Bring Up Biophilia—What makes us particularly attracted to nature

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Staying locked up inside our homes during this dreaded pandemic has made us realized that we definitely need to spend more time in our outside world. Not only to socialize but to get in touch with our natural environment. But unfortunately, even when we are deciding to play in the dirt or choosing to have our ears filled with bird songs, we are mostly unaware of what it does to us. Yet, we are just beginning to understand that nature can do way more for us than the other way around. As soon as we allow ourselves the satisfaction to immerse in any natural environment, we can observe physical and psychological benefits. It only begs us to wonder why outdoor activities are not persistently on our minds. And although we have been aware of our profound relationship with nature for a while now, there were still no words to describe it. More specifically, the term biophilia was, until recently, to some degree foreign to us. Just in case you still don’t know what biophilia might mean, it is a word used to describe our innate instinct to connect with nature.

Nobody ignores the positive effects present in our bodies when we spend time in nature. That’s why many people opt for outdoor destinations for their planned vacations. And one might believe that the relief we feel after those vacays can be the result of the time taken off work and it could in part be true. However, we should not underestimate the impact of natural input on the body and mind. Even short exposure to any of these inputs can produce a wide range of positive influences. Actually, a mere 30-min exposure can be sufficient to produce sensations like lowered anxiety, improved focus, increased productivity, heightened creativity, greater happiness, and more. Personally speaking, the addition of biophilic elements in my writing routine has definitely been a tremendous help. Especially the addition of nature soundtracks for my audio input has proven itself the most significant improvement. It certainly was the best tool to keep my focus on the task at hand, improved my creativity and reduced the anxiety that I was facing.

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Most people believe that our personal health is essentially synonymous with physical health. And even if this is not thoroughly wrong, it is a gross overestimation. Health researchers are busting their backs trying to popularize the notion that we need to do drastically more to preserve our health. Gone are the times when exercising and eating well were the fundamental guidelines. We most promptly need to consider our mental health as well. That begins with making sure to take advantage of all the tools at our disposal. Most of you might already be fervent adherents of meditation, and that is absolutely great. Meditation is very challenging, and if you can find success in the practice, I am most definitely impressed. However, caring for our mental well-being doesn’t have to be a demanding activity. The simple act of deciding to add a plant to your desk office can already help. Also, they, fortunately, don’t even need to be alive. The implementation of artificial elements reminding us of nature also produces some significant impact. Albeit, the results are more modest than when genuine natural components are involved. 

Interestingly, adding biophilic elements to your meditation might be a great way to enrich your experience. We don’t even need to go overboard with it. Adding a simple nature soundtrack as our background music might be entirely sufficient. The music may allow us to relax and relieve the underlying anxiety that is keeping our minds hostage. To some extent, we may even include more senses into our practice. We could involve our sight by imagining a forest, a beach, a mountain, or any other landscape for that matter. This approach is already so rampant in visualization exercises to promote relaxation and mental stability. Touch might also be a very remarkable way to stimulate our senses. Holding a sea shell or touching grass is a great way to connect with nature. The smell can also be a powerful ally. Adding some nature-inspired essential oil can be a very affordable and easily accessible way to remind ourselves of our natural world. At last, we could also include some tasting elements, such as fruits, veggies, nuts or any raw food. 

To this day, nobody has come to any solid conclusion to explain why biophilia has such a critical impact on our lives. Nevertheless, the strongest argument relies on evolutionary pressures. We feel more relaxed just by hearing a waterfall because access to water is essential. Through generations, we have integrated the sound of water as comforting and restoring music. The sight of trees can remind us of the possible access to food sources, either from hunting, fishing or gathering. Touching grass or a plant’s leaf might remind us of our proximity to nature. And I think that smelling and tasting natural elements doesn’t need any comment about their positive impact on our mood. What drove evolution was our need to survive, and being in proximity to nature provided us with the safest way to succeed. And even though, technically, an arid desert is still natural, it doesn’t seem to provide as much relief to us. We have probably learnt through our ancestors that nothing can abundantly grow there.  We have learnt through generations and generations not to feel at ease in those environments because staying there could result in death. 

