Designing Your View

Applying cognitive science research on views can make your life better.

Posted Aug 16, 2019

Ruklay Pousajja/Shutterstock
Source: Ruklay Pousajja/Shutterstock

In the Northern Hemisphere, most of us are quickly moving to the end of the time of year when we can tweak the landscaping outside our homes; in the Southern Hemisphere, landscaping season is about to begin. When you’re planting and otherwise managing the areas outside your home, you may not think about the psychological implications of the views from your home into the outdoors, your window views, but designing your views can boost your wellbeing.

Cognitive scientists have identified the sorts of views that enhance our mental state.

If the extent of your ability to change what you see through your windows is opening or closing your blinds, and you don’t have a view of green, leafy nature, add a couple of leafy green plants to your windowsill—seeing them will improve your mood and your mental performance—and you get bonus points for using a variety of plant types. Looking at leafy green plants has not only been linked to better moods and performance generally, but also to more creative thinking specifically, for example.

Wherever we live or are from, all of us like to look at (and benefit from seeing) the same sorts of nature vistas—certain sorts of viewed scenes relax us—and being calmer is good for our blood pressure as well as how our brain is working.  

The most preferred and relaxing views of nature include some sort of clean, fresh-appearing water element. The cognitive benefits of seeing water are strong—if your home looks out over a courtyard or other space without much potential to support green leafy plants, try to install a fountain outside where you can see it from inside. Even a small one with gently moving water, a couple of feet high, will do the trick, particularly if you can hear the water burbling in it from inside.

Views with a few manmade elements can definitely be relaxing. In larger areas, a meandering road or path and a field with mown grasses and a few scattered trees are desirable—think of scaling this sort of grand scene to the size of the lot as a mind-expanding and soul enriching challenge.

Desirable views have a hint of mystery. We like to understand and enjoy what is happening around us, and to imagine that if we traveled from where we are into the unknown we would meet with pleasant surprises—that’s where the meandering path comes into play.

Plants that encourage songbird visitors may make it possible for you to hear their relaxing calls within your home—but the sound of wind gently rustling leaves is a also a great stress-buster.

If all else fails, pull back your curtains and let whatever natural light comes your way inside. Daylight is a sort of nearly magical tonic for humans. Being in daylight is great for our mood, the performance of our minds, and our physical health.