Why do working and living close to nature make us feel better? Maybe we should ask ourselves a different question: why have we forgotten that nature makes us happy? “Deviation from nature is a deviation from happiness”, the poet Samuel Johnson said. Now it is the time to discover what we have already known.
Nowadays, while the artificial intelligence is developing at a really fast pace, showing unlimited potentiality, all of a sudden we have again noticed that we are a biological body, with its own needs and fragilities, for which the habitat where it lives is fundamental. We have always known that nature makes us feel better, even if we had not built a 40thousands species tropical forest office as the Amazon HQ in Seattle yet.
As the Japanese shinrin yoku (forest bathing) among cypresses, several studies about the relationship mind-body-environment underline how immersive micro-experiences in the real nature, or also technologically simulated, of 5-20 minutes create positive emotions and attitudes.
The Wilson’s concept biophilia as the “innate human affinity towards nature” is nowadays supported by many studies in the cognitive, psychological and physiological fields that demonstrate how nature is responsable of our physical and mental wellbeing: it lowers our blood pressure and our sympathetic nervous system’s activity, improving our focusing, serenity, and creativity. So, the first reason why living close to nature makes us feel better it might sound commonplace, but it is simply because it creates a habitat for who we are biologically and psychologically.
A tailor-made kind of nature.
“Deviation from nature is a deviation from happiness”. The nowadays “Biophilic economy”, that is revolutionizing the design of our cities and offices, seems to quote the 18th-century poet Samuel Johnson.
While the innate affinity towards nature is universal at a certain degree, the environmental preferences are influenced by cultural differences, personal experiences, socio-economic factors, sex, and age (for example more than one study has shown how outdoor natural spaces has a stronger impact over men and youngsters than over women).
Different groups and cultures use the nature in various ways, giving to the environment different meanings, based on their needs and goals.
The biophilic economy society uses a designed nature to create happiness and wellbeing. From the Gardens of Babylon to the vertical gardens of the modern HQs, we have learned how to tame nature (what else is design than “taming the space around us”?), lessening its threats and dangers and adapting it to our man-made environments.
A biophilic design is not just about using natural elements as plants, green, water, light, and air or re-creating a natural space through shapes, materials, and sensations: it is also about creating a space that “lives” with the same dynamism, flexibility and capability of constantly changing of nature. Humans use this malleability to constantly design a tailor-made space, turning a hostile environment as a source of wellbeing.
Eventually, why do working and leaving close to nature make us feel better? Because we have learnt how to design our environment based on what we really are, taking away the dangerous part and keeping the most useful features for our mind and senses.
Text by Gabriele Masi.