“Nature has been for me, for as long as I remember, a source of solace, inspiration, adventure, and delight; a home, a teacher, a companion.” —Lorraine Anderson
According to studies, exposure to plants and trees can benefit your health in tangible ways. Yet, we live in a time when “nature deficit disorder” (a phrase coined by journalist and author Richard Louv) prevails. Characterized by increasingly sedentary and indoor lifestyles, this condition is not recognized by the mental health community but the side effects are becoming evident in today’s society.
This relationship has shifted from the days when children’s free time was less structured, to today’s prevalence of organized sports and video technology. And although children suffer most from nature deficit, adults who are not comfortable with nature and science also contribute to the disorder.
Here are some suggestions for how to overcome this disorder and benefit from the horticultural therapy offered up by Mother Nature.
Spend more time outdoors. Plan parties at local parks, take vacations that involve hiking or camping, and spend time walking around your neighborhood, listening to birds chirping and noticing the changing environment as the seasons turn.
Limit screen time for yourself and your children. As a society, on average we spend 8 hours per day plugged in. What would happen if you cut that down to 2 hours? You could extend your life! A 2011 study reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology conducted by a group of international researchers, showed that anyone who devotes more than four hours daily on screen-based entertainment such as TV, video games or surfing the web, ups their risk of heart attack and stroke by 113 percent and the risk of death by any cause by nearly 50 percent compared to those who spend fewer than two hours daily in screen play.
Volunteer. Find a local environmental or land stewardship organization and see if you can donate your time in their outdoor campaigns. You’d be surprised how many projects for which they need helping hands!
Plant a garden. Whether it’s a few pots on your balcony or a full-blown 20×20 garden, growing your own food and getting your hands dirty connects you with the earth. If you don’t have much outdoor space of your own you can use for this purpose, look into securing a community garden plot or sharing space with a willing neighbor.
Shop at the farm. A weekly trip to a local farm can expose your family to the sights, smells, and wonders of living off the land and provide context for where your food comes from. By making that connection, you foster a sense of respect for the natural world that can’t be undone. If there’s no farm nearby, opt for the farmer’s market or a CSA!
The late environmentalist Rachael Carson may have summed it up best when she said, “Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the Earth are never alone or weary of life.” Once reconnected with nature, that solace is yours to keep.
Author’s content used under license, © 2012 Sprouted Content, LLC