Our relationship with nature

If you read my other blog about the ‘reliability of the seasons’ you will have a clear picture of my Biophilia (Bio meaning ‘life’ and philia meaning ‘friendship’), the human tendency to have an innate relationship with nature and all forms of life, or as Aristotle put it “love of life” he also referred to the relationship being in a reciprocal nature, that this friendship is beneficial to both (nature and us). For us humans one way to benefit is by way of happiness. Nature though, could do with a lot more in the way of benefits from us, but I’m not getting into the climate change debate here, not just now at least!

This makes sense, as our happy neurochemicals; dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin are released when we are in the presence of something good or something our limbic system perceives as good for survival. Being in nature can also lower cortisol our stress hormone, giving us a sense of calm or peace, cortisol rises when our system thinks we are in danger, it’s a survival hormone one that we need, but one that can do damage when we have too much. When we are outside in nature we also absorb vitamin D, although there isn’t enough in our northern hemisphere to do us any good in the winter months, the sun lays too low. But come spring it benefits us in many ways, it is essential for bone growth, regulating the immune system and helps in battling depression, to name a few.

I find that going outside and walking in the morning sets up my day, it energises me and helps with my focus and motivation. I encourage my clients to get outside each day, If 30 mins can’t be managed then a reduced time is absolutely fine. If it is too much to go out for a walk then I encourage time in the garden or even just sitting on the step, anything be outside and into nature, to hear it, see it, smell it, feel it. Studies have shown that those who spend 2-3 hours per week outside enjoy greater good health or wellbeing than those who spend less than 2 hours. Another study has shown that hospital patients that were near a window had their recovery rates raised and healed faster than those with no window access, so even looking at nature is beneficial. This confirms that our senses are used in this wonderful power of nature and its connectedness to our need for it, for body, mind and soul.

I’m loving that designers, architects and the like, are very much with an idea of having the outdoors indoors with big windows, access to outside living spaces, garden workplaces all encouraging access to our natural world. Workspaces are now very green, plants, pictures of nature on the walls, running water fountains etc. These all add to the ethos of consideration towards mental and physical health, these new biophilic spaces/designs all with an intention of lowering stress and harnessing the healing and calming power of nature.