Even if you’ve never heard of the term Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD), chances are, you’ve experienced symptoms. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend on average 90% of their time indoors. By spending more and more time inside, we as a society have began losing our connection to the outdoors, and our mental and physical states are taking a toll. The good news? The cure is just outside your front door.
What is Nature Deficit Disorder?
Nature Deficit Disorder was first coined by author Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods, which mainly focuses on children and their lack of connection with nature. According to Louv, NDD in children is contributed by many things, from being raised in an urban environment, to parents who are afraid of a little dirt or skinned knee. But all grown up, we as adults can continue to suffer from Nature Deficit Disorder. Working in cubicles and offices, a constant bombardment of media and technology, it’s getting more difficult to find time to binge the latest TV series… I mean, take a walk in the park.
But as humans, we have a deep-rooted desire to be out in the wilderness. We are animals, after all.
Although NDD is not recognized as a clinical medical condition, some would disagree. As scientific research continues in this field, there is conclusive evidence: Being around nature does our bodies and our minds good. Dedicated to the cause, the Children and Nature Network (C&NN) research database allows users to discover articles and resources proving many ways we benefit from nature, including:
- Better Focusing Abilities
- Creativity and Problem Solving Skills
- Connection to Nature
- Reduced Anxiety and Stress
- Reduced Blood Pressure
- Stronger Immune System
- Improved Mental Health
- Deeper Sleep
Symptoms of Nature Deficit Disorder
Do you or does someone you know experience NDD? In this day in age, it is common to develop mild or severe forms of NDD. Here are several symptoms to look out for:
- Distraction – Foggy-headed and unfocused, distraction is a major symptom of NDD. Over-stimulated by tethered media devices and buzzing technologies, our attention-spans are being challenged more and more.
- Stress and Anxiety – Does your work and daily life make it hard to slow down? Exhausted by our own agendas, we forget to take time to breathe. As a result, our bodies can experience varying symptoms from lack of sleep to high-blood pressure.
- Depression – If you’ve ever had the winter blues, you know Seasonal Affective Disorder exists. Due to reduced sunlight and our sleeping patterns getting out of whack, we experience SAD. Combined with SAD, NDD may bring about depression in some, although it’s not always a visible symptom.
- Obesity – Constantly indoors, our bodies can gain a few pounds and easily become overweight. What’s worse, obesity can lead to an endless list of other health-related issues. The American Heart Association (AHA) gave a recent report that one in three children are considered overweight. Exceeding even drug abuse and smoking as a top health risk concern among parents, childhood obesity comes with added issues into adulthood: Type 2 diabetes, elevated cholesterol levels, higher blood pressures, lower self-esteem, and depression, among a few.
5 Ways to Combat Nature Deficit Disorder
In her book, The Nature Fix, Florence Williams writes that Finnish researchers suggest “Being in nature a minimum of five hours per month can make you happier overall”.
Taking your Vitamin N (for Nature), provides many benefits both physically and emotionally. It relieves our anxiety levels, lifts our mood from depression, and boosts creative thinking and problem solving. It also gives us a deeper appreciation of the environment, and in turn, makes us better stewards.
Here are five ways you can combat nature deficit disorder:
1. Reduce Screen Time
Untether yourself from those devices and resist the urge to scroll that feed. Instead–if anything–use it locate the nearest park for a walk outside. If you feel safer having your phone in your pocket, block all notifications. Listen to sounds of actual birds chirping, not your Twitter pings. However, there are plenty of digital field guide apps that teach us about the environment. If that peaks your interest in nature more, go right ahead!
2. Find a Winter Sport
Even if you’re active in warmer seasons, NDD can affect all of us in winter. Resisting the cold, we tend to take on a more sedentary lifestyle, and—as if hearing our parents’ voice in our head—afraid to embrace the cold for fear of slipping on ice or catching the flu. But, really, what’s stopping you from layering clothes, grabbing a hot thermos, and finding the nearest park? And any winter sport activity will do! Try snowboarding, snowshoeing, or even just sledding in your own backyard. Don’t be discouraged by cold temperatures!
3. Try Forest Bathing
Forest bathing—or Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy—is a Japanese healing method that allows an individual to immerse in the forest’s atmosphere. It stills the mind, leaving bathers focused and more alert. Scientific studies have found evergreen trees secreting a natural chemical called phytoncide, which directly reduced stress levels and boosted immune systems in subjects.
Do you have to fly to Mount Fuji? Not at all. Simply find a guide through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs or read Hipcamp’s self-guided steps to forest bathing.
4. Tend to Plants or a Garden
You don’t have to locate the nearest forest to take in nature. Simply nurturing potted plants or tending a garden can rebalance yourself after a long, stressful day. And placing a birdbath just outside a window, you can watch the wildlife in your own backyard.
5. Go camping!
Therapeutic camping can be the best cure for nature deficit disorder. Whether you’re solo campingor heading out in a big group, camping in all its forms is the ultimate way to reconnect with nature. Not sure where to go? Discover over 285,000 campsites on Hipcamp—from public campgrounds to private lands. If camping is new to you, don’t be scared. With time and experience, you can learn to overcome those camping fears. Soon enough, you’ll be eagerly planning the next camping trip.
Take Care of Your Health
The antidote to Nature Deficit Disorder is literally outside your front door. You don’t have to venture far; a yard and patch of grass is enough to reduce stress, boost alertness, and realign our internal desire for nature. And it’s hard in this day and age to make a point to get outside. Even for a bit. But the rewards are exponential!
So… where are you going outside today?
Words by Brette DeVore
Brette is a professional freelance writer and illustrator who specializes in content for the hospitality and tourism industry. Once a hospitality interior designer, she now prefers a tent to a suite.