Biophilia: do you feel it too?
The chattering of the birds. The fresh green of new leaves on the trees. A gentle breeze and the yellow warmth of the spring sunshine. Time outdoors can help us to press reset.
I notice that I feel different if I haven’t been outside in nature for a while: there’s a pull to get out there and sense the quality of the air, smell the flowers and to feel the grounding quality of the soil beneath my feet. I sometimes wonder if part of what can ail us is a disconnection from nature. After all, we are all part of a bigger ecosystem and perhaps on some level, we need to feel that relationship.
The word for this is ‘biophilia’. No, it’s not a disease or a diagnosis, but rather the idea that our identity and sense of wellbeing are intimately linked to our connection with the natural world. Edward Wilson coined the term and he believes that it is in our genes to seek this connection, with the natural world influencing our emotions, thoughts and our spiritual development.
The sights, sounds and smells that we can experience in nature can help us to be in the here and now, rather than stuck in our thoughts. There is calm in the rhythms and routines of the outdoors. This calm can remind us that we can choose to put down the phone, to step away from the constant newsfeed and that sense of anxiety that always being ‘on’ can bring. To feel a sense of peace and healing and to recharge our batteries.
It isn’t a new discovery that nature supports our wellbeing. The Indian healing tradition of Ayurveda encourages us to spend time in nature each day, for example. It seems though that western ‘science’ is catching up with what we perhaps all already know:
· Going for a walk increases self-esteem and decreases feelings of depression and tension. Even a ten minute daily walk helped people to have fewer ‘bad mental health days’, according to a study which explored exercise and mental health in over a million people.
· People who take part in green exercise activities experienced positive changes in their mental health
· Spending time among trees can reduce your cortisol levels and lower your blood pressure [cortisol is one of the body’s stress response hormones which can kick start the ‘fight or flight’ response].
So getting outdoors and connecting with nature can be a great way to look after your wellbeing. It doesn’t have to be about a big trip somewhere, although undoubtedly those opportunities for down-time and reconnection with ourselves, our loved ones and nature can be very precious. But day-to-day, choosing to take ten minutes to be present in your local park or green space, could be an equally precious (and free!) gift to yourself.