Biophilia - The Interconnection Between Nature and Our Improved Health and Well-Being

Biophilia - The Interconnection Between Nature and Our Improved Health and Well-Being

Our innate attraction to nature has been built up for hundreds of thousands of years yet recently the human connection with nature has been broken, becoming more and more distanced, we are losing out on its vast range of assets. Today, mankind spends up to 93% of the time indoors (Klepeis et. al, 2001). According to Dr Qing Li, author of ‘Into the forest’, being close to nature has enormous benefits to ourselves. With causes such as modern-day industry and growth, this detachment from nature has only increased; in turn eliminating access to the proven benefits the natural world can provide.

The Origin and Evolution of Biophilia

The focal point of biophilia is human’s innate attraction to nature and it’s natural processes. It suggests through hundreds of thousands of years of living in agrarian environments, the human race has a genetic connection to the natural world. The term biophilia, stemmed from the Greek, ‘philia’ (Lexico Dictionary, 2020) meaning “‘fondness” and ‘bio’ meaning “connected with life and living things” (Cambridge Dictionary, 1999); thus combining the two ‘biophilia’. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, put forward a concept and foundation for this concept which can be found in Aristotle's Ethics, “where in his discussion of friendship ‘philia’, can provide a theory of interspecies obligation” (Santas, 2014, p.95- 121).

The Benefits of Biophilia

According to Dr Qing Li, author of ‘Into the forest’, being close to nature has enormous benefits to ourselves. Li has researched and provided results and evidence for the definite link with ‘healing through nature’. The benefits gained from interacting with nature include good sleep patterns explains Li, saying “good quality and adequate sleep is vital for our health and well-being” (Li, 2018, p.69). Problems such as “increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and strokes (Li, 2018, p.69) are linked to “sleep deficiency” (Li, 2018, p.69). “It balances our hormones and is essential for the proper functioning of our immune system” (Li, 2018, p.69). The research was undertaken and findings reported; one such result followed – a group of twelve male office workers from Tokyo participated in “two-hour walks in the morning and afternoon in different forests” (Li, 2018, p.70). On average forty more minutes of sleep were gained; it is quite clear from these findings that “there was a significant increase in sleep time”(Li, 2018, p.70) and “participants were significantly less anxious” (Li, 2018, p.72) following this re-connection with nature. Li states that “many of our illnesses, stresses and anxieties are due to a lack of connection with nature” (Li, 2018, p.201). Li also argues that actively introducing nature into our lives “is a preventative measure against disease” (Li, 2018, p.225). Although Li recommends several hours in nature, he says “shorter bursts work too” (Li, 2018, p.225). A “green micro-break” (Li, 2018, p.262) is also effective and suggested by the University of Melbourne to “revive and rejuvenate us when we are mentally fatigued… even as little as forty seconds gazing out to a natural scene will help us focus and stay alert” (Li, 2018, p.262). Further, Li suggests that “any green space will do…just open your senses to nature …which will have untold positive benefits..”(Li,2018,p.270).

The forest studies by Li are described by Arvay, an Austrian biologist and author: “If you spend two days in a row in a wooded area, you can raise the number of your natural killer cells by more than fifty per cent” (Arvay, 2018, p.15). These natural killer cells from our immune system “perform tasks that are essential for our overall health” (Arvay, 2018, p.14). There are enormous benefits of ‘forest-bathing’, researchers have achieved the conclusion that it “should be studied more closely and integrated into peoples’ daily lives in order to help them relax and improve their health” (Arvay, 2018, p.77). This interconnection and involvement with nature is paramount to humans according to Arvay: “The human body depends on its connection with nature and has been working with nature reciprocally since the beginning of our species” (Arvay, 2018, p.71).


Over the last decade, interest in biophilia has increased considerably, mostly due to the urbanization of the contemporary world, this has derived in cities that are heavily dependent on man-made structures. Figures show that over the last 60 years, there have been immense shifts in populations moving into urban areas. Some of these areas have increased by 40% in the past 60 years since 1950 (Interface, 2015). It is clearly observed that people are leaving the rural areas to move towards urban spaces; the United Nations forecast that by 2030, “60%” (United Nations, 2020) of the world’s population will reside in urban environments. Consequently, it is of vital importance that the human-nature connection can be provided to those that inhabit these man-made environments as we find cities of today degrading the environment and often alienating us from nature.


The biophilia effect is wonderfully described by Arvay in his detailed account of a teacher and musician called John who suffered depression, sleep deprivation and ultimately a mental breakdown. However, after a day in the countryside walking past fields, meadows, rivers, he immersed himself in nature, finally falling asleep by the river and awoke says Arvay to the “sounds of rushing water and an evening bird concert” (Arvay, 2018, p.122), feeling “reborn” (Arvay, 2018, p.123) and returning every day into nature, to the river, as he said, “to deepen my nature experience” (Arvay, 2018, p.123). Arvay writes that in essence, this was John’s “explanation of the biophilia effect” (Arvay, 2018, p.123).

Want to know more? Find out in the next blog!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published