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Appreciating the Beauty of Nature - Nature Photography Blog

Instant Calm: why art and nature are good for your physical and mental health

Nature Photography with marysejansenart

And what is so special about water?

Instant Calm by Maryse Jansen
Instant calm is evoked by the soft colours in this natural abstract, a shimmering reflection of trees in the water.

Are you familiar with the feeling of calm that comes over you when you stare at a body of water? It doesn’t matter if it’s the waves of the ocean, a flowing river, the ripples on a lake or the stillness of a pond. Water fascinates us, there is something special about it.

Water and meditation

Looking at water can put us in a meditative state. We get a break from a busy life in an urban environment and lots of screen time. Water gives us enough to see to keep our brains engaged but there’s no sensory overload. Our stress levels go down. Our nervous system relaxes. We allow ourselves to daydream and self-reflect. We make room for creative thoughts. We may have sudden insights on how to solve a problem.

Looking at water is a pleasant, non-threatening experience and it evokes a feeling of wonder and awe. It can take you outside your head, leave your worries behind for a while and connect with nature even more then a walk in the forest! This has a very positive effect on our mental health.

The benefits of ‘blue space’ in the environment

Water in the environment has been named ‘blue space’ in research, to compare it with ‘green space’ which is most commonly referred to as vegetated areas. Spending time in nature (green space) has been well known to have benefits on physical and mental health. A large-scale scientific research project about ‘blue space’ has been done in recent years under the name BlueHealth. It has been found that ‘blue space’ plays a remarkable part and may be even more beneficial then ‘green space’. Actually, places where ‘green space’ meets ‘blue space’ such as riverbanks and coastlines seem to benefit us the most!

Art and meditation

Now when we look at art, some similar benefits have been found! When we look at a work of art we take a break from the busy world. When we study the lines, colours and patterns we let go of daily thoughts such as our to-do list. From there we can get into that more observing, meditative state.

However it is important to note that not every artwork will evoke the same reaction. It has been found that it highly depends on our psychological responses to colour, brightness and saturation. Certain works will create a higher state of arousal while others have a more calming effect.

The best of both worlds

Interestingly the works that are commonly experienced as calming and soothing have a lot of green and blue in them and often depict landscapes and other natural scenes. Research has shown benefits for patients’ well-being when hanging art depicting nature in hospitals.

So it is clear that by choosing natural scenes for our artworks we combine the best of both worlds: nature and art! It’s especially a good idea when we don’t readily have access to nature’s blue and green spaces.

Do you belong to the large number of people who live in the unfortunate and stressful circumstances of Covid-19 lock downs? Or perhaps you live and work in highly urbanized, concrete environments? And even if you do have access to nature, it is still beneficial to bring it into your home and/or office as well. Just to be able to, whenever you’re having a moment of stress, take a look at it and feel that Instant Calm!

Instant Calm

When I uploaded this photo on my computer and it appeared on my screen, I felt an instant sense of calmness, so the title of this photo was not hard to choose. I love the reflections of a landscape in a body of water and maybe that is just because it brings those green and blue spaces together in an alternative way! In this image it brings together the water of the small lake in a local park with the Gum Trees of my beloved Australian bush! The effect is somewhat abstract due to the ripples which makes it more engaging for the eye. It’s almost as if you can see the water moving!


Bring ‘Instant Calm’ into your home or office: visit my shop to see what it would look like on the various products.

If you’d like to read more stories about my landscape photos, click the button below and subscribe to receive the e-book ‘5 of my favourite Landscape Photographs and the Stories behind them’ for free!

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