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The Health Benefits of Living With Art

No matter which Optima community you’re in, you’ll find yourself surrounded by art. Whether it’s Ellison Keomaka’s inspiring paintings found in several of our Arizona properties or the vibrant sculptures created by our CEO and Founder David Hovey Sr., FAIA, each piece of art in our communities brings with it not only a story — but a wide range of health benefits, too. Here are just a few of the benefits of living with art: 

Keeps Your Mind Active

Similar to the feelings you get when you interact with a loved one, viewing art increases blood flow to the brain, kickstarting a wave of pleasure and positive memory-building while allowing the viewer to practice their cognitive skills. Whether looking at a landscape, portrait or an abstract work, because art is truly subjective, it allows the brain to explore different areas we may not use in daily life. This free-thinking stimulates the mind and strengthens it similar to the way learning a new language does. 

Reduces Stress Levels

Art therapy is regularly used as a natural way to reduce anxiety and other mental disorders in everyone from children to older adults, and even if creating art isn’t your cup of tea, living with art provides the same benefits. Viewing art can calm the brain through the most trying circumstances by allowing it to focus on a singular thing. Worries and stressors are minimized as your mind directs its attention to the relaxing and often inspiring art pieces around you.

Encourages us to Emotionally Heal

Because artists use their work as a way to give shape to their ideas and emotions, living with art encourages us to explore our emotions and past experiences. By viewing art, it’s common to feel transformed and to be taken to places beyond our reality. This metamorphic experience improves well-being and, depending on the person, can be sensorially, emotionally and even spiritually mending. 

Whether you need an inspiring escape, want to relive positive memories or simply crave a masterpiece of your own, the health benefits behind living with art are boundless and accessible by everyone.

Why Biophilic Design Matters

Since Optima’s founding, we have thoughtfully developed environments where nature and architecture coexist. This principle of sustainability – known throughout architecture as biophilic design – is becoming increasingly popular across the world throughout all types of built environments.

The process of biophilic design isn’t anything new to the world of architecture; however, in recent years, the design principle has seen a renaissance. Today, biophilic design is used within modern architecture as a method to fulfill the inherent connection between humans and nature. 

Because our natural habitats have increasingly become built environments, designers and architects have discovered the significant value of adding biophilic elements into all kinds of structures to enhance the relationship between natural and built environments. The framework for designing these biophilic environments consists of employing both direct and indirect experiences of nature. Direct experiences incorporate everything from natural light, fresh air and organic landscapes, while indirect experiences include utilizing natural materials and colors and ecological attachments to a location. Everything from skylights to green walls to fountains all apply the conventions attached to the design principle. 

Health Benefits

Beyond creating connectivity to natural environments, biophilic design also supplies an ample amount of benefits to both its surroundings and those who inhabit them. One of the most prolific benefits attached to the design principle is the improvement of air quality. Designs that employ vibrant greenery absorb the natural toxins in the air, ultimately enhancing the atmosphere.

Having access to vegetation and other models of biophilia also has a direct impact on happiness and wellbeing. When design principles like natural light and ventilation are introduced into built environments, a greater appreciation forms – establishing a more welcoming, advantageous space. 

Biophilic Design in Optima

Throughout our communities at Optima, we use biophilic design to improve the lives of our residents and complement their beautiful surroundings and communities. In our latest project, Optima Lakeview, we’re employing biophilic design throughout many elements of the architecture.

The development features a stunning atrium that includes our signature vertical landscaping system within it. At the atrium’s top, an expansive skylight fills the space below it with an abundance of natural light. Optima Lakeview is also home to a variety of private terraces and setbacks featuring lush vegetation and ensuring residents a seamless transition from outdoor to indoor environment.

From the materials used in construction to the greenery placed throughout a building, more and more architects are discovering how to include biophilic design within their builds, connecting their built environment with the natural world around them.

The Health Benefits of Jogging

Jogging is a wonderfully minimalist form of exercise that requires nothing more than a free slot of time, a good pair of running shoes and open space. At Optima, it is our priority to build communities in and around accessible environments, where our residents can head out their doors to enjoy a run. There are many health benefits to the sport that might inspire you to give it a try. 

Getting Started

Jogging is not about speed, nor is it about distance — it’s about movement and a slow-and- steady-wins-the-race attitude. One of the activities’ great advantages is that it can be done both individually or within a group. A running club is a fantastic way to meet other runners, form community and stay motivated. Apps like Nike Run Club and Strava track time, distance, and offer guided runs and training programs for beginners and experienced joggers alike. Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) has branches in cities around the country and hosts groups for runners of all levels. In Chicago, RRCA is a perfect option for residents in our Optima Signature and upcoming Optima Lakeview properties, given their incredible proximity to the lakefront trails. And at Optima Kierland, a rooftop running track offers 360° views of the stunning landscape as residents jog outdoors without leaving the building.

