I have been loving the sound of the rain on the veranda recently, and the smell of the plants that gets so much stronger and fresher after they’ve been doused. Being under shelter as the rain falls on the roof reminds me a bit of camping at festivals, and a bit of being really young and in my dad’s workshop out the back, with its corrugated roofing and smell of cut wood and glue.
The sound of the rain also made me think about the news items there have been about forest-bathing recently, the Japanese practice of immersing oneself in nature, and research which has shown it’s good for us to have time in the wild.
There is an ever-growing accumulation of evidence suggesting nature is good for both mental and physical health. Studies have shown that hospital patients recover more quickly with a view of trees, that pain can be relieved by distraction with natural sounds and scenes, and that we get over the effects of physiological stress better when we hear the sounds of a forest.
Some architectural practices respond to this, building in opportunities to hear the rain on different textured surfaces, or to hear the wind blow, or to quieten the harsh and intrusive artificial noises of hospitals which interfere with being able to hear anything else.
Despite the evidence, there was an almost immediate backlash to the idea of going out in nature. People pointed out, quite rightly, that this won’t solve the systemic inequalities and physical difficulties which make it harder for some individuals to have access to green spaces. It was also highlighted that it won’t help with those stresses that are far too extreme to be addressed by having a walk.
I think these are totally valid points.
And… I still think it’s worth knowing that green spaces and natural sounds can have positive effects on mental and physical health. So that when we do have a choice to opt for a change in our surroundings we bear that in mind.
Maybe it is also a reason to try to pause and enjoy the rain.