‘Exploring the Connection Between Nature & Health’ - The importance of incorporating nature in people’s day-to-day lives

 Dr. Naomi Sachs, co-author of “Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces,” founding director of the “Therapeutic Landscapes Network” and postdoctoral associate at Cornell University came to speak to an audience of students and professors from the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture on the connection between therapeutic landscapes and health.(Se Re/Flickr Creative Commons)

Dr. Naomi Sachs, co-author of “Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces,” founding director of the “Therapeutic Landscapes Network” and postdoctoral associate at Cornell University came to speak to an audience of students and professors from the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture on the connection between therapeutic landscapes and health.(Se Re/Flickr Creative Commons)

Dr. Naomi Sachs, co-author of “Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces,” founding director of the “Therapeutic Landscapes Network” and postdoctoral associate at Cornell University came to speak to an audience of students and professors from the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture on the connection between therapeutic landscapes and health.

Sachs first asked the audience, “Why do we do what we do as designers?”

Her answer was to create beautiful objects or places, to be creative, to make a difference in the world and make it a better place for people and animals. She said it was to change the appearance of the Earth, hopefully for the better.

Sachs then had audience members raise their hands if they went to nature to find solace. Almost everyone raised their hands.

Sachs talked about a 1984 study by Roger S. Ulrich called “View Through a Window,” where half of the patients in a hospital recovering from gallbladder surgery had a view of a brick wall outside of their window and half had a view of grass and trees. Ulrich discovered that the patients with a view of nature outside of their window had less complaints to the nurses, needed less pain medication and left the hospital after a shorter stay than the patients with a view of a brick wall.

“There’s a lot of evidence now that passive or active, physical or mental, we need nature in our lives,” Sachs said.

Sachs said that there is evidence like Ulrich’s study that show contact with nature reduces stress, depression and pain, improves immune function, cognition, creativity, productivity and overall well-being and promotes altruism, connectedness and resilience.

Sachs defined therapeutic landscapes as landscapes “designed for a specific population, informed by research, with a specific intended outcome,” and showed a number of examples from across the country. There was one garden made specifically for burn victims which was designed to provide a large amount of shade and places to rest, as well as tinted tiles to prevent painful glare. She also showed a rehabilitation room made in coordination with a physical therapist that had treadmills facing a large window that looked over a beautiful exotic garden. Both were targeted to meet the needs of a specific group of people based on a fact-based background on their ailments.

“She (Sachs) is a noble person, honestly, she seems like a great student educator that, you know, is gonna make big steps in therapeutic landscapes and honestly, that places like hospitals and rehabilitation centers don’t have to be scary or frightening anymore,” Allison Cassella, a fourth-semester landscape architecture major, said. “They can become something beautiful so that way people from the outside don’t have to look in and be like that’s terrifying, and people on the inside don’t have to feel so alone and kind of scared in a cold environment anymore.”

Sachs said that there are a number of chronic diseases being faced across the world today, such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cancer and sleeping disorders could be alleviated by the creation of more therapeutic gardens.

“As landscape architects we kinda do whatever people hire us to design, and I think it’s kinda one of the many facets of landscape architecture and it kinda ties into it, so I mean I can kinda see myself doing something like it,” Jagger Javenes, an eighth-semester landscape architecture major, said.

Sachs’ lecture was incredibly informative and interesting to listen to, and likely opened the eyes of many in attendance to the growing need for therapeutic gardens in our society.


Rebecca Maher is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at rebecca.maher@uconn.edu.