Sunday, August 11, 2013

Power to Heal

My father ended up in the hospital this weekend and will be there for the next week or so. While visiting him at Elkhart General Hospital today, I noticed a few natural spaces amidst all the hallways and hospital rooms. I thought of the power of nature to heal as I walked through the complex. My husband and baby were in the hospital a few too many times last year, so I also saw how nature was helpful in the healing process with the many hospital stays.

I was impressed with the view from the window. My dad can look out and see the river. He mentioned seeing children playing down there before. I suspect boats go by as well. The view from the window makes such an impact while recuperating. When my husband was at University of Chicago last year in various rooms, the one with the flowering tree out the window was a favorite. There was something beyond more buildings to see. Another great option is being lucky enough to have a corner room with extra windows and more to see. My husband missed nature and fresh air while he was in the hospital various times. He had more time to watch the sky and sunset while there. Plants would have nice.

We also noticed a fish tank. When my husband was in Elkhart General, I was often visiting with one to three boys in tow. Having a nearby place to take a break in the hospital was so helpful. Taking a break to visit the fish would be so perfect! I appreciated a juggler in the cafeteria who took a few minutes to share his skills with my son as he juggled apples and oranges. Later, as he recovered, he walked the halls in another hospital and had different views as he looked out various windows. Having a playground nearby was also helpful when I visited with kids in tow. We could visit for 20 minutes, go outside and play or take a walk, and then come back for another visit.

There were a few plants and natural pictures along the hallways, but outside, care was taken to have a few natural spaces for healing.

I noticed:

Places to sit! There are several benches and tables available to spend a little more time outside. 

Water! There are a few options, such as a fountain and a waterfall. In addition to the visual appeal, the sound of the moving water is very calming. 


Color! Green plants and colorful flowers are clustered to make inviting spaces. 

I went to a Nature Explore workshop this weekend about Certified Outdoor Classrooms. Some health care facilities are recognizing the power of nature and including natural playscapes as part of the hospital grounds design. I was able to see visuals and hear stories of how hospitals were using natural spaces for healing. 

Research is also showing the power of nature in the healing process. 
This article mentioned nature in the grieving process and also gardening as therapy. 

This Scientific American post talks about the research behind these green spaces at hospitals. They wrote, "Just  three to five minutes spent looking at views dominated by trees, flowers or water can begin to reduce anger, anxiety and pain and to induce relaxation, according to various studies of healthy people that measured physiological changes in blood pressure, muscle tension, or heart and brain electrical activity." Natural art also helps.

This looks like a beautiful place to heal!

This WNDU article mentions several ways nature helps heal: 
* Relief from symptoms
* Stress reduction
* Improvement in overall sense of wellbeing and hopefulness

What do you think? Can nature heal? How does nature help in the healing process?