Nature-deficit disorder: a reduced awareness and diminished ability for adults and children to find meaning in the life around them, due to a reduced amount of interaction with the natural environment.

Shades State Park, Indiana
Shades State Park, Indiana

I know you’ve heard it before, “Fresh air will do you good”? But it now also makes sense scientifically. A surge of studies strongly suggest evidence that we can be happier, healthier, and smarter if we weave more nature into our lives.

Studies are proving a link between the outside and your insides, and that the best mind-body medicine is right beyond your front door.

For millions of years, humans depended on nature for just about everything, including food, shelter, and the regulation of sleep cycles, says M. Sanjayan, Ph.D., lead scientist for The Nature Conservancy. “Nature guided us in a very direct way,” he says. “But in the past thousand years, that started shifting; in the past 50, it has really shifted. And that the sudden absence of nature from our lives could throw our well-being way off-kilter.” In fact, the modern way of living, complete with loads of sitting and indoor time, has given rise to poorer health.

Other research suggests that rising rates of allergies and autoimmune disorders might be caused, in part, by less exposure to healthy bacteria found in nature. Still more science has linked reduced exposure to nature to higher risk for obesity, cancer, heart disease, anxiety, and depression.

Basically, going outside has become an option. It’s not an option. It’s a non-negotiable. A cure for stress – not to mention a host of other ailments – might lie a simple walk.

Recently a Women’s Health survey, “Health Benefits of Nature,” found that (women) who felt too stressed were more likely than non-frazzled women to spend a free day curled up on the couch. Worse, when stressed women actively try to relax: 54 percent plunk themselves in front of the TV, 44 percent eat, and 31 percent have a glass of wine; only 26 percent head out for a walk in the park.

The “Health Benefits of Nature” survey, mentioned above also revealed that “Most women already understand that nature is good for health” and 73 percent wish they could spend more time outside. The surveys notes the mounting excuses as: Women are too intimidated by too-hot or too-cold weather (53 percent), too busy (44 percent), or too comfortable hanging out at home (22 percent).

Women aren’t exclusive to a rise in stress and poor health symptoms due to lack of time outdoors. For more on “Nature Deficiency” and the effects on our children and youth, check out this National Geographic interview with Richard Louv, the author of the bestsellers Last Child in the Woods (2005) and The Nature Principle (2011) at
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/06/130628-richard-louv-nature-deficit-disorder-health-environment/

I can’t stress enough, Nature is a powerful protector of your body and mind! You can start small;

•Sit outside for 10 minutes a day – no excuses here! Even better, meditate outdoors for 10-20 minutes.

•Hang up your car keys – If you can walk instead to run an errand, do it

•Schedule catch-ups around walks – Wine bars are so tempting. But for a fun change schedule dates and catch ups with friends around walks or activities outdoors.

•Build it into your kids routine – at our house we have technology free time, we go on day hikes, fish, camp or swim in our nearby creek. Get out there and play with your kids too! Climb trees, get dirty, be a big kid.

•Plant a garden – Whether it is in pots or in the ground get out there and get some plants growing.

•Eat outside – Obviously this is easiest in summer but if you can cook a healthy homemade meal, light a few candles and create a romantic connection outdoors with your partner. A win-win!

Kind of makes you want to get outside, like, immediately. Right?

~V

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