Biophilia: 5 ways to bring nature in for a happier home
"The passionate love of life and of all that is alive" is how Eric Fromm described biophilia. In the 1980s, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson (one of my great influences) elaborated on biophilia and hypothesized that humans have a hard wired "urge to affiliate with other forms of life".
The desire to be close to life-enhancing things is literally in our DNA. Humans share a universal love of water, trees, flowers, vistas, gardens, forests, birds, sunlight, the scent of fruit blossoms, the sound of a babbling brook, or the touch of a gentle summer breeze across your skin. Our brains want us to be near things that make us happy.
Sadly, over the past 15 years, we Americans have increased the distances we drive in cars, we spend less time in local and national parks, we spend more time in front of screens (of all kinds), and we spend more time indoors. It is not a coincidence that we are also experiencing higher levels of stress, increasing rates of attention deficit disorder, and epidemic levels of sleep disorders.
We are experiencing what Richard Louv calls Nature Deficit Disorder.
Here's five things you can do to bring nature into your home and create restorative spaces for your family.
1. Create Daylight
Get rid of heavy curtains and let the sunshine in. Trim trees near windows on the south side of your house to allow as much natural daylight as possible. If you plan a remodel, be sure to design plenty of windows with southern exposure as well as smaller windows on the north side. Think about adding tubular solar skylights to add light to deep interior spaces
2. Views of Nature
A simple view of trees or gardens can change your mood. Garages, concrete driveways or other sterile views can actually increase stress hormones. Flowers, greenery, or even the shapes of branches in the winter can have calming effects and can be cognitively restorative.
3. Natural Breezes
In Japan, many office buildings are creating artificial breezes using air conditioning systems. Rather than a steady airflow through the vents, the systems will release random puffs that mimic the sensation of being outdoors. While this may be better than a sterile office environment, there is still no better way to get the benefits of a fresh air breeze than to open a window. The subtle flow of air over your skin and the scents of pine, grass or flowers that come through the window can actually make you happier.
4. Artwork & Photographs of Natural Patterns and Things
Studies using functional magnetic resonance image (fMRI) show that the area brain that releases seratonin and dopamine (the happy hormones) are activated when test subjects are shown photographs of nature scenes or patterns. Fill your home with photographs or art work that show lush landscapes, flowers, wood patterns, branches, etc.
5. Indoor Plants & Flowers
Your psychological well-being will improve by simply adding plants to your home environment. Grow herbs by a south-facing window. Put houseplants in all rooms. Buy flowers every week or bring in cuttings from your yard.
By implementing these things, you'll be able to enjoy the many benefits of nature, even if you're stuck working inside staring at a screen.
Learn more about Biophila at https://www.eowilsoncenter.org/