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Home as healing place

Matthew Grocoff

April 21, 2016

By: Matthew Grocoff, Green Renovation Expert

In: Green Living

Photo of a Frank Lloyd Wright homeA home is not the same as a house. A home is a place we live. A house is a building we merely occupy.

The English language is riddled with emotional expressions about home.

  • "There's no place like home." - Dorothy
  • "Love begins at Home." - Mother Theresa
  • "The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned." - Maya Angelou
  • "Home is where the heart is." - Pliny the Elder
  • "A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body." - Benjamin Franklin

We knit these expressions onto pillows and needlepoint them on napkins to hang on the walls. It is as emotional as it is biological.

Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson says that the "crucial first step to survival in all organisms is habitat selection. If you get to the right place, everything else is likely to be easier." Wilson gave birth to the biophilia hypothesis, the innate desire to affiliate with living things.

He asks us where would we choose to be if given completely free choice. In this simple question we discover the elements of our environments that bring us calm, relaxation, and joy. Beauty, light, flowing water, plants, panoramic views - these all signal nourishment and are conducive to life. We want to be near them. We pay a beauty premium for hotel rooms with views of the ocean instead of the parking lot. Homes near parks or on tree-lined streets appraise and sell for more than comparable homes in the area.

Nineteenth century French writer, Stendahl said "beauty is the promise of happiness." I might also add that beauty is the promise of life. Beauty is nature's way of pointing us toward living things. It seductively whispers, "Pssst. Over here. Look at me. I am life." And we want to be near it. We crave it. Because we are life too.

I believe that beauty is a precondition to life.

To create homes that heal, we must fill them with the elements that signal a habitat that is conducive to life. We find these icons in color, shape, pattern, light, aromas, and sound. In her book "Healing Spaces," Esther M. Sternberg, a Harvard neurologist, suggests that designs should aid sensory perceptions that tap into our biophilic desires. Environments that are designed to support certain brain functions will aid the bodies healing process by reducing the burden of stress and anxiety.

In our homes we need to consciously embed sensory attractions into our design and decoration. But don't feel bad about your garden gnomes or pink flamingoes. We need a few whimsical things too. Like sunlight, a smile can heal.

Learn More:

Check out: Biophilic design for home happiness & well being: http://www.mochacasa.com/blog/biophilic-design-home-happiness-wellbeing/

Read: 5 Ways to Bring Nature In For a Happier Home http://www.improvementcenter.com/blog/biophilia-5-ways-to-bring-nature-in-for-a-happier-home.html

Read: 14 design patterns for total health, happiness, and well-being - http://www.oldhouseweb.com/blog/14-design-patterns-for-total-health-happiness-well-being/

Photo via Frank Lloyd Wright home: Falling Water http://www.fallingwater.org/

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