Biophilia: Nature's Prescription to Reduce Stress
Many use nature as a tool for health, wellness, relaxation, and stress reduction. We step outside to get some fresh air or take a quick walk around the block to decompress. Spending time in nature is beneficial for human health. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, those who spend as little as two hours a week interacting with nature report better mood, spiritual health, and satisfaction, than those who do not spend time in natural environments.
"Evidence suggests that humans are innately attracted to nature," said Angelic Health’s Robin A. Cohen-Feehan, B.A., LM, director of complementary and alternative therapies. "The appearance of the natural world, with its rich diversity of shapes, colors and life is universally appreciated. The pervasiveness of spiritual reverence for animals and nature in human cultures worldwide are other sources of evidence for biophilia. Such spiritual experience and widespread affiliations with natural metaphors appear to be rooted in the evolutionary history of the human species, originating in eras when people lived in much closer contact with nature than most do today."
Human interaction with nature has shifted with technological developments and advancements. We now live and work in closed and relatively sterile spaces, drive cars and have items in many forms delivered to our doors. This has decreased our need for being outdoors. In 1973 the term "Biophilia" was first used by Erich Fromm, a psychoanalyst who described biophilia as "the passionate love and life and all this is alive." The term was later used in 1984 by American biologist Edward O. Wilson in his work Biophilia, which proposed that the tendency of humans to focus on and to affiliate with nature and other life-forms has, in part, a genetic basis.
"During stressful or uncertain times, self-care is even more important," Cohen-Freehan explains. "As caregivers, we put others’ needs before our own. We must remember to care for ourselves so that we may continue to care for others. Connecting with nature is a healthy, effective, nurturing way to rejuvenate our bodies and clear our minds. Taking time for ourselves in natural settings can help us stay grounded and centered."
Biophilia can be captured inside of any closed environment such as a home, office building, hospital, nursing home, store, etc. Biophilic design has several advantages, including catering to human comfort and contributing to improving social, mental, and emotional well-being. More natural design elements are being incorporated into decoration and furnishings, along with real plants in buildings. When it comes to attention-demanding work tasks, having a few plants around you can help restore a drained attention span, improve productivity and overall well-being. The visual connection with nature has demonstrated reduced stress, increased positive emotional functioning, improved concentration and expedited healing rates.
Cohen-Freehan, who has done research on Biophilia, offers the following ways you can improve your mood and well-being through nature:
- Incorporating Biophilia indoors: Bring nature inside with house plants - Studies show that houseplants boost mood, productivity, concentration, and creativity. They reduce stress, fatigue, sore throats, and colds. Plants clean indoor air by absorbing toxins, increasing humidity, and producing oxygen. Adding life to a sterile office, gives privacy and reduces noise levels.
- Use a Himalayan salt lamp - When pink salt is heated, they release negative ions which bind to dust particles and improves the overall air quality of your home. This is especially important if someone suffers from respiratory issues. One study also determined that exposure to Himalayan salt lamps decrease symptoms of depression and boost mood. The same effect can be obtained when sitting on the beach.
- Incorporate natural elements into home décor - Wood, wood tones, natural fibers and colors, aquariums, waterfalls, views to landscapes or gardens and artwork of natural scenes will allow one to make a visual connection. Simply by having access to windows with sunshine or to view trees will increase the connection with nature from the inside.
Connecting with nature outside:
- Soak up the sun - Studies show that when natural sunlight hits the skin it triggers the body's production of vitamin D. It is a crucial ingredient for overall health, protects against inflammation and lowers high blood pressure.
- Take a walk - Whether through the woods a path, or a garden, walking in nature can decrease depression, improve memory and immunity, and reduce anxiety. It also helps reduce recovery time and boosts the immune system.
- Nature photography - take pictures of flowers, trees, and animals. Develop them and look at them later while you are inside to bring a sense of peace, calmness, and tranquility.
- Gardening - Studies indicate physical relief from acute stress, a decrease in anxiety and a greater improvement in mood. Gardening improves physical health with exercise and movement, and overall well-being from breathing fresh air. Participating in a community garden has shown improvements in self-esteem, teamwork, social interaction, planning, problem solving and coping skills.
- Natural meditation - Stop and smell the flowers, sit on a bench, listen to the birds, watch a sunset or sunrise, and listen to moving water for mood improvement.
The importance of connecting with nature in our lives:
- Improves mood and self-esteem
- Increases work productivity
- Decreases stress
- Restores our mental energy
- Reduces negative emotions and increases positive emotions
- Increases the potency of physical exercise to improve mental health
- Assists in coping with mental disorders
- Improves and restores memory and attention