us to develop Solstice Glass - the first ever glazing designed to harness the health benefits of natural light - and we’ve conducted research with Oxford University, for our Photon Space project, to develop our understanding of how natural light impacts our biology. In short, to maximise our mental health, we need access to natural light and nature, and that’s a big part of our work as structural glazing specialists.
Incorporating Nature into a Daily Routine
Having said all that, there’s not necessarily any need to worry about architecture and design when it comes to boosting your mental wellbeing through access to nature. Finding ways to incorporate nature into your daily routine shouldn’t be a strenuous or difficult exercise. In fact, you’re more likely to take pleasure in it if you find simpler ways to enjoy it - perhaps sitting in the sunshine on your lunch break, or going for a half-hour walk after work.
Make a special effort to take a little extra time when going outdoors, to allow yourself the opportunity to recognise and celebrate the nature around you.. Talk to other people about nature, and discuss within your groups and community how you can encourage others to connect with nature in your local environment.
As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, it’s important for us all to remember - both in our professional and personal lives - that mental health is not just a date in the calendar, or a tick-box exercise.
Here at Cantifix, we endeavour to continue our pioneering research into the ways that design and architecture can positively impact the health of those living within the spaces we help to create. For us, glazing isn’t just a product - it’s a way to create a healthier and happier lifestyle for all.
We look forward to the future and seeing how interior spaces evolve to take health and wellbeing into consideration - and we will continue to lead by example.
If you have any questions at all about the way in which we are striving towards a better future for all, please do get in touch for a chat.