biophilia: bringing nature into the home to boost the parasympathetic nervous system

Bringing Nature Indoors for your Parasympathetic Nervous System

A recent Guardian article describes the benefits of being out in nature for your parasympathetic nervous system, cognitive health, memory, and brain function. A quick explanation for anyone who needs it: the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for your body’s “rest and digest” processes. Things like reducing heart rate and increasing gut motility – the opposite to a “fight or flight” response. So, in this week’s SNAP I want to talk about how you can get some of the benefits of being out in nature without leaving the home. It’s called biophilia, and if you don’t live near a park, or woodlands, or countryside, it’s an excellent biohack for your wellbeing toolkit. 


The biophilia hypothesis refers to our instinctive need to feel connected with nature. It goes way back to prehistoric times, when we relied on the environment for survival. Now, in an ever-becoming synthetic world, we may find ourselves lacking this sense of connection. But we can create buildings and spaces that nurture this relationship. In the simplest of terms, biophilic design principles help to bring the outdoors indoors for the purpose of improving our wellbeing. And there are a few ways of doing this. So, I’m going to share two examples of how I use nature in my own home to boost my parasympathetic nervous system.  

Visual Stimuli

Firstly, I have a beautiful painting up on my wall by an artist called Michael Sole. It’s of the sea; crashing waves in deep blues with white froth. And looking at that helps me to remember that feeling of being on a boat or beach, looking out to sea. It might even make you feel a bit calmer just closing your eyes and thinking about doing that right now. Perhaps a little more abstract than the next example, but still an effective way to bring nature indoors and boost that parasympathetic nervous system. 


I also have houseplants. Now, don’t mistake me for someone who knows what they’re doing. I’m not particularly great at looking after them, which is why we don’t have many! But, I’m sharing this because houseplants not only purify the air – or at least, some of them do – but they also emit chemicals called phytoncides. You may recall me talking about these before, they’re highly beneficial for us as well as the plants. Phytoncides are chemicals emitted by leaves to protect plants and trees from disease. However, studies show that breathing them in can also help to improve heart and immune health, boosting our parasympathetic nervous system as a result.

So, two easy hacks for bringing nature into your home to boost your parasympathetic nervous system. Pictures: visual stimulation to remind you of the great outdoors. And Plants: purifying the air, helping us to feel healthier, less stressed, more relaxed. One direct, one indirect, but both are not too bad on the eyes, either! So what about you? Do you have anything in your home that helps to boost your parasympathetic nervous system? If not, how could you go about introducing some nature? You may not realise how much you need it!

For more wellbeing content, follow @leannespencerkeynote on Insta and LinkedIn.

Take our Cadence Wellbeing Scorecard and receive a free, personalised report with actionable insights you can take into your daily life to optimise your health and wellbeing.

Interested in having Leanne speak to your audience? Book a free, no-obligation discovery call or enquire here:

Leave a Comment

The Cadence Wellbeing Scorecard

Helping you achieve work life balance and improve your overall wellbeing