Another possible explanation for the reason we seem so particularly drawn towards living elements might reside in how these things are anything but static. We don’t quite like how things change so abruptly; it is anxiogenic. And yet, we still strive for change, a slow sluggish change, to be exact. And that is doubtlessly provided by most living biophilic components. A plant will always look like the same plant, more or less, but its leaves will change. Some will die and fall, and then some new may appear. Some new branches may emerge. The plant might also grow taller if its pot is big enough and has enough water and nutrients. All this to say that living things provide us with a slow but steady change that kindly reminds us of time and guides us into making the best of it. 

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Domestic animals are also fantastic biophilic elements, which might partly explain why zootherapy is so effective. Having pets does not only engage one sense, our sight, but all of them. We most certainly can see them zooming around, we can smell their breath, we can pat their fur, we may haphazardly taste their saliva, and we most definitely can hear them barking, meowing, chirping and more. And strangely enough, the benefits from being around animals are very similar to the ones observed from us being in nature. Amongst many benefits, we can notice lowered blood pressure, lightened breathing, increased mood and release of oxytocin which can promote calm and encourage attachment. Nevertheless, assuming that all the perceived positive effects relied on their biophilic aspect would be unfair. Being in the company of animals has also shown great help to maintain physical health by promoting physical activities and motivating their owners to get going. 

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Considering the importance of biophilia, we can now understand the need to incorporate some elements into our daily lives. And some changes don’t need to be extreme. As for me, I have decided to change the background for my desktop for a natural landscape which supplemented the nature soundtracks very nicely. I would like to include more biophilic elements in the future for my home, such as plants and maybe a pet someday, but they can be expensive. Right now, I prefer spending some valuable and wholesome quality time in the great outdoors. I honestly love the occasional hike, or sudden walks, or even spending time on our porch. The more important part is the do it consciously and mindfully. Whenever I’m outdoor, I seek anything that might remind me of nature. I particularly like hearing the birdsongs, seeing the occasional spiders, smell the decaying leaves on the ground or the freshly mowed lawn and holding rocks in my hands. 

Whatever you might choose to include, I approve of your change. These changes might not mean much to most people, but they mean a great deal to me, and I hope for you too. So, if you decide to make this move, please let me know about your journey. I would absolutely be delighted to hear about it. 

I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer them as soon as humanly possible.

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Bring Up Flowers—How do these beautiful blossoms emerge

It is now mid-April; we are well into Spring at this point. Looking outside, I am completely astonished by the beautiful and ostentatious colours displayed by the flowers peeking through the ground. Also, I cannot overlook the smell; it is truly incredible. Nature has finally come back to life. Even though I will have to wait until well over mid-May for the first sign of leaves in the tree, I can momentarily rejoice in the early present that Mother Nature is giving us.

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Flowers, peeking through the soil, seem to exist as both fragile and tenacious entities. Although we could not see them for most of Fall and the entire Winter, parts of them have survived. The surviving part will, yet, vary depending on the kind of plant they are. Annuals will die every year but will leave behind their fertilized seeds to replant and grow sprouts. As for perennials, when freezing hits, some of their parts will begin a decaying process, yet their root network will survive even through the harshest of times. As soon as the warmth—typically brought by Spring—makes its first appearance, the roots will awaken and contribute to the renewal of all lost parts.

Thinking about flowers, often enough, evokes the image of gardens in our mind. They are so glorious that it is not surprising at all to have people willing to spend good money just for their mere sight. Two options lay in front of us to gain access to such treats. We could opt to build a personal garden, our very own little piece of paradise, or we could easily book a visit to our local botanical garden. If you decide to proceed in creating your very own tiny patch, you’ll certainly have to spend a lot of elbow grease to structure it. Yet, there are no set rules which define the perfect constitution of a garden. Still, with some advice, we can certainly create a fair-looking one.

