Biophilia, the innate human attraction to nature, is a concept that has been recognized for several decades by the scientific and design communities, and intuitively for hundreds of years by the population at large. Biophilic design has often been regarded as a luxury for property owners who want the best possible workplace for their employees, or who want to showcase their efforts to be more environmentally responsible.
Biophilia transforms individual performance and has an immediate, if not extreme results, in increased productivity and mental health.
More than 50% of the Western world now live in urban areas. By 2050 this proportion will be 70%. This urbanisation is associated with increased levels of mental illness, but it’s not yet clear why.
Through controlled experiments it has been shown that an individual’s nature reconnection would influence their stress recovery rates, lower blood pressure, improved cognitive functions, enhanced mental stamina and focus, decreased violence and criminal activity, elevated moods, and increased learning rates.
It has been shown that in healthy participants a brief nature experience, a 90-min walk in a natural setting, decreases both self-reported negative rumination and neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex (sgPFC), whereas a 90-min walk in an urban setting has no such effects on self-reported rumination or neural activity.
The concept of biophilia implies that humans hold a biological need for connection with nature on physical, mental, and social levels, and that this connection affects our personal well-being, productivity, and societal relationships.
Whether one is engaging with nature by walking through a park, by interacting with animals, or simply by having a view of greenery from one’s home or place of work, biophilia has many applications that help transform mundane settings into stimulating environments.
But this is old news and we are maladaptive. A person can now walk through a park and not even notice it. They can even use earphones to block out the sounds.
Innerwealth believes that the way people think” is the key that can come from nature into life.
Reliance on physical environmental biophilia alone will not suffice in an age where we can spend up to 7 hours a day starring at a computer screen or tv or phone.
The way we think is as important as what we think. The millions of neural channels in our brain link to the human body’s autonomic nervous system. This system consists of two elements: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems. The sympathetic system stimulates the human body when cognitive function is needed. The parasympathetic system serves to relax the body, and is used for internal processes such as digestion.
When the body’s natural balance of sympathetic and parasympathetic is achieved, the body is in the ideal state of homeostasis. In chaotic and unsettling environments, the body’s sympathetic system is highly engaged in a “ fight-or- flight” mindset. Concurrently, the parasympathetic system is suppressed, disrupting our natural balance and resulting in energy drain and mental fatigue.
This combination induces stress, frustration, irritability, and distraction.
In contrast, human interaction with nature provides an increase in parasympathetic activity resulting in better bodily function and reduced sympathetic activity. The result is decreased stress and irritability, and the increased ability to concentrate.
Again this is great if we are monkeys and live in the trees but for most of us, the urban jungle is home. A more sophisticated “biophilia” is required. One where circumstances of chaos can be managed and we can control the reactions of the mind through better thought process.
The benefits of being in nature are profound. Stress is a known cause of both mental health disorders and cardiovascular diseases. According to the World Health Organization, mental health disorders and cardiovascular diseases are expected to be the two prime contributing factors to illnesses worldwide by 2020. Treatment for cardiovascular disorders account for $1 of every $6 spent on healthcare in America. If workers are faced with nowhere to relieve stress in the office, the premature onset of psychiatric, stress-induced, and anxiety-related illnesses can surface. Studies show that our ability to directly access nature can alleviate feelings of stress, thus bolstering the case for biophilia in the workplace. Heartbeat has been measured in natural and urban environments in relation to spatially selective attention. After test subjects viewed videos of the two aforementioned environments, their heart beat interval results suggested that videos depicting natural environments had an involuntary relaxing effect on autonomic functions, inducing positive cardiac deceleration as well as bene cial physiological arousal.
So imagine the impact of thinking in step with nature. Imagine that there was not the trigger for de-stressing in the first place. Imagine that the individual who went to the forest was already, not stressed. Isn’t prevention better than cure? This is our proposition for individual and community. Think nature and then be in nature even in an urban environment.
It’s a Walk in the Park – Shinrin-yoku
Another emerging field of research surrounding human interactions with nature, known as Shinrin-yoku in Japan, continues to provide solid evidence of the benefits of natural environments on human health.
Shinrin-yoku is the ancient Japanese practice of restorative walks through natural settings, most often forests. In English, Shinrin-yoku directly translates to “forest bathing”.
New Shinrin-yoku studies show that inhaling these pungent compounds has tremendous health bene ts that are dif cult to reap in the urban and built environments that con ne so many individuals today.
Greater Productivity – Less Costs – More Wellbeing
So imagine the benefit of bringing nature into the moment. Instead of running out to find a forest to bathe in – you could just avoid the stress in the first place.
Universal laws of nature are such an opportunity…. this will save time and energy at work and at home.
• Illness and absenteeism
• Staff retention
• Job performance (mental stress/fatigue) • Healing rates
• classroom learning rates
• Retail sales
• Violence statistics
Presenteeism describes the phenomenon in which workers clock in for work, but are mentally removed from the workplace, causing labor-related financial losses for the company. The results of “antiquated thinking” and therefore denatured environments also have financial implications in the form of “presenteeism.”
Instead we can replace this antiquated thought process with a nature based one.
Presenteeism can result from sleepiness, headaches, colds, and asthmatic drain, if air supply is poor. But it is mostly due to emotional and mental distraction caused by:
• Domestic challenges
• Mental strain
• Loss of motivation
• Disillusionment with management
• Health issues
Presenteeism costs employers. So, providing access to natural daylighting, outdoor views, and natural ventilation can reduce eyestrain, relieve mental fatigue and return workers’ attention to their work but it is a minor shift compared to the benefits of improved focus and mental “turning up” achieved with The Biophilic Mind.