Have you heard of “Nature Deficit Disorder”? Author Richard Louv created the phrase in his book Last Child in the Woods. NDD refers to the disconnect that exists in the modern world between children and nature. It also reflects what many teens, adults, and seniors are experiencing in our busy lives. Many of us are spending too much time in the ever-expanding and enticing online digital world of social media, emails, and YouTube videos. We are losing our connection to ourselves, to nature, and even to other humans (meeting or speaking face to face). Our senses are being dulled from lack of use and our brains are overstimulated and overloaded, resulting in mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. Thankfully, there is a solution: A daily dose of Mother Nature can help bring balance back to our busy, stressful lives.
In his new book, Vitamin N: 500 Ways to Enrich Your Family’s Health & Happiness, Richard Louv refers to the importance of doses of “Vitamin N,” or nature. There has been an explosion of research over the last few years showing the important connection between spending time in green spaces and our mind, body, and soul health. Nature is vital to replenishing our energy, calming our busy minds, and helping us ground and connect again.
Here are some great tips from his book to help ensure we receive our daily dose of Vitamin N.
Book Nature Time: Life is overly busy for most of us. In order to ensure we avoid NDD, we need to book daily nature breaks and activities and stick to it. It can be as simple as playing or eating in the backyard or taking a slow walk in nature, being aware of the flowers, trees, birds, sky, water, rain, sun — no matter what the weather. One can have so much fun in the middle of a storm, so get your gear on and get outside! Whether by yourself or with the company of friends, family, or pets: BREATHE IN the amazing energy of the woods, local creek or river, the forest, mountains, beaches, or gardens, and REFRESH.
Use your Senses: Utilize all your senses and encourage your kids to as well. STOP and smell the flowers, Feel the breeze, taste the rain, touch the trees, walk barefoot and lie on the grass. Close your eyes, take some deep breaths, and feel the energy: Bring your focus to your foot and how it feels against the grass, and slowly follow that energy throughout your body, feeling all your cells come alive and sparkle with life. Visualize the energy running through your body from the earth and ground yourself. By reconnecting to our Energy Body, we bring ourselves back “down to Earth” instead of being in our racing and busy monkey minds all the time.
Negative Ions in Nature: Natural settings like forests, lakes, streams, and beaches are teeming with plant life and water and thus rich in molecules called negative ions. Although you can’t see or smell them, negative ions are known to boost mood and enhance energy, which can help alleviate depression and anxiety and calm us down.
Forest Bathing: Forest bathing originated in Japan and provides evidence that a slow, relaxed walk in the woods has measurable restorative and calming benefits.
Utilize Imagination: When outdoors, let children follow their own intuition and have fun — climb hills, jump puddles, and stop to look at things more closely. Allow them to PLAY and encourage questions and possible answers, making a note to look up items together, once home. Be childlike and curious alongside them. Use your imagination. Have a sense of wonder and investigate nature as if you are seeing things for the first time. (Some of you may be!)
Nature Spot: Have family members designate their own special spot where they can visit to find peace and reconnect. Observe and discuss how it changes according to the light, season, temperature, and bugs, birds, or other aspects nearby. Do a family meditation, tell stories, or utilize everyone’s imagination to bring it to life differently on each visit. Encourage sharing within the group to enhance everyone’s creativity.
High-tech Nature: Use technology to engage kids. Geocaching is a new fun way to engage the family in the great outdoors — think of it as Scavenger Hunting 2.0. Use a cellphone or camera to record nature sounds or a nature activity and have the kids share how they feel, what they see, and what they learn. Download a digital nature guide and follow it together.