My teacher and mentor, Yellow Wolf Nieves, introduced to me the term "Nature-Deficit Disorder" during a personal development workshop. It was coined by Richard Louv, which he first used in his book called Last Child in the Woods. Nature-Deficit Disorder is not a medical diagnosis but rather an explanation of what happens psychologically, cognitively, and physically when children are disconnected from nature during their early years of development. Studies have shown that being outdoors provides benefits to wellness. It can help us have more positive feelings like empathy, build self esteem, feel less anxiety, and stay focused. Alienating kids from nature, as a result, may make them more susceptible to negative behaviors, bad moods, and smaller attention spans/ADHD.
I saw this meme floating around on Instagram that made me feel some type of way:
It made me realize how relevant Nature-Deficit Disorder can also be to adults.
I was born in 1987, so I'm a millennial by definition. I may not be in the generation that invented the internet, but I come from the generation that used it. And even though I grew up on the cusp of the internet boom and onset of smartphones and iPads, I actually grew up playing outside as a kid — like... all the time. Just because I was outside frequently as a kid, however, doesn't mean I'm doing it as much now. Being out in nature has turned into an event for me, such as coordinating a hike with a friend or a beach day with my boyfriend. It's become something planned rather than spontaneous... something to add to my calendar. Another unfortunate truth is that people probably know more about wildlife through TV shows and Netflix documentaries rather than from actually experiencing and observing the natural world themselves. I think it's so worth bringing awareness to Nature-Deficit Disorder, because it is certainly applicable to adults today. After all, if i'm not spending enough time being outdoors and connecting to nature, how could I be setting the same example for my future kids?
Despite the lifestyle of modern society today, there are so many practical things that people can do to spend more time with nature. Exercising or reading a book outdoors. Taking mindfulness practices, such as meditation, outdoors as well. When you're at work, have lunch outside rather than at your cubicle. If you can't spend time outdoors for whatever reason, connect with nature by bringing some potted plants inside your home or office. If that's not allowed in your office, don't spend your break looking away from one screen (computer) to another screen (phone). Take a few minutes to look outside your window and note your surroundings instead.
Support your health and wellness by spending more time in nature. And if you have kids, enjoy the outdoors with them! There's no better way to benefit from nature's medicine around us than by being in it.
Read more about Richard Lauv and Nature Deficit Disorder here.