From tomatoes to wellbeing: the power of biophilia

biophilia and counselling outdoors in nature totnes, paignton and newton abbot


I’ve been watching the progress of my tomatoes. I think it’s going to be a good year. It’s an amazing process to see a plant go from nursling, to develop in response to sun and water and to grow in strength and vibrancy.

It’s too early to know what the tomato crop will be like and how tasty they will be but it’s exciting to be in anticipation of that.

Of course, gardening is well known for its therapeutic benefits. Many people turn to nurturing plants whether pots on a windowsill right through to allotments and gardens on a grander scale, as a way of relaxing, grounding themselves (literally), retreating from the hubbub. Taking care of the garden is also a metaphor for taking care of one’s inner garden, our sense of wellbeing. Cultivating our soul, if you like.

It’s just one of the activities that comes under the banner of ecotherapy these days. Other examples include being with or working with animals, walking and talking outdoors, mindfulness in nature, arts therapy outdoors. In fact, any activity in a nature setting can have the positive impact on stress levels, feelings of connectedness and wellbeing.

The research is compelling and broadening its basis. One underpinning concept is biophilia, the term coined by Harvard biologist Edward Wilson in the 1980s. He called it our ‘innate emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms’. This trait is universal across cultures.

In urbanized societies, we’ve tended to create green spaces in cities and towns to provide oases for relaxation, play, socializing as a way of connecting with nature and providing some re-connection with nature. These are of course benign interactions with nature.

But at the same time we need to be mindful we are part of nature and with that need to both survive in and work with it. Extreme weather and environments, predators and dangerous animals (not so much in the UK!), climate change. All these are also realities along side the restorative aspects.

So when you are next outdoors, perhaps you can take a moment to check in with yourself? How does being in nature leave you feeling? What’s the impact on your breathing, how your body feels, your sense of calmness and awareness? This will tell you something about your own relationship with nature and the impact it has on you.

Counselling outdoors is a unique way of exploring not only what’s on your mind but also your relationship to the world we inhabit. If you’re interested in seeing how counselling outdoors in Totnes, Paignton and Newton Abbott could help you, please get in touch.

By Matt Fox,  Counselling in Totnes, Paignton and Newton Abbott

Photo by Susanne Winter licensed under creative commons