Column: Why go outside?Maybe you have it. Many people do. It’s something you really couldn’t help, not with the environment you find yourself in. What I’m referring to is a condition known as Nature Deficit Disorder.
By: Katie Moret, For the Budgeteer News
Maybe you have it. Many people do. It’s something you really couldn’t help, not with the environment you find yourself in.
What I’m referring to is a condition known as Nature Deficit Disorder.
No, it’s not an actual disorder, but it is a problem that is becoming more common. It refers to the dwindling importance we place on spending time in nature, and our increasing detachment from it.
Nature Deficit Disorder was a term created by author Richard Louv in his book, “Last Child in the Woods.” Louv wrote about the consequences we are beginning to see in our society which are related to a lack of outdoor time including a rise in obesity, anxiety and depression.
These are all simple facts we have heard before, all of which are important, but besides these obvious consequences, there are deeper effects from the lack of time we spend outside.
Being in nature isn’t all about breathing fresh air and seeing green things and getting exercise. If it were, you could just throw some plants in a room, crack open a window, and walk on a treadmill, all while in your own home. Instead, being in nature is about being where you need to be.
There was a movement in the 19th century that pushed for changes to society in various ways, but perhaps the most central part of this movement was pushing people to return to their roots outside of a cookie-cutter house on Main Street — i.e., to return to nature.
Writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were both very involved in this movement, writing about the healing power of nature and the natural connection human beings have to it.
Both these writers and the more modern writer Louv emphasize that for much of human history, our existence has been tied to nature. Human beings have always used nature to provide the necessities of life such as food and water.
But instead of being in that world, we are now attaching to the world of drywall and carpeting, of flashing screens and loud phones. Louv argues that it is hard-wired into our brains to have an existence involving nature, and we aren’t equipped to handle the excessively digitally-oriented environment in which we find ourselves.
This environment that has become part of the basic structure of our society is not only leading to the harmful effects of obesity and depression, but has also prevented us from experiencing the benefits that spending time in nature can bring us. Louv says that there are multiple ways in which nature can “reshape our lives.” Boosting creativity, building better businesses and communities, promoting health, and improving human relationships are some of these rewards that a life involving nature can offer.
It’s easy to see why we are missing out on benefits like these. Just look at what has become the norm for Thanksgiving celebrations: some part of the day spent eating ridiculous amounts of food, probably watching a football game while doing so, then camping outside of the local Best Buy or Wal-Mart to snag the hottest Black Friday — or, late Thursday night, as it’s becoming — deals. On a day that used to be about spending time with family and friends, often outside, as stores weren’t even open to go to, we choose to avoid the fresh air as much as possible.
While you don’t need to be a Black Friday protester, you should consider the consequences of Nature Deficit Disorder and question the way our society has guided you into the small room in your house, watching marathon shows on TV or staring at a computer screen.
So this Thanksgiving, consider spending time outdoors with your family and friends, instead of waiting in line to get the cheapest price on a new flat-screen TV.
Katie Moret is studying psychology, art and Spanish at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Wildwoods is a 501(c)(3) wildlife rehabilitation organization in Duluth. For more information on wildlife and how you can help, including volunteer opportunities, visit www.wildwoodsrehab.org.