What does the word biophilic mean? It’s a mouthful, and often a confounding word. “Bio” is the prefix meaning “life”, and “-philic” is the exact opposite of “phobic”, or to be afraid of something. It’s this urge, as Edward O. Wilson coined it in 1984, that describes how humans innately seek to be closer to nature and other living things — essentially, the concept that we are a part of nature, and not apart from it.
We’re not here for an extended grammar lesson — we’re here to talk about the feelings and effects that are very real in all of us. When is the last time you allowed yourself to be exposed to the unequivocal forces and healing effects of nature?
The theory of biophilia proposes all people, as individuals, are capable of tapping into nature, but is the drive being smothered? If so, we have to ask ourselves, by what?
In our current world, we live in a humming human machine that is growing fast and making our lives more convenient to live at home.
Perhaps the outdoors doesn’t exude the same invitation it once did, because people are increasingly more comfortable in their familiar, routine environments. Add in social media, and suddenly we find ourselves in a non-stimulating environment, coupled with way too many brain inputs. Our bodies and senses become increasingly out of tune with the artistry and lessons from the outdoors. Is this good for us?
When you’re taking a walk into a forest somewhere in Niagara-on-
the-Lake, perhaps the picturesque woods known as Paradise Grove, the changes begin immediately. You’re about to get biophilic.
From the walking alone, blood pressure begins dropping. It drops a little further when the scenery of the forest, a place where we don’t typically spend much time, becomes apparently beautiful.
The human mind is subconsciously registering these new smells, sights, and the peaceful environment.
It is thinking about them and processing the inputs, enjoying them for what they are. This is good for stress and anxiety. Humans have always had an unchallenged captivation with fire, running water, waves, and other audiovisual experiences from nature – the sorts of things we find ourselves simply staring at.
I would say sitting around a fire is being biophilic. What other feature in our modern lives can several people sit around without saying or doing a single thing and still be comfortable?
Last weekend I found myself and my good friend standing still in a trance-like state, as the incredible frog sounds beckoned us to pause. Without a word being spoken.
It’s what we are meant to do, and it’s good for us mentally. With mental wellness improvement, the body begins to operate at a more peaked level physically.
Energy levels increase and become more consistent, and the immune system actually perks up and becomes stronger.
Some countries, such as Scotland, officially and literally prescribe nature to their patients. This is happening more in other areas of the world as an increasing trend. Outdoor time, activities, and exploration are key. The changes of scenery, new experiences, sun exposure, fresh air, and contemplations that arise out of nature time are all proven to benefit mental health and a sense of wellbeing. It would be naive for me or anyone to say that nature is a direct substitution for medication or other ways of healing, but it seems to be a forgotten, ancient alternative.
For fun, I can’t help but describe the “fuel” I get from being outside. I especially feel it in spring. There’s this sensation deep in my bones that my body is actually healing, almost upgrading. I believe it’s because of the correlation with longer days, more sunshine, warmer temperatures, seeing and hearing wildlife again.
We can’t all help but like that, but the proof is out there in the many studies that show there might also be some seriously beneficial things happening to our bodies and minds.
Warm spring days spent outdoors make me feel energized. I find myself eating better and in a top-notch mood. Why? Because I’m biophilic, and if you’re doubting that you are, then try some nature time.
Prescribe another, please, Doc.