Innately, we know that nature can have positive effects on our health and well-being, but working and living in the city, we are left with very small green spaces, a lot of noise, and air that’s not so fresh. Learn how nature, or the lack thereof, can affect our over-all well-being and how we can integrate it back into our lives.

BRINGING NATURE BACK INTO OUR LIVES

For a lot of urban professionals, taking a break is oftentimes synonymous to going out of the city. Whether it’s to go to the beach or hike a mountain, being closer to nature is seen as a remedy for burnout, stress, or the general feeling of tiredness. If these are inaccessible, we put our “Calming Sounds” playlist on and tune in to the sound of waves or gentle dropping of rain.

Innately, we know that nature can have positive effects on our health and well-being, but working and living in the city, we are left with very small green spaces, a lot of noise, and air that’s not so fresh. But stress is not the only negative effect of living in such an environment.

According to the journalist and environmentalist Richard Louv, the growing detachment of children and adults from nature links this back to some of the most disturbing trends in present-day society such as the rise in obesity, attention deficit, and depression[1]. This detachment is what he calls Nature Deficit Disorder or NDD. Backing it up with research, he goes on to suggest that direct exposure to nature is essential to improving the physical and emotional health of children and adults.

How did it all begin? 

In his book, The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age, he delves deeper into the origins of Nature Deficit Disorder[2]. He talks about the social and technological changes that contributed to its rapid growth.

Among the new developments of our recent past that he cites as the primary reasons for this are the ubiquity of high tech electronic communications, increased vehicular traffic volume, the diminished importance of the natural world in public and private education and social discourse, and poor urban planning that prioritizes huge building complexes and constricts open spaces.

What he mentioned is simply a description of our day-to-day environment.

How can we reconnect with nature? 

We can start with our spaces at home and at work. Adding some potted plants can provide a green space that acts as a doorway to the natural world. 

After bringing nature in, why don’t we take the next step and go to nature, too? We can take time off from our busy lives and do a nature walk. Many Japanese swear by the benefits of a practice they call “shinrin-yoku”[3] or forest bathing. It was developed in the 1980s and is now one of the key elements of preventive health care in Japanese medicine. By just walking around a forest or any wooded area, they take in and imbibe the soothing and healing atmosphere of nature to feel refreshed and invigorated. Mirroring the findings of Richard Louv, researchers in Japan and Korea[4] have cited nature’s scientifically-proven benefits such as a stronger immune system, reduced blood pressure, reduced stress, improved mood, increased ability to focus, accelerated recovery from surgery or illness, increased energy level, and improved sleep. But understandably, it will be difficult to find a forest nearby so a walk in the nearby park might just do.

Another way to add more nature into our lives is by leaning towards natural products. Using nature-based and organic products is not just Earth-friendly, it may also be better for our overall health and well-being. Many of these natural solutions have been proven effective for centuries and have now been enhanced by modern science and medicine.

Nature Deficit Disorder is a current reality that also presents us with a crucial opportunity. If we learn to manage it and re-establish our relationship with nature, our world will evolve into something more. It will be more positive, more natural, and more enjoyable. Our health and well-being will thank us for it.

Sources:

[1] “Last Child in the Woods – Overview – Richard Louv.” http://richardlouv.com/books/last-child/. Accessed 19 Aug. 2019.

[2] “The Nature Principle – Overview – Richard Louv.” http://richardlouv.com/books/nature-principle/. Accessed 19 Aug. 2019.

[3] “Shinrin-yoku.org.” http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/. Accessed 19 Aug. 2019.

[4] “The Healing Power of Forests – The Startup – Medium.” 13 Jun. 2019, https://medium.com/swlh/the-healing-power-of-forests-485e28a657f9. Accessed 19 Aug. 2019.

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