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.