Biophilia: Our Innate Love of Other Living Things
ENVIRONMENTAL WELLNESS – Go green! Include nature in your life, get a pet, plant a garden, visit local parks and walking trails, and make sure that the indoor environment you live and work in is healthy.
His big brown eyes are enough to melt the coldest heart. His trust is that of a child who looks to me for guidance and structure in his life. His name is Duke, a yellow lab who captured my heart the first day I brought him home nearly nine years ago.
I never thought of a pet as falling into the environmental wellness dimension until I learned a new word on one of my social networks today: biophilia – man’s innate love of other living things or living systems. The word was first used by Erich Fromm to “describe man’s psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is alive and vital.” Most of us have heard of phobias: the aversions and fears that people have of things in the natural world. Philias, then, can be seen as the antonym, or opposite, of a phobia; bio meaning natural, environmental.
When thinking of the word “environmental,” I realize now that I have had a somewhat restricted view of its meaning. If someone were to ask me what thought first pops into my mind when I hear the word environmental, it would be nature. Nature, to me then, logically leads me to think next of outdoors. Environmental wellness, then, means taking part in an activity outdoors or just spending time outdoors. That’s about as deeply as I used to think about environmental wellness. But it is so much more than that.
This mindset isn’t unusual. Many people think of nature when envisioning environmental wellness. But the weather and animals also fit in the “nature” category being typically outdoor-related, natural things. Notice how we naturally bring pieces of the outdoors inside of our homes through plants, aquariums, cages with birds and, yes, other free roaming pets. (The weather can stay outside with its wide degree of variables.)
Whether we realize it or not, we subconsciously seek connections with the rest of life that is not human in nature. This is the reason having a pet falls into the environmental wellness dimension. One could argue, and rightly so, that having a pet falls into the physical, emotional or even social dimensions of wellness. People develop nurturing two-way relationships with their pets. Results have been shown that people’s blood pressure falls when simply petting an animal. Taking your pet for a walk also delivers the exercise you need.
Service animals are remarkable and have far superior developed senses than humans that baffle most of us: from detecting cancer, low blood sugar which could cause someone to faint, the impending onset of a seizure, etc. Even though we see ourselves as humans to be superior to our animal friends, these pets are more perceptive through their senses than we could ever hope to be.
It’s a new concept for many of us to consider our pets a piece of this “natural” dimension. Now we know that pets are part of the environmental wellness we all need to balance our lives in healthy ways and become refined by age.™