Nowadays nature is present in my home and everyday life in many ways. Behind there is a long story but also many study results from different countries that all say the same thing: No matter what form nature takes, it affects positively our wellbeing. Simply, #woodisgood. And, it’s not only wood, the connection of all natural materials to our wellbeing is good.
The positive power of natural materials to our wellbeing
My story goes back to the moment in 2014. My depression was on and as one natural way to heal from it, I had started to do forest bathing. One day I sat down in the forest, took a cone, and rolled it in my hands. I noticed that doing that made me feel less stressed and more relaxed. It also helped me to process my negative emotions and catch the positive, more compassionate ones easier. After that day, while wandering in the forest I began also every once in a while to touch the trees.
And not just quickly touch, but really feel the energy of the wood when touching the wood.
I also began to bring pieces of nature home. I wanted to transfer my forest experience and positive feelings indoors too. It worked! I realized that I had found the positive power of natural materials. Inspired by that I wrote the saimaaLife article “More natural elements mean less stress” in 2015. I also started to read studies about the connection of natural materials to our wellbeing. My eyes opened when I read that the experience was wider than just my personal experience;
“Natural elements in the built environment help people recover from stress and mental fatigue and generally lift their mood.”
– Libby Burton, professor of Sustainable Building Design and Wellbeing, University of Warwick-
My story continued that I started little by little wear all the more natural things on me. I also began to pay attention to the materials I used. If I could, I chose wood. Besides that I began to look at my old items at home with different eyes: I remember forever how one day I took my old wooden cooking spatula to my hands again. Unlike before, I didn’t just use it – I really felt the wood in my hands while cooking.
After that, it was not just a wooden kitchen utensil – it was a wellbeing item to me.
Wood for good – physiological and psychological wellbeing effects
Little or big amount, wood is good for us. The Natural Resource Institute Finland and Tampere University’s Biomedical Measurements, Devices, and Systems unit and Production Economics unit ran one research project – Wood for Good (W4G) – where the wood’s positive impact on people’s wellbeing was verified. The result was that wooden materials were seen a positive impact on human emotions. For example, when test subjects worked in wood rooms, their negative feelings and irritability went down and their energy levels and their ability to feel refreshed went up. (Wood, page 27-28)
Wood has both physiological and psychological wellbeing effects on us. Wood is an antibacterial material. It prevents the growth of harmful microbes. That is why it is the material of choice for kitchen cutting boards and in saunas for example. The use of wood influences also positively to the quality of indoor air; Wood has the ability to absorb and release moisture, in other words, to balance variation in the humidity of indoor air. The good acoustic properties of wood bring benefits as well.
The use of wood in interiors affects positively the mood of people and their level of physiological stress. Wooden elements make a room feel warmer and cosier and they also have a calming effect compared to normal materials. Touching a wooden surface has also been studied to give people a feeling of safety and being close to nature.
Pay attention to your surroundings but also what you touch and hold in your hands on a daily basis
The research data of an international study showed that natural and smooth wood surfaces were perceived more positively in emotional touch than coated surfaces. Wood materials were described as calming, relaxing, pleasant, and desirable. It was also worthwhile to note that the most positive results gave the surfaces where the texture was left totally natural.
So, you can say that life is best enjoyed naturally also here; if it can be done, it is good to preserve the naturalness of the material texture.
Worth noticing is also a study that was done in Japanese nursing homes. The results of the study were that regular usage of wooden items increased their users self-expression and made them more talkative. Regular usage of wooden items increased people’s social interaction and harmonic emotional relationships with each other.
If you ask me, that tells a lot about the true and versatile positive power of wood!
Wood definitely is good to our wellbeing.
Well, we all can’t live in wooden homes or work in wooden offices. However, what we can do is to bring wood and nature in many other ways to our life. Like I -and already many other people- have done. You can start with small, everyday items, and continue to bigger ones. Nowadays there is for example wonderful furniture made out of recycled wood!
I’d only give one piece of advice:
Besides increasing the amount of wood and natural materials, while using them in your everyday life, learn to really feel the warming and calming energy of them. Nature affects us positively itself but we can also strengthen the effect when we combine our mind and consciousness to our experience.
Find your nature. That is the biggest way to feel better – naturally.
With love from Saimaa,