With the rise in technology and the growing trend of social media popularity, people are going outdoors less and less. A life enhanced by tech and science is pushed as the ideal – for example, in sci-fi films where everything is connected to the net (Ghost in the Shell springs to mind) and the existence of AI’s. With all of this being taught to millennials and the younger generations, the natural world is neglected. Nature Deficit Disorder is easy to define – it’s basically the behavioural problems that occur from spending less time outdoors. The term was coined by Richard Louv, an environmental based journalist. All of his publications are related to nature and encouraging others to get back in touch with it.
It was purely coincidental that I stumbled across this term, I actually came across it whilst reading a book called ‘Saving Wild: Inspiration From 50 Leading Conservationists’ (I will be posting a review on this soon!). The book only mentioned it briefly, but it sounded like the kind of thing I am interested in, so I did some further research (thanks Wikipedia!). Nature Deficit Disorder has received some criticism, as prescribing a dose of outdoors as therapy for N.D.D could be a misdiagnosis. Basically, nature can’t cure everything, and it’s problematic to imply that it can. And I’m not here to be critical or make arguments as I haven’t carried out any fieldwork on the subject, I just wanted to share my personal opinion on the importance of getting in touch with nature more, and why I think N.D.D is a legitimate thing.
Getting Back In Touch With Nature
Anyone who’s read some of my other blog posts will know how much I love social media. I love blogging, and being able to share my thoughts with (potentially) millions of interested people. I love how social media platforms bring people together, inspire activism, and provide an education in the way that schools just don’t teach. So, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we should all throw our phones away and go and live in a cave… unless you want to do that, of course.
First and foremost, I think forming closer relationships with the natural world is beneficial with regard to environmentalism and conservation. If everyone was more appreciative of the forests and the mountains and the lakes, we might stand a better chance of saving our planet. In the book I’m reading at the moment about conservation, the common inspiration that keep so many conservationists inspired is the beauty of nature that they have access to every day.
On a more spiritual level (even though I don’t believe in spirits or religion), being out in nature is relaxing. It’s therapeutic, for sure! I wouldn’t be the person I am today if my parents hadn’t taken me and my sister on hikes almost every weekend. We’d climb hills, walk down streams, and climb trees. Now as an adult, I still feel more alive and happy when I’m surrounded by nature. I know there’s probably a logical explanation for this, but in my head I just simply feel relaxed around plants. My favourite hobby is hiking, even though I don’t get many chances to do it. And there’s a reason why National Parks in America are so special – it’s because they give people a chance to escape the urban hustle and bustle, to retreat into a place of peace. A place of non-judgement, if you will.
Children will gain far more life experience and memories from being exposed to muddy countryside explorations than they ever would from being cooped up indoors on games. Fresh air is important, especially if you live in a city. Also, with the rise in obesity in adults and children alike, being on two feet and running around can only do good. I don’t know many children personally, but I think that in the UK, schools are making more effort to do more nature/outdoorsy stuff with their kids. When I was in school, we had a conservation area with frogs and a pond, and on warm days sometimes we’d take class outside. We need to be doing more of this.
And this is not just about children. Adults, too, get far too wrapped up in their jobs/cars/phones/life, that they often forget about the world beyond their window. If regular access to the countryside/wild nature is impossible, then hobbies like gardening are the next best thing to do, I’d say. Re-vamp your back garden! Turn it into a huge vegetable patch! If I had a garden, I’d definitely be doing something like that, it would be so rewarding as well.
Is Nature Deficit Disorder a Legitimate Thing?
In my opinion, yes. I know I feel drained and a bit miserable if I haven’t been outdoors in a while, and when I’m actually out, I feel loads better. If I really have been in the city for too long, I often become restless, fidgety, unable to concentrate on what I’m supposed to be doing… and often I do feel really sad. There were times like that when I lived in Iceland, when I could literally see the mountains in the distance from the university, but I couldn’t get to them because the weather was too bad, or I had deadlines or something. It’s a horrible feeling.
For the population in general, I’d argue that stress levels are rising, many millennials suffer from a variety of emotional/mental health problems (I know many people on anti-depressants). While it would be rude of me to claim that all of their problems would be cured if they simply went for a walk, I still believe that regular exposure to nature would help alleviate certain symptoms. Often, depression is better treated with therapy rather than medication, and I’ve heard Mother Nature is a great therapist…
People have become too obsessed with technology and social media. Yes, it’s great, but people need to learn their limits. People will often choose to connect to the wifi than to connect to the scenery, and this is something that individuals need to learn to stop. Your Facebook messages can wait a few hours, but this nature may not be around forever. Appreciate it whilst you can, or else you’ll be left with nothing but a vague nostalgia for the past.
By choosing nature, we are choosing hope. By choosing nature, we are choosing a bright future. By choosing nature, we are receiving the very best education that money can’t buy.
Before I end this post, I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes, by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh:
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
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