The Biophilia Theory

I think it is safe to say that I was not born with a sunny disposition. The majority of my life has been spent observing, contemplating, and fretting internally about things over which I have no control. Few and far between are the times when I feel completely at peace with myself and the world around me. Sleep doesn’t count because the ache in my jaws every morning only assures me that my anxious brain was still working overtime even after everything else shut down for the night.

It’s exhausting.

But I found solace this past weekend, if only for a few hours, and that peace eventually crept into my later hours when I was tranquilly asleep. Earlier in the day, I watched a documentary called Happy, which provides both a personal and scientific look at what makes us happy, how people achieve happiness, and how much of it is actually the product of opposing sides from the nature vs. nurture debate. More importantly, I felt validated in defending my personality (to a point) and the film responded to my biggest question regarding personal happiness: Is there anything I can do about it?

Seeing as I had already planned my first trip to a local nature park with a friend that afternoon, my answer came in the form of spending those couple of hours outside. We explored a  nearby creek, crossed over bridges built into the sides of red rock walls, watched a deer graze in the woods, and just enjoyed the sun and the fresh air beneath the canopy of autumn colored trees. It was a long moment of bliss for me and I noticed how happy I felt.  Happy and exhausted, but this time I was exhausted for all the right reasons.

I crawled into bed after exclaiming to my husband, “What a fantastic day I had!” and before I closed my eyes for the night, I read a few pages from Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods. I learned for the first time of a term called biophilia and a newly emerging interdisciplinary study on the biophilia theory.

The biophilia theory, though not universally embraced by biologists, is supported by a decade of research that reveals how strongly and positively people respond to open, grassy landscapes, scattered stands of trees, meadows, water, winding trails, and elevated views.

It certainly works for me.

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8 thoughts on “The Biophilia Theory

  1. Had a better response typed up and then refreshed the page and lost it.
    ugh..

    The first part of my reply was completely agreeing with you.
    I can attest to that yearning to get out in the forest along with how urgent that feeling gets the longer you neglect it.

    But if I were to be perfectly honest I can also see myself thriving in a densely populated city like Chicago or even Tokyo.
    I think it has something to do with a general, human need to feel a part of something on a base level.

    If I had to stumble for an analogy here I’d say it’s like going for a walk in the forest and coming across a beehive or anthill and pausing to watch and appreciate the simplicity and complexity of systems at work while living in a dense metropolis would be from the insects’ point of view.

    It’s as if living in the suburbs has its own set of adverse effects where we’re neither benefitting or being harmed by residing wholly in the country or city.

    We’ll just have to come by with some firewood and wine to chat about it, heh

  2. I know I always feel better if I’ve got to be outside for part of the day. I feel irritable if I’ve been at work inside all day, come home and it’s almost dark. Being in a forest, the bush or the beach makes me feel alive and my senses feel heightened. I’m like you in many ways, worrying and not sleeping. Lately though, I’ve made a conscious effort to seek out happiness. It doesn’t always work, but I try to do something every day that makes me feel at peace and happy. I felt a sense of peace steal over me just looking at your photographs, so beautiful. Thank you.

    • Thank you, and you’re so welcome! I can’t go out on a nature adventure without my camera, only because I feel like I have to take a piece of it home with me to continue looking at how pretty it all is.

  3. I can relate because I have had messed up sleep habits ever since I’ve move and worrying and getting a job in a new place and what to do. Going out in nature with my husband or by myself always makes me feel better too, I just see it as such a great day to be surrounded by the beauty of nature. It’s also amazing when you catch that breathtaking sunset or wildlife that you normally wouldn’t see too.

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