We have probably all experienced, at least once in our life, a feeling of happiness while watching waves crashing on a beach, or while walking among the trees in a forest, or while lying in a field and looking up at the sky. The biological term for this instinctive sense of fulfilment is ‘biophilia’.
Biophilia simply means that human beings, and especially children, have an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other life forms. All we have to do is observe a child’s reaction when they stand at the edge of a pond, if we let them peek into a bird’s nest, or help them turn over a rotting log to look underneath: their surprise and joy at the life they discover ‘hidden’ in nature is immediate and wonderful to witness.
Many of us live in towns or cities that offer little chance to connect with nature, because everything around us often seems to have been created, or at least heavily manipulated, by humans. Wherever we are, however, there are always plenty of opportunities to let children turn over a rock, for instance, and observe life in nature, even if we are surrounded by the uninterrupted sounds of cars passing by in the background.
If we are really honest, what usually stops us from connecting with nature is a lack of time, and children are typically just as busy as adults nowadays with school, sports, and music classes. These endless commitments tend to make us a little lazy, because at the end of a busy day, lounging on the sofa is usually more tempting than going for a walk in the park. Still, if we do manage to go outside, the rewards are truly enormous, as we remember that we are creatures of the Earth and are intrinsically connected to the natural world: building a strong relationship with nature satisfies our innate desire to feel that we belong to something bigger than ourselves. Every time a child turns over a rock, and takes a closer look at what is underneath, it helps them to strengthen this relationship with that sense of ‘something bigger’.