Word-Of-the-Week #626: Nature

August 3, 2016 by  

Nature – the natural world as it exists without human beings or civilization.

When was the last time you spent time outside with nature? How long did it last? How did it make you feel?

“Are you suffering from nature deficit disorder?” I have seen several articles in the past month and am including excerpts from them this week. “Our increasingly urban lifestyles are denying us the benefits of the great outdoors, says bestselling author Richard Louv. His new book “Vitamin N: The Essential Guide To A Nature-Rich Life” is all about tempting us back outside. He focuses on 500 ways people can boost their engagement with nature.

Oh yes, we love watching wildlife, but the problem seems to be leaving the sofa and immersing ourselves in the real thing.

It’s been more than a decade since author Richard Louv wrote his best-selling book, Last Child in the Woods, and introduced the world to the concept of ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’. His phrase referred to the growing trend of human alienation from nature resulting in “diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illness.”

Put simply, he stated that humans aren’t meant to be surrounded by concrete and metal all day. Moving from home to car to office or school and back again isn’t healthy – we need time in the wild.

As far as he’s concerned, we shouldn’t be glossing over the crucial link between time outdoors and well-being, particularly when it comes to children. New evidence strongly suggests that interaction with the natural world increases our ability to think clearly, heighten the senses when it comes to perception and increase creativity.

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“And this from “Are You Nature Deprived?” A girl under 5-years-old was throwing regular weekend temper tantrums, and her parents complained to Dr. Robert Zarr, a pediatrician at Unity Health Care in the District of Columbia. When he probed about the family’s routine, he learned they were spending the majority of their weekends inside. The fits didn’t happen at school, where the girl had recess.

So instead of labeling the child with a behavioral problem or shrugging and saying, “She’ll grow out of it,” he wrote a prescription advising the family to spend a couple hours each weekend day at a nearby park.

“It sounded like she was starved for some nature,” says Zarr, who in 2013 helped launch DC Park Rx, an initiative encouraging physicians to prescribe time outside to patients and families. He may have been right: When the family returned for a follow-up appointment, the tantrums had stopped.

So far, his team has written 829 park prescriptions for a range of issues, including to prevent and treat chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma. “I don’t get a lot of rolling of the eyes,” he adds. “Most people understand that there’s something lacking in their daily schedule.”

That something is nature. A lack of outdoor time for kids contributes to conditions such as childhood obesity, attention disorders and depression. In 2012, he wrote another book, “The Nature Principle,” showing that adults aren’t immune from the ill-effects of too much time indoors either. “The more high-tech our lives become, the more nature we need,” he tells U.S. News. “It’s an equation. It’s true of families, it’s true for children, it’s true for adults.”

In 2009 we spent three days at Iguassu Falls before ending up on a ten day Antarctica cruise. That trip forever changed my life and the way we travel. Spending time in nature is incredible!

This week’s focus is on nature. Is there something missing from your life? Are you and/or your children starved for some nature? How about a weekend outdoor adventure before school starts?

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