It is no secret that life in modern society can be exhausting, wearing us down with stress that can take a toll on our happiness. Global conflicts, a pandemic, and hectic lifestyles can have a psychological impact that can dampen our spirits and cause depression and anxiety.
It is known that regular exposure to nature can have a positive impact on our mental and physical health. Research shows that even calming pictures of nature can have a similar effect, reducing stress and increasing positivity.
Sandra Sgoutas-Emch, a psychological sciences professor at the University of San Diego, says “There are studies that show that looking at pleasant images can provide a type of mental escape for individuals during times of moderate stress.”
Psychological science also shows that certain colours, like greens and blues, have a soothing effect on our mood, and when experienced within nature scenes that feature subjects such as water or trees, they create feelings of happiness and peace.
As a landscape and nature photographer, I am privileged to visit beautiful places with the opportunity to capture them in peaceful, soft light and unique atmospheric conditions.
Time slows down when I photograph, and the daily stresses of life melt away. Hearing the sounds of water, wind, or birds in the trees gives me a sense of awe and appreciation for how amazing nature really is.
Below we will study some calming pictures that visually illustrate the benefits of incorporating scenes from nature into your home décor, and how colour can communicate emotion in a room.
Placing relaxing pictures on your walls is a natural and organic way to decorate, creating a soothing atmosphere that reduces stress and improves your overall well-being.
Below, the cool rushing waters and glowing vibrancy of the foliage surrounding this river lifts the spirit and fills the mind with peace and calmness.
When I captured this scene in the mountains of Costa Rica, I was standing in the water up to my knees, and while the cold water heightened my senses, the sounds of the rapids melted away my anxieties.
As the sunrise light intensified, it began to illuminate the trees, plants, and moss on the boulders in this incredible neon green colour, while the shadows in the foreground created a deep sense of mystery.
Above, the final print adds beauty to this cozy den, while the green colours communicate feelings of health, growth, and peace, conveying similar emotions that I experienced in the moment the image was captured.
Surrounding yourself with art that speaks to you is especially inspiring and helps to improve your contentment and pride in your home.
What is it about water that makes us calm and happy? There are many theories as to why it triggers a range of emotions within us. Although it remains a mystery, people who live near water often describe their lives as less stressed and healthier.
Photographed from the shore of a small creek, the gently flowing water reflected the vibrant colors of the surrounding forest and sky in an abstract way that I found simply mesmerizing.
The geometric shapes in the water catch the eye and create interest, clearing the mind and relaxing the body.
Bathrooms are the perfect place for nature themed images. It is easy to imagine soaking in a warm bath while getting lost in the beauty of these natural water reflections.
The vivid blues and greens in this image almost appear like a painting, conveying thoughts of peace and serenity. It is hard to deny that water gives us a sense of peacefulness.
Lakes, Trees and Atmosphere
Wallace J. Nichols, PhD, a marine biologist, scientist, and author of the book 'Blue Mind', says that being near bodies of water is naturally calming, as it "takes you away from distractions and simplifies the visual landscape.”
While water is the source of all life, trees are the living, breathing pillars of our planet that provide oxygen, food, and shelter while adding beauty and permanence to our landscapes. Spending time amongst them in nature is a proven way to rid the mind of stress and anxiety.
I remember the air being still, silent, and pure as I watched the fog embracing the trees of this breathtaking alpine lake in Mount Rainier National Park. Nothing else mattered in the moment as I lost myself in its beauty.
The soft, tranquil colours of the artwork perfectly compliment the natural palette in this bedroom, conveying a sense of peace, quiet, and comfort, while the misty atmosphere in the image adds a dreamy feel to the room.
Below, this surreal image was photographed on an unforgettable morning at Artist Point in Washington, where I experienced fog so thick that you could actually feel it in the air. The lack of visibility dashed my hopes of photographing a nearby mountain peak, so I focused my attention on smaller details in the landscape.
Standing on a high trail, shapes and textures began to reveal themselves in the distance, only to hide again moments later. It was difficult to even know where to point my camera.
These spruce trees huddled together on a distant ridgeline showed themselves for only a few seconds, and I was able to capture them before they disappeared again into the abyss.
An ideal addition to this minimalist bathroom, the tones of the image speak to balance, pureness, and simplicity. It is easy to imagine how the fog in the image would cleverly mimic the steam in the room from a warm, relaxing bath.
This is a perfect example of how image choice will help create the mood that you wish to convey in any room of your home.
Spending time in green spaces like forests has been known to improve your mood and can even reduce blood pressure.
For those of us without easy access to forests, simply viewing photographs of trees can have a similar effect by reducing your stress and ability to focus.
Above, early morning light filters through the canopy of mossy trees in this tranquil rainforest, while the curving pathway invites you to explore what lies within.
The large window in this living space pours light into the room from the same direction as the light in the photograph, creating a feeling like you are looking through a window to the outdoors.
The colour palette of greens and orange transmit feelings of health, energy, and warmth to the owners and visitors of this home.
The sound of moving water from sources like rivers, rain, waves, and waterfalls is universally appealing, as humans are biologically connected to these sounds and perceive them as non-alarming, allowing our brains to wander into a more relaxed state of calmness.
It is hard to deny that waterfalls are a source of enjoyment and happiness that reduces stress and anxiety.
This picture perfect waterfall in Costa Rica was magnificent to observe and photograph, and is truly a page from a fairy tale. I found it fascinating how the abundant plant life all seems to grow in the direction of the water.
One can imagine being stranded on a tropical island, only to discover these beautiful falls deep in the jungle, seemingly untouched by the hand of man.
The large size of the artwork makes it a dominant focal point in this great room, which is furnished with plants and fabrics that mirror the colours and tropical atmosphere of the waterfall.
The combination of these elements create an ambiance and mood that feels serene and peaceful.
Why is it that that when many of us book that long overdue holiday, we head straight for the ocean? People love the sight and sound of ocean waves, and there is something in the air that affects our mood in a positive way.
Scientific studies show that moving water is rich in negative ions (oxygen ions with an extra electron attached) which we inhale, increasing serotonin levels (a chemical that acts like a neurotransmitter) which increases our mood.
Pierce J. Howard, PhD, director of research at the Center for Applied Cognitive Sciences in Charlotte, N.C., says that "Generally speaking, negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain; resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy."
It is no wonder why humans are naturally drawn to bodies of water, and how even viewing a photograph of the ocean can calm the mind.
I was mesmerized by the beauty of this tropical sunrise on the shores of the Dominican Republic, as the waves gently lapped on the beach without a breath of wind in the air.
It's moments like this that make us feel alive and grateful for all of the good things in our lives.
This calming image makes this room a perfect place to relax, as the colours communicate a mood of happiness, success, and serenity.
It is my hope that the calming pictures of landscape and nature that we have studied here will help to illustrate how easy it is to create a tranquil mood in any room of your home which helps to relieve stress and anxiety.
Having the control to choose your own theme, color palette, and complementary décor reflects the atmosphere you wish to communicate, making your home calming to live in and inviting to your guests.
For a more comprehensive study into understanding colour meanings and harmony, self expression, and creating focal points, please read my article on how to incorporate nature photography into your interior design.