Vitamin N you say? Yes, that’s N as in Nature. As mentioned in my last post, one of my comforts is being in nature. I’ve done a little research on this subject and according to Richard Louev, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle ( http://richardlouv.com/books/nature-principle)there is such a thing as nature deficit disorder. His research suggests that many children and adults are suffering from depression, attention deficit disorder and obesity because of so much time spent connected to technology as opposed to nature.
Louev is convinced that taking time out to connect with nature, (which can be in cities and parks as well as forests or more remote locations) is the antidote to many of the ailments plagueing the population today.
This leads me to myself and the reasons I might find getting outside everyday so comforting. Perhaps it is because everything slows down for me when I enter a natural environment? Maybe it is how nature causes me to notice that it never hurries..
For example I notice that blackberries ripen when there has been just the right conditions for the right amount of time. This means I can’t say I will always pick blackberriees on August 31st. Some years I may be picking blackberries as early as July 31st and others it might be almost into October. Nature takes exactly the amount of time it needs to cycle through the seasons. One year is never exactly as another but there is a pattern within its gentle cycle that makes me feel safe and secure as I observe it from year to year.
Richard Louev believes and has seen that children can gain a sense of calm and security from spending time in connection with the natural world and that a if we want to have any hope for this planet it is going to involve having near equal amounts of time spent in nature as opposed to connected to technology.
Another benefit that a nature break gives me is a sense of connection. We live in a world that in one way is so connected through technology and yet in real time is very disconnected. How many of us communicate with our colleagues through email everyday but never actually see them face to face? How many of our conversations and communications in a day are ‘remote’ or digital? We lose something when we have no physical connection to each other and experiencing nature is a way to counteract this disconnection.
In nature I begin to feel a connection to the earth that is easy to lose in our technically advanced world. This can happen during a quick walk around the school yard at lunch as I notice a leaf or an acorn or when I am out combing the forest for mushrooms or scaling a steep mountain. The point is these doses of connection with nature do not have to be difficult to get. They can be had in cities as easily as in forests or farms. I believe that chronic disconnection is a prominent factor that contributes to the widespread suffering from conditions such as depression, anxiety, attention deficit and obesity.
I know that we can find biological evidence in the bodies of those who suffer from depression and the like but isn’t it possible that like Gabor Mate likes to say, ” our biology becomes our biography. What do you think the biography of a person who grows up in front of a variety of screens, mostly indoors, playing games with ‘friends’ across town or across the globe and eats alone while engaged in screen time will translate into in their biology? Isn’t it plausible to think that an existence such as this would be damaging to such a social creature as a human being.?
Think about some of the circumstances and conditions that have been crucial to human civilization and you won’t have to think long to know that one of the keys to our ability to thrive is our natural tendency to form groups and work together toward our common good. Surely, time spent in a virtual world disconnected from anything natural or ‘real’ is not going to form neural pathways in the brain that prepare us for collaborating and thinking about how the systems of nature model how to protect and honor diveristy in order for species to thrive.
If we don’t teach our children about Vitamin N just as if it were as necessary as sleep or food then what will our world look like in a few generations? Just as many of our First Nations lost their languages and traditions because they were not able to teach them to their young so too will the ways and means of thriving as a spoecies be lost?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not subscribing to some apocolyptic doom and despair future with no hope. In fact it is just the opposite. I feel the work of those such as Richard Loev, Fritjog Cappra, Michael Ableman and Zenobia Barlow and organizations like The Center For Ecoliteracy, the Slow Food Movement and the Children and Nature Network are doing great work to reconnect us with our true source of energy and inspiration.
So I close by asking you again. Are you getting your Vitamin N? Have you noticed what kind of sky you are living under today? Were there stars out last night? Make a point of getting outside today if only for a few minutes and really notice what you are experiencing. Even if you are in a city see if you can find one thing that connects you to the natural world.
Notice a leaf on the sidewalk and try to take in something about it that you could share with someone when you get back to the office. If you have the priviledge of being in a more natural environment notice what the birds or squirrels are doing today. Simply observe and connect with what nature is today and observe anything different in yourself because of it. Perhaps a clearer, mind, an unfamiliar state of calm or a new found sense of wonder.
Make an effort to think about where you fit in this scheme and remember that we are nature ourselves; part of a grand scheme that requires diversity and connection among each tree, stream. lake, forest, ocean and being. Vitamin N. No doctor referal or prescription required.