Perhaps you’ve heard of the term biophilia before. With a quick Google search, Merriam-Webster tells us that biophilia means “a hypothetical human tendency to interact or be closely associated with other forms of life in nature.” This theory hypothesizes our attraction to nature, and with that comes many rewards.
According to the science-based article “The Positive Effects of Nature On Your Mental Well-Being” by Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury, a certified psychiatric counsellor holding a postgrad in clinical psychology, nature has physical, psychological and spiritual health benefits described below.
1. Studies have shown that exposure to nature lowers the chance of developing eyesight problems in adolescents, decreases fatigue and risk of obesity, and likely prevents terminal diseases.
“Forest bathing, or Shinrin-yoku as they call it in Japan, is a famous way of spending time in nature,” wrote Chowdhury. “Research has shown that people who practice forest bathing have optimum nervous system functions, well-balanced heart conditions, and reduced bowel disorders.”
2. Psychologically, improvements in attention, focus, and memory result from frequent nature walks and other outdoor activities. Moreover, stress levels are reduced while mood is uplifted, which can be helpful to those suffering from depression. This is supported by similar findings from the publication “Health and Wellness Benefits of Spending Time in Nature” by the Pacific Northwest Research Station that falls under the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Breathing in antimicrobial compounds found in the essential oils of trees increases relaxation and improves stress management resulting in increased vitality and less anxiety, depression, and anger,” stated the aforementioned article.
3. Spending more time outside can strengthen the human-nature relationship, allowing us to practice mindfulness through the senses as well as growing to appreciate and value nature and its gifts.
“For me, being in nature is relaxing and also brings out the side of the world that doesn't get exposures in the midst of civilization,” said Kevin Pham, a fifth year student studying Computer Science.
To find ways to interact with nature, Pham enjoys spending time in the wilderness such as going hiking, and he recommends Zion National Park, Smith Rock National Park, and Yosemite National Park. If you’re looking for options closer to campus in Corvallis, Bald Hill, the Forest Discovery Trail, and McDonald-Dunn Forest have glorious views. However, it should be noted that we are in a global health crisis at the moment, so for the sake of ourselves and others, these hikes should be considered once it has been declared safe to do so by governmental authorities.
Some ideas that’ll still allow you to connect with nature despite quarantine are opening your window for a breath of fresh air, gardening in your backyard, or going for a walk in your neighborhood while staying six feet away from others.
In Oregon, we are surrounded by nature. Nature is valued for its environmentally-friendly and recreational uses, which answers the question an out-of-state student once asked me “Why is it that Oregonians look like they’re about to go hiking all the time?” Be grateful for the home that we live in and make the best of it. We have yet to explore the diverse wonders that Oregon has to offer.