When you’re looking for a new place to live, you might consider factors like safety, schools, and resale value. You’ll want to add proximity to nature to your list. Research shows that it’ll make you happier. You can consider it on a large scale. Decide whether a city offers outdoor recreational activities you enjoy. You can also consider it on a smaller scale. Consider choosing a condo with a better view. Gardens, tree-lined streets and the sound of water may be more important to your long-term happiness than you imagined.
Choosing Nature Over a Parking Lot
My husband and I rented our first apartment together in Columbus, Ohio. We could choose between a view of a pond and swimming pool or a view of the parking lot. The additional cost was $50 per month. Depending on where you are in life, this could seem like an exorbitant amount of money or a no-brainer. Dan was a medical student and I had yet to secure employment, so this seemed like a frivolous expense that we could not afford. After a lot of back and forth and probably some spreadsheet analysis, we chose to forego a couple date nights a month and go with the apartment with a view. I’ll pencil this one into the “right choice” category.
We spent most of our free time during the next year sitting on our balcony. We were in our 20s, hanging out in our Ikea chairs with a glass of wine. Life was good. We admired the fountains and watched the ducks swimming across the pond in the morning. On the weekends we could watch the pool social scene from a distance. In our end-of-year review, Dan and I determined that it was absolutely, definitely worth the additional $600 to enjoy our home with a view for the year. It turns out that the experts agree with us.
The Science of Nature and Happiness
A famous study performed in 1984 demonstrates the importance of a room with a view. Roger S. Ulrich did a study of hospitalized patients at a suburban Pennsylvania hospital.[i] Patients were divided into two groups: one had a view of trees and the other had a view of a brick wall. The study found that the patients with the tree view had shorter postoperative hospital stays, fewer negative evaluative comments from nurses, and they had lower scores for minor postsurgical complications. In other words, the room with a view of nature drastically improved their well-being. It’s hard to argue with those results. Thank goodness we picked the apartment with the view.
Study after study finds that nature is good for us.[ii] Students do better on tests when they can see nature. Crime rates are lower in buildings that look out on trees and grass instead of barren courtyards. Neighbors know each other better when they live next to green spaces. Neighbors also feel a greater sense of belonging when there are parks nearby. Nature calms and restores us and is something we need in our lives. Charles Montgomery explains how important it is to incorporate nature into your life in his book, Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design. “Daily exposure is essential. If you don’t see it or touch it, then nature can’t do you much good. Proximity matters. But every little bit of nature helps.” (120). Seek out nature whenever and wherever you can.
Nature and Your New Home
When you choose to move somewhere new, you start with a clean slate.
Walk around the neighborhood and see if there are any parks you can visit when you need to recharge. Imagine how your location will determine your weekend plans. If one neighborhood is closer to a hiking or biking path, you may want to put that neighborhood higher on your list. Consider whether one apartment offers an opportunity to grow plants on a balcony or to do community gardening. Take note of the sun’s position throughout the day and whether your new home offers sunlight during the times you will be at home. If you’ve already chosen your home without considering these factors, find a way to incorporate nature into your life, even if it means driving to it. You’ll be happy you did.
Have you found unique ways to bring nature into your life? Share your tips with all of us in the comments below or email me at [email protected].
[i] Patients were matched by gender, sex, smoker/nonsmoker, obese/normal weight limit, nature of previous hospitalization, year of surgery, and floor level. Ulrich, Roger S. 1984. View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science. Volume 224, Issue 4647 (Apr.27, 1984), 420-421.
[ii] Montgomery, Charles. Happy City: Transforming our Lives Through Urban Design. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003, p. 108.