Vitamin N & Nature Deficit Disorder

“…I often think about the cottonwood at the river’s edge, and similar moments in inexplicable wonder, times when I received from nature just what I needed: an elusive it for which I have no name.” – Richard Louv

My parents moved to a beautiful “farm” about a year ago.

sunset at the farmhouse-thanksgiving 2011

I use “farm” loosely as there are no farm animals.

Just beautiful views, lots of land, fresh air, and lots of sunshine.

“just.”

This past week, the hubby and I had a chance to go visit and spend some time outdoors with both our families, Harley, and the farm.

Harley Boy.

A typical day at the farm?

Wake-up and immediately go out back…drink a cup of freshly pressed hot coffee while feeling the cool, gentle summer breeze…look through the binoculars and observe an Osprey’s nest…. Drink a cup of tea at sunset, Watch the deer come out at dusk and eat in the field below….Sit around the fire with the family and talk about great past times… and times to come….  Listen to the birds and the bugs while falling asleep.

and find strange caterpillars….look at this guy!

love him!

Couldn’t imagine a more relaxing, rejuvenating week.

This visit not only rejuvenated me, but it helped me realize I am living an incredibly nature deficient life (during the week). And as you will see later, this deficiency is holding my evolution into a greater, deeper health…back.

The times last week…and in life in general… where I was truly immersed in nature were the most memorable, hands down. The times on the water, at the beach, on a hike, camping, throwing the frisbee…

These were all times where I was absorbing Vitamin N.

Vitamin N?

A phrase I caught from a recent read, “The Nature Principle” by Richard Louv (highly recommend it).

You may have already guessed it.

Vitamin N= a Mind/Body/Nature Connection.

as stated in the first quote…

inexplicable wonder….an elusive it which you can’t even begin to put into words…

…that is the essence of Vitamin N.

Connecting your mind and immersing your body in nature.

There is nothing else like it.

It is another element imperative to good health. This is shown in several studies..some listed below.

Richard Louv agrees: a re-connection to the natural world is fundamental to human health, well-being, spirit, and survival.”

near Acadia, Maine

He re-introduces the “Nature Deficit Disorder” saying it “threatens our health, our spirit, our economy, and our future stewardship of the environment.”

The Nature Principle asks the question…

“What would our lives be like if our days and nights were as immersed in nature as they are in technology? How can each of us help create that life-enhancing world, not only in a hypothetical future, but right now, for our families and for ourselves?”

What if we committed to spending more time outside and less time in front of the TV….or on the computer?

There are many studies, many articles, that have proven the many benefits of nature through scientific research.

Maine, 2012

Keep reading if interested….otherwise just check out the bold statements below.

Here is an artical from Science Daily called “Spending Time in Nature Makes People Feel More Alive, Study Shows.”

A clip from the article: “Nature is fuel for the soul, ” says Richard Ryan, lead author and a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. “Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature, he says.

The findings, adds Ryan, are important for both mental and physical health. Research has shown that people with a greater sense of vitality don’t just have more energy for things they want to do, they are also more resilient to physical illnesses. One of the pathways to health may be to spend more time in natural settings, says Ryan.”

Here is another article that says just 5 minutes of exercising outdoors can lead to better health.

“For the first time in the scientific literature, we have been able to show dose-response relationships for the positive effects of nature on human mental health,” Pretty said.”

Another article also discusses the benefits of getting outside. It also says that “Too much sitting, by the way, can kill. New research published in July by the American Cancer Society found that women who reported sitting more than six hours a day were 37 percent more likely to die during a 13-year study period than those who sat fewer than three hours a day. The most sedentary men were 18 percent more likely to die than the more active.”

The same article discusses the impact on kids…”Parents take children to soccer and horseback riding and lacrosse and Boy and Girl Scouts and scads of other organized activities. What there’s not much of is free time — time for kids just to be kids — outside.”

Another great article by the Natural Wildlife Foundation that lists some facts about children:

  • Children are spending half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago. (Juster et al 2004); (Burdette & Whitaker 2005); (Kuo & Sullivan 2001)
  • Today, kids 8-18 years old devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media in a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). (Kaiser Family Foundation )
  • In a typical week, only 6% of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own. (Children & Nature Network, 2008)
  • Children who play outside are more physically active, more creative in their play, less aggressive and show better concentration. (Burdette and Whitaker, 2005; Ginsburg et al., 2007)
  • Sixty minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2008)
  • The most direct route to caring for the environment as an adult is participating in “wild nature activities” before the age of 11. (Wells and Lekies, 2006)

Reasons to get outside?  Check out this website, or see below for a summary (sources cited on website).

