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Give Me a View with Big Windows

March 24, 2011

My wife is reading a book, Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being, by Esther M. Sternberg, M.D.  As the title pretty well explains, it’s about how our environment, specifically the places we build, affect our well-being and peace of mind, and in some cases how these things can actually aid healing.  She shares bits and pieces with me as she reads and one particular section really resonated with what I hear all the time from my clients when they are wanting to buy a house – we want lots of natural light and a view.  These two things are really the most universally spoken needs/desires of buyers.  And listing agents know this; the real estate ads are full of exclamations like: Mountain views! Southern Exposure!  Loads of Natural Light!  No one has ever said to me “we want to buy a house that is a dark hovel, preferably in the bottom of valley with no view” – though, ironically this describes my wife and I’s first apartment pretty well.

So there is a science behind why we all desire a view.  Here is an excerpt from the book:

Is there something about the structure of a scene that might be intrinsically jarring or relaxing- that could change your mood or affect healing? Indeed, there is a pathway at the base of the brain that leads from the visual cortex to the parahippocampal place area-from the region where signals from the retina are first received to where they are finally constructed into a scene.  The nerve cells along this pathway express an increasing density of receptors for endorphins – the brain’s own morphine-like molecules. [It has been shown ] that when people view scenes that are universally preferred- a beautiful vista, a sunset, a grove of trees- the nerve cells in that opiate-rich pathway become active.  It is as if when you’re looking at a beautiful scene, your own brain gives you a morphine high!


A pleasant view literally makes us feel better.  No wonder we all desire a view!  The same goes for sunlight.  We here in the Northwest are very familiar with the need for more sunlight.  Seasonal Affect Disorder and Vitamin D deficiency are negatively affecting our health.  It is a mood booster when we see the sun come shining through the window.

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