Are you nature deprived?
If you live in an urban environment, or work in an indoor setting, chances are you may be experiencing symptoms of ‘nature deficit disorder. Nature deficit disorder can come in many forms, from a sense of disconnection, depression, stress, ADD, high blood pressure, just to name few. I personally feel that resignation and a life without meaning, to be intimately connected to disconnection from the natural world as well.
Richard Louve wrote the best-selling book, ‘No Child Left Inside’, coining the term ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ which he describes not as a medical term but as a metaphor for the increasing separation between humans and the natural world. He says in his sequel ‘ The Nature Principle, ‘By its broadest interpretation nature deficit disorder is an atrophied awareness, a diminished ability to find meaning in the life that surrounds us, whatever form it takes’. His fascinating books are packed full of studies reporting on how time spent in nature has been linked to a reduction in depression, anxiety, stress, ADD, high blood pressure, pain, obesity and to an improvement in mental clarity, focus, immunity and it appears genius – Albert Einstein and others such as philosopher Kurt Godel took walks in nature everyday.
And when you think about it, it makes sense. For thousands of years humans have been living close to the earth, working the land, sleeping on the ground and living by the earths natural cycles. Only in the past 200 years have the majority of the population begun to spend the most of their time indoors. As human animals, we simply cannot erase 2000 years of adaptations so quickly.
Sadly statistics show us that despite all the great evidence that spending time in nature is incredibly helpful for human health and wellbeing, we are spending even less time.
Sport New Zealand from 1998 – 2014 has reported a decline in participation from 73% in 1998 to just over 65% in 2014. The average American spends 93% of time indoors, while a recent report from the Kasier family foundation found that the average 8-18 year old American spends 53 hours per week using ‘entertainment media’, up from 44 hours 5 years ago. In fact, there are now entire organisations treating gaming and internet addiction. Richard Louve puts it simply, ‘The more high tech we are, the more nature we need’.
So where do you start to reverse these affects and create ways to connect with nature everyday? Richard Louve describes nature as ‘Human Beings exist in nature anywhere they experience meaningful kinship with other species’. Perhaps you live somewhere extremely urban or have a lifestyle that makes finding time in nature difficult. Like anything, you start small. Nature is more available than you might think – once you become aware you will find more and more of it.
Here are my top 10 tips for reversing nature deficit disorder:
- Walk barefoot on the grass as often as possible
- Spend a large chunk of time 2-3 hours in nature at least once a month
- Get pot plants for your home and office
- Explore aromatherapy and how to incorporate it into your life
- Get your lunch to go and eat it outside
- Take a nature holiday every 3-6 months
- Play with animals as often as you can – better still, get a pet!
- Exercise outdoors instead of in the gym
- Start gardening or help out in a local garden
- Pick flowers or buy flowers to enjoy in your home
Your quest to connect to the natural world will be worth it. The end result, is a deep and profound knowingness that you are ONE with everything, all of life. The desperate loneliness and isolation plaguing our world can finally come to and end. This may sound idealistic or overly simplistic but the truth is we are nature. Our bodies are made from it, everything we have ever eaten that has built each cell, is of this earth. When we die to the earth we shall return. And even if you believe in a heaven, or an afterlife one cannot deny that in this moment we are right here, rooted to this planet – there is no where else to go.
Environmentalism is very important but what humans must understand is that we need the earth, the earth does not need us. To reconnect to nature is to reconnect to the very thing that makes us human beings.
So kick off your shoes, let your mind clear and allow your rediscovery of nature to begin today.
Join the Tree Mystic Facebook group to discover more ways to develop a deep and profound human/nature relationship: http://www.facebook.com/groups/treemystics
Tree Mystic was started by New Zealander, Hannah McQuilkan a qualified Naturopath, Medical Herbalist, Aromatherapist and Certified Forest Bathing Guide. Please join the conversation by checking out our experiences on the ‘Wellness Adventures’ page and our blog.
Hannah is available to speak and lead experiences anywhere in the world, you can contact her here.