If there is one thing you must keep in mind when dealing with flowers is the advantages offered by each of the two kinds presented before, perennials and annuals. To avoid headaches, use both: it will cut down planting time while maximizing blossoming time. Perennials will not need replanting every year. However, you will have to exert patience before seeing the fruit of all your labour. Perennials are reputed to take up to three years to reach their full potential. You will also have to remember after a few years to divide the plant. Failure to split the plants often enough could cause their flowers to acquire a dull colouring, parts could stop flowering entirely (especially at their centre), and they could also outgrow their designated spot. Spring is typically the preferred time to do the maintenance, but if you could not complete it within that period, you can still proceed to divide them safely at any other time. They are, decidedly, gifts that keep on giving.

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As for annual flowers, they are quite interesting too. They, indeed, sadly require more effort to implement in our gardens, but they have honestly no parallel in terms of either blooming period or colourfulness. If you decide to make your garden entirely out of annual flowers, it would surely be a sight for sore eyes. However, that decision would imply that the work would need to be totally redone from scratch every year. The work that it involves would be, for me at least, an insufferable burden. The solution resides in supplementation. Have beautiful perennials that keep on coming back and, every Spring, invest in some extra annuals. This alternative will not only save your hand from being overtaxed, but it will also cause your eyes to be thoroughly delighted.

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While building our next garden, we will also need to consider different combinations of colours, sizes, and shapes. Clearly, placing the small plants far behind should be avoided. They then risk being hidden by other larger plants. We need to put the smaller plants at the forefront, where we can see them. It is also worth noting that accessibility is also important. We want all of your annuals to have an easily accessible spot where we can replant them every year. As for the colours, we can explore different colour schemes. It really does not matter how many colours we want to include: let us only make sure that the combination makes sense (do they actually work well together?) The shapes of the petals and the flowers could also benefit from our attention. Aside from tulip gardens, having the same flowers repeated can be pretty dull. That’s why varying them can be a good idea. They, additionally, don’t blossom simultaneously, which would provide you with a colourful garden for much longer.

Despite the apparent appeal of having a pleasant and attractive garden, varying the sort of plants to be used is also a good idea to encourage and support diverse pollinators. The great majority of pollinators are flying insects such as bees, wasps, beetles, butterflies, moths and flies. The bees, which are famously renowned for their currently alarming decline, require our assistance. Their main sustenance is the honey produced from their collected pollen. The flowers are providing the bees with this pollen. Usually, pollen serves to produce male gametes (male sperms). Increasing pollen supplies for the bee is a good start in a way to help them.

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We can find the pollen on the anther at the filaments’ tip. Both, the stamen and the filaments, form what we call the stamen. The filaments are thin cylindrical structures popping out of the centre of the flower. Aside from the filaments, flowers have many other parts. They have a stem that serves as a support for both their leaves and the flower itself. They also possess numerous leaves that will provide energy for the plant through photosynthesis. The pistil, found at the very centre of the flower, will collect pollen for the prospective fertilization of the ovules residing inside it. Lastly, the petals will provide protection for the reproductive organs. They will also serve to repel or even attract particular pollinators.

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When gazing upon a garden that has been carefully conceived to all of its subtlest detail, it is of no wonder that one must be marvelled. Yet, it is equally, or even more, fascinating to observe a random patch of flower composite in the forest or on the side of the road. Nature has a marvellous taste in design when it comes to arranging her decor. Every summer, during my regular hikes, I become incredibly aware of the inner beauty of the nature surrounding us.

My favourite kinds are flowers with small petals and vivid colours. Still, I cannot ignore the appeal of all the others. The first flower that caught my breath was the lilac. This perennial was a flower that was introduced to me by a long-time admirer, my mother. She loves them so much that she bought two lilacs to plant around our courtyard. When they became big enough, we could enjoy both the colours and the odours they were presenting. A second flower that I particularly love is the violet. I remember finding one of them piercing through the asphalt (bitumen) on the side of the road, and I could not stop pondering about their strength. Lastly, I included bleeding hearts on my list. These are the most recent flowers I encountered and instantly charmed me. From my mother-in-law’s garden, I caught myself gazing at those flowers and thinking about how they reminded me of both protection and love.

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I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer as soon as humanly possible.

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