Psychologist, life coach and founder of Mobile Free Life, Joan Amorós explains biophilia, nature deficit order, attention restoration and forest baths. And, why it is so important for everyone to get outside, now more than ever.
Updated July 2, 2021. Currently record-breaking heatwaves are affecting much of the US and other parts of the world. Please note that we do not advise sending your children outdoors in the extreme heat.
We are biophiles
After confinement, everyone takes to the streets. Everyone talks about the large influx of people going to bars, but where people have really needed to go has been back to nature. Forests, parks, mountains, meadows, beaches … We go out to breathe in fresh air and to reconnect. Not only because we have been deprived of it, but because we need it – we are all biophiles!
People have a biological need to join natural systems and processes, particularly during childhood. This relationship is essential for health, productivity, physical and mental wellbeing for boys, girls and adults.
Evidence indicates that experiences in wilderness can alleviate symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mitigate depression and anxiety, help prevent or reduce obesity and nearsightedness, and boost the immune system. Furthermore, time spent in nature improves socialization and reduces social violence, stimulates learning and creativity.
These and many other benefits to physical and psychological health have led to the rise of “Forest Baths” or “Shinrin Yoku”; the practice of immersion in mature forests in search of physical and spiritual wellbeing.
Nature Deficit Disorder
After a decade interviewing rural and urban families in the United States, Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, concluded that many children and adults do not have enough contact with nature. Deruralization and digitization cause disorders in physiological and psychological functions, aggravated as exposure to speed increases and hyperstimulation of technological advances. The brains of children and young people have become accustomed to using apps and searching the Internet on mobile devices in a daily and easy way; for them, nature has been reduced to a slow stimulus, something Louv termed nature deficit disorder in 2005. Since then, the popular belief that the natural environment exerts a positive and direct influence on health is moving from theory to fact based on research with convincing results.
Kaplan’s Attention Restoration Theory (ART)
A related theory, attention restoration, by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, professors of psychology specialising in environmental psychology, states that people can concentrate better after spending time in nature, and that to have a healthy life, we must counter the time that we are using devices with screens with an equal amount of time doing activity in a natural environment. A good rule of thumb is: For every hour of screen-time, get one hour of fresh air.
They suggest natural environments with soft stimuli such as clouds and sunsets, and away from routines and thoughts, attract our attention without requiring concentration or effort. This leads to mental restoration from the attention fatigue caused by work, school and especially screens.
How to get your Vitamin N (for Nature)?
- How Much Nature Is Enough? 120 Minutes a Week, Doctors Say (New York Times)
- Nature Helps Fight ADHD (WebMD)
- The Benefits of ‘Forest Bathing’ (TIME)
- Richard Louv: Let them climb trees | Family (The Guardian)
- The Incredible Link Between Nature and Your Emotions (Outside)
- Theory & Books What is Kaplan’s Attention Restoration Theory (ART)? (Positive Psychology)