The term Biophilia is derived from the Greek words for ‘Life” and “Love”.(1) Biophilia was first introduced by German social psychologist Eric Fromm to describe a psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is alive. A simpler way to think of Biophilia is the love of life, or the love of living things.
In 1984 Edward O. Wilson wrote a book titled Biophilia. In this book, Wilson suggests that “our natural affinity for life―biophilia―is the very essence of our humanity and binds us to all other living species.”(2) In 1995, Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson joined forces to collect variety of essays into a book titled Biophilia Hypothesis. In this book, Kellert and Wilson explore the science that supports, and the science that contradicts, the concept of biophilia as a biological need that is integral to the survival of our species.
If The Biophilia Hypothesis is substantiated, we can then conclude that continued environmental destruction will not only impact our basic quality of life, but will have a dramatic impact on our mental and spiritual health (3). What this basically boils down to is that humans need nature to both thrive and to survive.
“To ignore that humans are animals and that we also require time in our natural habitat (we haven’t always lived in houses!) is to deny ourselves of our evolutionary right to feel free in nature. Acknowledging the existence of biophilia, or at least discussing the idea of it, might also help people care about their environment a little more. “OneGreenPlanet.org
How to build a connection with nature
The human trend towards a life separated from the natural world is identified as one of the reasons that we have rapid rates of species extinction and environmental destruction. Reestablishing, or strengthening, a connection to nature is one of the ways that individuals can help reverse this trend.
So how do you get started with the process?
The basic first step is to spend time outdoors. Any time in the natural world is beneficial for our brains and our mental health.(5) Simply sitting outside under a tree can do wonders for our emotional wellbeing and can be a good starting place for a nature connection journey. But for those that want a little more structure to their nature connection, here are two potential options:
Nature Journaling is the process of collecting your nature observations, questions, and connections in a notebook. This can be done using words or pictures. You don’t need to be a great artist or writer to benefit from this process. The basic concept is that you get out in nature and start observing, exploring, and asking questions.(6)
John Muir Laws website has a great section devoted to Nature Journaling. His website includes introductory lessons, videos, and links to many resources. If you are interested in this practice, this is a great place to start.
Forest Bathing, also known as Shinrin-yoku, is “a research-based practice for supporting healing and wellness through immersion in forests and other natural environments.”(7) During a Forest Bathing experience you connect to natural world through a thoughtful sequence of events that allows you to settle in to your environment. You can do this by yourself or your can work with a trained guide. A trained guide is very helpful in this process because they hold the space for the practice and provide participants with “invitations” for deeper connection.
To find a certified forest therapy guide you can check out the directories located on the following websites:
- The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy
- The Global Institute of Forest Therapy
- The European Forest Therapy Institute
Since the global pandemic has directly impacted the opportunities for in-person forest bathing experiences, many guides have harnessed technology as a way to continue supporting nature connection experiences. Virtual walks are a common practice now and can provide the practitioner a similar experience to an in-person event. I have personally participated in several virtual forest bathing experiences and have found them beneficial.
In the upcoming weeks look for more information about Forest Bathing the launch of a new program from Duncan Murdoch and NatureConnectionGuide.com.
Do you have a favorite practice that helps you connect to nature? If so, please share below and we might cover it in an upcoming NW Digest.
- NRDC- Bringing the Outdoors In: The benefits of biophilia
- Amazon: Biophilia
- Amazon: Biophilia Hypothesis
- One Green Planet: Why Humans Need Nature Connection
- One Green Planet: The Health Benefits of Forest Bathing
- John Muir Laws: Nature Stewardship through Science, Education, and Art
- NatureConnectionGuide: About
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