October #1 | 2020    Share with a friend

Our Relationship to the
Natural World 

The weather is changing and with fall foliage being in full swing, nature is turning into beautiful shades of orange. It’s one of my favourite times to spend in nature, go for walks and hikes, explore new neighborhoods and enjoy the time outdoors.  

Having spent quite some time in nature recently and experiencing its magically calming effect, I started thinking and reading more about the importance of nature in our lives.

I love this quote from naturalist and journalist Michael McCarthy in a conversation about joy in nature as elemental to human flourishing on On Being:
“The natural world is the resting place for our psyche. In us, at the bottom of our psyche, we have a link to the natural world which really goes to the essence of who we are 🏔” 

Even though humans derive many benefits from nature, our modern lifestyles have created a disconnect from the natural environment wherein we spend significantly more time indoors. Some researchers estimate that humans spend up to 90% of their lives indoors. 
This disconnection from nature can have a negative impact on humans because we are missing out on the beneficial effects of nature. 

The underlying concept behind our relationship to nature

Our relationship with the natural environment can be understood through the concept of “biophilia”. This term is defined as humans' innate need to affiliate with other life such as plants and animals. This essentially means that humans have a desire to be near nature. This built-in desire may be the result of spending the majority of our evolutionary history (over 99%) closely connected to nature.
In his 1997 book, Kellert proposed that biophilia (or being close to nature) also provides us benefits such as an increase in well-being. Thus, being disconnected from the natural environment should have negative effects on humans' well-being. 

Restoration through Nature

Many daily activities in our current - always-on- society demand directed and constant attention. Our constant phone notification and social media usage bombard us with information and small stimuli. In order to pay attention, a constant effort is required to gate competing stimuli or thoughts so that one can focus. This constant effort may result in attention fatigue. 
Research suggests that people's desire for contact with nature serves an important adaptive function, namely, psychological restoration. 
One of the important aspects that nature can lead to restoration is that it has the potential to generate fascination to people; it is able to captivate so that the demand for being always “on” is lowered and the restoration can be performed. In addition to this, it should generate the feeling of being away as an escape from a certain environment or situation.

The Allo-Inclusive Scale contains seven pairs of Venn diagrams that range in how far apart the circles of “Self” and “Nature” overlap.

This month's picks 🌲

To inspire your workday with the things you do in your downtime.
For planning a trip Upstate New York, check I LOVE NY: the state’s tourism website, has released their weekly foliage report map for the fourth time this season 🍁🍂🍃

Listen to this podcast 🌝 - On Being with Krista Tippett and Michael McCarthy about Nature, Joy, and Human. Perfect Podcast for a road trip when heading into nature.

Read this article 📚- Using technology to feel more connected to nature?
I really enjoyed this article on Quartz about how technology is changing our relationship with nature as we know it. Studies have for instance found that watching Planet Earth brings viewers joy and markedly lowers anxiety and that workers in offices with plasma-screen “windows” that play live streams of the outdoors are happier and more productive than their counterparts working in rooms without any windows at all.
We’re seeking these nature-alternatives as society urbanizes and wild places become harder to access. Yet there is a limit to the extent technological representations of nature can provide the soothing, restorative, creativity-enhancing benefits of a walk in the real woods. People need to interact with actual nature. The solution is not just talking more about nature or creating videos of nature or other forms of technological nature. No, the solution is ever-deepening our interactions with nature and having more wild nature to interact with.

Book a Get-Away 🌳🏡Branches Catskills Pop-Up
A retreat location for your team or community in Upstate, the Branches Catskills Pop-up offers their entire hotel to singular groups. They opened their huge space for corporate retreats, wellness retreats, groups of friends looking for a weekday trip to work and leisure together (min 16 people). Here is a link to their listing on Airbnb for 8 rooms.

Watch My Octopus Teacher 🐙- a beautiful and inspiring natural spectacle of an octopus and human building a relationship underwater. A filmmaker forges an unusual friendship with an octopus living in a South African kelp forest, learning as the animal shares the mysteries of her world.

Explore: Road trips 🗺️🍁
14 Fall Road Trips for Stunning Scenery Around the United States
This article sums up some beautiful places to see fall foliage. 
Road Trip through Grand Teton & Yellowstone National Park
If you’re planning for a 10-day road trip I can highly recommend Grand Teton - here is the route I took earlier in September.

If you can't get out of the city right now: Experience seasons in a different neighborhood 🍂
Choose a neighborhood you don't visit very often and go explore! Last weekend I cycled to Red Hook and continued a neighborhood exploration tour through Carrol Gardens, Gowanus and Fort Greene. Seeing the different seasonal decorations and change of atmosphere makes you feel like a tourist in your own city and is a beautiful way to spending time outside, without having to travel anywhere.

With that, let us know what you're up to this fall and I hope you find time to rest, ponder and explore.
Thank you for reading and being here with me!

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Alice Katter
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