Natural variations in land cover and land use are perhaps the most understudied, but may be most critical for determining biophilic response. Targeting urban areas for designing green space and the incorporation of natural elements within urban landscapes has been a topic of study for several decades (e.g., 134. Johnson, 1975 ; 135. Lydon & Borenstein, 1985 ; 136. Lee & Resh, 1994 ). Among the best-known examples of this trend are forests and parks in New York City (137. Eng, 2013 ), Washington D.C. (138. Ebeling, 2010 ) and San Francisco (139. Ross, 1980 ). Such urban greening can result in decreased stress, enhanced attention, improved physical activity, decreased obesity and other health benefits (140. Eng, 2013 ; 141. Helliwell & Kuhn, 2011 ; 142. Waring, Dyer, Lapp, & Bullmore, 2010 ; 143. Sandstrom & Peterson, 2011 ). In some cases, the inclusion of natural elements in urban areas also results in the creation of distinct neighborhood character or identity (e.g., 144. Albers & Ichikson, 2000 ).
Concrete design patterns have not yet been sufficiently explored, but a few examples are available. Spatial patterns can be seen in the movement of people through urban areas (132. Surtees, 2004 ), or through agricultural landscapes (133. Bloomfield, 2013 ). In a set of studies examining mobility patterns within cities, Surtees (2004 ) found that people move through major arteries of the city at a fast clip, but spend as much time as possible along the periphery, in the areas between major roads. As a result, people spend most of their day in a small area where they can regularly encounter a number of different natural elements. Many of the city’s most recognizable natural features are located along these borders (e.g., the Eiffel Tower, the Space Needle, the Champs-Élysées). Designing with People in Mind recommends that the transit of a person’s route should be considered when designing a city (143. R. Kaplan, S. Kaplan, & Ryan, 1998 ).
Harmonizing with circadian rhythms of nature, which vary by season and time of day, helps regulate health and boost mental clarity. Research has shown that sleep quality, mood, and alertness are positively affected by daylight (e.g., Kandel et al., 2013). Exposure to natural light is associated with a lower level of cortisol, which can help with stress reduction and immune function (e.g., Berlyne, 1981). When exposed to natural light, daytime workers are more energetic and focused, whereas, when exposed to artificial light, those same workers feel tired and drowsy (e.g., Rosenkrantz et al., 2008).
As humans, we are deeply social. Social connection is integral to our health (Burke & DeWall, 2012; Drake, 2013). The act of touching and interacting with other humans as well as other elements of the natural world can have great benefits. But will our risk avoidance systems (e.g., Poldrack et al., 2012) be prepared to handle the evolutionary changes that accompany an exposure to elements in nature? 827ec27edc