Lifetime Health Boost

While jogging relieves pain and increases endorphins, making you happier in the moment, the long-term benefits are also significant. The stress your body endures while jogging actually improves your bone and muscle strength. It’s also excellent for cardiovascular health, improving circulation and maintaining blood pressure while controlling cholesterol and glucose levels. 

A study conducted by Stanford University found that jogging increases longevity and reduces the risk of disability and chronic illness later in life. The habit of regular jogging has been found to add 1 to 3 years to a lifespan.

Positive Mental Impact

Alongside numerous physical benefits, jogging also supports mental wellbeing and overall neurological health. Jogging releases endorphins, which are mood increasing hormones that help to alleviate stress, depression, and leave one feeling calm and rejuvenated. Jogging can also be a meditative activity that helps clear the mind. And when you take your runs outside, you’re also exposed to vitamin D and fresh air which improve overall well being.

Cognitive & Creative Enhancer

As jogging indirectly improves mood and sleep, anxiety and stress levels fall. This leads to sharper thinking and counteracts cognitive disorders like onset dementia. Jogging has also been found to create new brain cells and improve overall cognitive performance. Recent research completed by the British Journal of Sports Medicine discovered that jogging dramatically increases creativity. The more you exercise, the more creative you become. As the activity becomes a regularity, jogging can provide clarity and focus, generating a flow of creativity and new ideas.

Jogging is one of many ways to stay active; it is a wonderful way to maintain your health and get outdoors. For those who jog regularly, the health benefits expand far beyond the immediate moment and leave a lasting impact for years.

The Health Benefits of Saunas

Saunas have been health staples in cultures around the world for thousands of years. The oldest saunas, found in Finland, are thought to date from around 2,000 BC and used stones to create high temperatures and dry heat in the winters. In Korea, domed structures often warmed by kilns appeared in literature as early as the 15th century. In the Orkney’s of Scotland, stone structures thought to incorporate the use of steam date back to the neolithic age. 

In modern times, the most common saunas used in western culture originate from Northern Europe and have temperatures around 212 degrees Fahrenheit and relatively low humidity. They remain today a staple of health and wellness, and can be found at spas, resorts, poolsides, gyms, and even private homes and bathrooms. 

Saunas are known for their numerous health benefits. When an individual spends time in a sauna, the heat causes their heartbeat to increase and their blood vessels to widen, improving circulation. Saunas are comforting, calm spaces that promote relaxation and, paired with the improvement of circulation, can reduce stress levels and improve overall cardiovascular wellbeing. 

Dry saunas, especially, are known for their positive impact on heart health. They also reduce the symptoms of rheumatic diseases such as fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. Dry saunas are known for relieving skin conditions such as the itchiness from psoriasis. There is some evidence that dry saunas also may improve athletic performance.

Indoor Sauna at Optima Signature
Indoor Sauna at Optima Signature

When it comes to enjoying a sauna, for optimal benefits, most experts recommend around fifteen minutes per sitting and allowing your body time to rehydrate and cool down before resuming normal activities. 

Saunas are a wonderful way to relax and boost both cardiovascular and overall health. The use of saunas is an ages-old practice that prioritizes bodily and mental health, spans around the globe, and persists today.

The Health Benefits of Natural Light

Architecturally speaking, Modernist design is often defined by expansive windows and plenty of natural light, something we’ve incorporated across our properties for decades. There’s certainly an aesthetic benefit to large windows and entryways; they invite the outdoors inside, giving residents a full view of the surrounding environment. And as we’ve seen from this year, there’s certainly a wellness aspect to the design feature as well. So what exactly are the full health benefits of natural light?

Physical Benefits

When exposed to sunlight, our skin absorbs vitamin D, which helps prevent bone loss and reduces the risk of heart disease, weight gain and various cancers. You don’t have to sit by the pool in order to get plenty of vitamin D; soaking in some sun while you work from your at-home office or sipping coffee by your window in the morning works just fine. Natural light exposure also helps improve productivity, immune system strength, mood and sleep. Especially during winter months, it’s important to get your daily dose of natural light. 

Mental Benefits

And speaking of winter months, with the days getting shorter and darker, many suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. During that time of year, natural light is even more impactful on our mental health. Sunlight actually helps produce serotonin and endorphins, hormones that can significantly improve our moods. If you’re looking for a natural way to beat the winter blues, natural light is a great method to do so.

If you want to maximize natural lighting in your own home, there are a few ways to do so without any major renovations. Arrange mirrors to reflect light, move furniture as to not block windows, avoid heavy or dark drapes and keep your windows clean. You can even try light therapy or synthetic light lamps for an extra boost. No matter your method, natural light is a great way to stay happy and healthy this winter. 

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