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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Amen to nature being essential for mental and spiritual health. My practice for connecting to nature is to always be looking and really seeing what’s there. Insects provide me with wonderful opportunities to be in the moment.
Hi Tracy, Did you know that Wilson focused most of his early work on the study of ants. The two of you may have some things in common!
No, I didn’t know that. But it makes perfect sense to me. 🙂
thanks for your post. We didn’t see the connection of Erich Fromm’s psychoanaysis and John Muir and forest bathing before.
All the best
The Fab Four of Cley
🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
I am glad you enjoyed the post!
Fantastic post, Mark! Thank you for introducing me to the writing of Edward O Wilson – I had a look on Amazon uk and he’s written books that will keep me going for a very long time! I also like John Muir Law’s website.
I enjoy observing, and being with, wildlife when I’m out with the dogs but I get the most pleasure from the creatures in the garden and the ones in the house, especially spiders. Our house is quite old (built just before the First World War), so there are lots of nooks and crannies for them to shelter in. There’s a huge spider living in the gap where the central heating pipe goes into the kitchen wall and I love to see her (I’m guessing she’s female because of her fat body!) when she sits outside her ‘cave’ through the night.
I was interested to see that E O Wilson has written lots about ants. I think they get an undeserved poor reputation. It would be good to learn more about them.
Hi Lesley, there must be so much history in your house. That sounds amazing. And it is wonderful to hear you are able to comfortably share space with a spider. Many people aren’t able to do that!
Speaking of Wilson and the ants. I learned that Wilson had an eye injury early on in his life that impacted his ability to see far away. But he could see very well close up. I like to believe that the ants were his solution to his physical challenges. That is pretty awesome. Thanks for adding to the conversation!
Hi Mark. It’s just a small Edwardian house in a terrace of six, at the top of the hill on the way out of our town. I often think of the people who lived here through the decades.
Spiders are a particular favourite of mine. 🕷🙂
Great post! I’ve been immersed in nature and the earth for many years and especially since becoming retirement age and that’s already a few years ago! I’ve been involved with the Woodland Trust (UK) as a volunteer for 30 years and am involved with other nature and wildlife groups. Also, I read a great deal and still subscribe to the Sierra Club. My perfect therapy for relaxation is walking and stopping in woodland or on the seashore. Also, visiting gardens! Check my blog! 🙏🙋♂️
Hi Ashley, thanks for the comment. I have started reading the Biophilia Effect and it really highlights the science behind why time in the woods is so beneficial. Thanks for stopping by! Definitely checking out and following your work.
Great post! The connection with nature brings us so much joy. We started to feel a stronger connection and to be aware of it since we bought our first camera and realized that this is what we like more: to spend time in nature and to observe it.
Very cool! Sometimes I use the need to go get photos as an excuse I make to wander around the woods. Thanks for the comment and I am enjoying pictures!
Having a vegetable garden (one plot with bok choy is set aside specifically for the butterflies– it’s their favorite), morning feeding of the sparrows, pigeons, hummingbirds and crows (or anyone else who drops in for that wild bird seed), and our occasional cabin rental and hikes out to the Cleveland National Forest. Much of all this is inspirational with my artwork and poetry.
Hi Art, thanks for the comment. I was thinking this morning how nature often inspires me to write and create. I am glad to hear you have a similar experience. Thanks for sharing!
I think of both of them as mentors, though I’m particularly fond of Stephen Kellert writing. He passed away in 2016 of cancer. I don’t recall which cancer. One of my newest favorite mentors is Doug Tallamy an Entomologist with several good books.
Hi Melanie, I’ll have to look up Doug Tallamy. I am always looking for new books about nature. I haven’t forgotten about your post challenge. I am still thinking about my haiku.
Great! Did you see my update on that post? I wonder if I should extend the deadline or just work with the handful of responses. I’m not looking to make anything overly complicated for anyone. 🙂
Yes inlighten your life in nature its a wonderful feeling being one with nature getting back to nature Spiritually inlighten your Spirit with love of all that’s around you be one with mother Erath feel her pains and dreams grows in nature Blessing be on you…
Hi Ben, Thanks for the comment. I hope you get to go out and connect with nature soon.