“This shift inside profoundly impacts the wellness of our nation’s kids. Childhood obesity rates have more than doubled the last 20 years; the United States has become the largest consumer of ADHD medications in the world; and pediatric prescriptions for antidepressants have risen precipitously.4,5,6

Our kids are out of shape, tuned out and stressed out, because they’re missing something essential to their health and development: connection to the natural world.

Some benefits to the body, mind and spirit for children, and us, adults.

Body
  • Outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies, an important strategy in helping the one in three American kids who are obese7 get fit.
  • Spending time outside raises levels of Vitamin D, helping protect children from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues.8
  • Being out there improves distance vision and lowers the chance of nearsightedness.9
Mind
  • Exposure to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing ADHD symptoms.10
  • Schools with environmental education programs score higher on standardized tests in math, reading, writing and listening.11
  • Exposure to environment-based education significantly increases student performance on tests of their critical thinking skills.12
Spirit
  • Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces.13
  • Play protects children’s emotional development whereas loss of free time and a hurried lifestyle can contribute to anxiety and depression.14
  • Nature makes you nicer, enhancing social interactions, value for community and close relationships.15

All of these are undoubtedly true for us adults, too. 

Here is a great PDF document that goes into further detail of the importance of developing the Mind, Body, and Sprit.

“How many modern kids could recognize a tweet that’s a bird call rather than a 140-character sound bite? How many would pick a blackberry to eat rather than to text on? Like mini CEO’s, modern children shuttle from lessons to sessions in art, dance, and organized sports, leaving little time for free time.”

Another great resource  called “Time Out: Using the Outdoors to Enhance Classroom Performance. A school readiness guide for teachers and parents.”

Some solutions to reverse Nature Deficit in children are found in the linked article (and a few below):

Green Hour- an hour of unstructured play time outdoors… play with your child outdoors…plant a garden…volunteer at a local part…help institute mandatory state standards in school for exercise and time outside.

A great resource for park finding in your area.

“Other studies have shown that being in a natural environment helps improve everything from wound healing and blood pressure to muscle tension, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”

So what can we do?

1. Read the suggested resources above.

2. Start Vitamin N doses now, with you and your children.

3. Get outside everyday, even if it is only for 5 minutes.

4. The “Nature Principle,” suggests ways not only through conservation, but also by restoring nature while we restore ourselves; ways to create new natural habitates where they once were or never were, in our homes, workplaces, schools, neighborhoods, cities, suburbs, and farms. It’s about the power of living in nature- not with it, but in it.”

The book mentions the movie Avatar…questioning why it was the most-watched film in history. Sure the great graphics and 3-D technology helped…but more importantly, Richard Louv says that “our instinctive knowledge that the endangered human species is paying an awful price as it loses touch with nature. ”

“Every day our relationship with nature, or the lack of it, influences our lives. This has always been true. But in the twenty-first century, our survival-or thrival- will require a transformative framework for that relationship, a reunion of humans with the rest of nature.” Louv

The truth is…nature is energizing…at a chemical, mental, and physical level.

 We were meant to be outside.

The colors, the smell, the feel of the outdoors can never be reproduced or replaced.

Everything outdoors is so alive and beautiful…so captivating…. so full of “inexplicable wonder….an elusive it which you can’t even begin to put into words.”

Spending time outdoors is a difficult challenge for the world we live in today….a world driven by work (primarily done indoors) and technology (that needs the energy from the wall plug inside).

During the school year, it is rare for me to get any conscious outdoor time or fresh air during the week. Going straight from my car, parked in the garage, to my school (with a quick 1 minute walk inside), to my classroom…with no windows…another 1 minute walk back to my car…drive to the gym…then straight into the garage…and into the house for the rest of the night.

Wow. No thanks.

My goal… as this school year begins tomorrow… is to ensure that I spend conscious time outdoors everyday…even if just for 5 minutes (walking to the car doesn’t count)…

…An always evolving journey and conversation.

More to come… on nature and it’s energizing powers.

Smoky Mountains, 2012

Happy Evolving.

4 thoughts on “Vitamin N & Nature Deficit Disorder

  1. Pingback: Did you know…the foods you are eating could be affecting your genes? No, seriously. | basal evolution

  2. Pingback: Recommended Reading: The Natural Principle | basal | evolution

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