“Adding a few plants to a windowless room has been shown to decrease blood pressure, improve attention and productivity, and prompt more generous behavior toward others.”

Ingrid Fetell Lee is a renowned TED speaker and former Design Director at global innovation firm IDEO, whose latest book is Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness. When Joyful became an official selection for the latest season of the Next Big Idea Club, Ingrid stopped by to offer an exclusive set of insights, one of which we’re proud to share below.

A feeling of freedom is good for us, and it can often be found in nature. A classic study showed that patients recovering from gallbladder surgery left the hospital sooner, and needed less pain medication, when the windows in their rooms looked out on a group of trees, rather than a brick wall.

I gained a deeper understanding of why nature makes us feel so free from one of the designers of the New York City High Line. James Corner pointed out to me that there are many sensations we experience outdoors that we don’t experience in our hermetically sealed indoor environments—things like gentle fluctuations in airflow, little fluctuations in humidity or temperature, a sense of nature’s constant movement. All of those things give us this delightful feeling of freedom that we experience when we’re outdoors.

If you don’t have regular access to a park or a window, try bringing nature indoors. Adding a few plants to a windowless room has been shown to decrease blood pressure, improve attention and productivity, and prompt more generous behavior toward others. Large landscape photographs, leafy wallpapers, or paintings of plants or animals can also bring natural imagery into any space. For an even lighter lift, try listening to recordings of birdsong or other natural sounds, which have been shown to have a joyful, relaxing effect.

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