Unlike the posts that have gone before, this post is more about the “how” of connecting with nature rather than the “why”. I believe that we all harbour a desire, strong or otherwise, to claim our wildness and nurture our biophilia – to connect with nature in other words.
We know intuitively that connecting with nature is “good for us”. But what is missing from most people’s awareness, I suspect, is the knowledge of just how comprehensive and far-reaching nature’s “goodness” can be.
In writing this blog and my book, Claim Your Wildness, I have tried to share this knowledge in a way that is meaningful, useful and, hopefully, inspiring. If I have managed to convey that being connected with nature is a core ingredient of a healthy and fulfilled life, then I am very pleased.
But knowing the importance of being connected with nature is one thing, having a down-to-earth, practical understanding of how to make nature part of daily life is quite another. It is all very well to carry on about “nurturing your biophilia” and “claiming your wildness”, but these will remain rather waffly ideas rather than signposts for action unless they are described in real-life terms.
When I set out to do this for myself I was greatly helped by the architectural and urban planning concept of “biophilic design”. The aim of biophilic design is to create buildings and urban outdoor spaces with features that provide biophilic experiences and benefits. One very helpful account of biophilic design that I found lists both the various sought-after features and the experience they provide, for example:
Feature: natural light that is constantly changing in direction and intensity
Experience: changing patterns of shadow and brightness, dappling
Presented this way, the list paints a picture of what biophilia looks like in practice. It is a simple matter to use the list to conduct a personal biophilic stock-take.
I have done this by making each of the 10 biophilic design features in the list into a question. The result is this personal Biophilia Questionnaire:
1. Do I experience natural light that is constantly changing in direction and intensity?
2. Do I experience natural ventilation?
3. Do I have access to open and moving water?
4. Do I have opportunities, by way of gardens and other amenities, for spontaneous interaction with nature?
5. Do I have sensory stimulation from natural sources?
6. Do I experience the natural world’s complexity and order?
7. Do I experience the excitement of exploration and discovery in nature?
8. Do I experience views of natural features from positions of safety and security?
9. Do I experience different forms of natural beauty?
10. Do I experience the integrity and authenticity of natural places (in the way natural materials have been used in urban buildings and parks, for example)?
You might like to take a moment to think about these questions yourself – in relation to your home, place of work, recreation, for example. (If you do, please think about leaving a comment about how it worked for you.)
You may find that you are more connected with nature than you thought. Or you may discover that there are nature contacts already in your life that you could easily expand. You could also find that access to biophilic experiences is more convenient than you might have assumed. In settings like the one in the next photo, for example, almost all of the biophilic design features can be enjoyed.
Even if you find that your stock of biophilic experiences is currently lower than you would like, the questions can help you change the situation. Just use “How can” (rather than “Do”) to begin each question and you have a comprehensive Biophilia Planning Guide.
Changing the questions in this way may be all that is needed to help you think of ways to be more of a biophilic person. But even if it doesn’t, don’t be discouraged. A theme I want to dwell on in the posts to come is that there are biophilic of “green” activities for everyone. What could be simpler than pausing regularly to admire neighbourhood gardens, for example, or setting aside time to walk or just sit in the local park?
Watch this space, as they say.