Nature, our BFF

Jill Clark

For Earth Month we had each member of the Dirt Squad talk about what they love about nature, and each individual answered individually yet the reason was the same for literally every member on the team: Time in nature relaxes us and clears our head. We decided to have our friend Jill dig into this a little more for us. She unearthed some pretty fascinating stuff!

Mother Dirt is founded on the idea of replacing an essential bacteria that once existed on our skin naturally, but has been wiped away by modern hygiene and indoor lifestyles. Can the same hold true for our dwindling time spent in nature and the effect on our minds? Maybe we can reverse the effects by reconnecting with nature. Let’s dive into “nature deficit disorder.”

Nature and your mind

Our once wild imaginations may be altered by screen time. Brain chemistry and brain connectivity are different in children who are addicted to technology versus those who aren’t. Our days saturated by instant gratification and hyper stimulation are showing signs of  links to ADHD—either through mimicked symptoms or amplified in those undiagnosed. We are learning that those dealing with anxiety, depression, or chronic stress may actually be able to improve their symptoms by spending more time in nature.

What does this all mean?

We have a question for you…

How much time do you spend outside? Not just what’s necessary to move through your daily routine, but enjoying the quiet of nature?

Now, how much time do you spend looking at a screen? Whether it’s your cell phone and computer during the day; television or tablet at night.

The answer is probably a little unsettling, right?

A man named Richard Louv gathered and studied evidence, coining the term “nature deficit disorder” as the behavioral problems linked to our disconnection with nature. Louv credits limited time in nature, the temptations of electronics, and even parental fears as the causes.

While not everyone agrees about Louv’s conclusions, the ideas that we don’t spend nearly enough time in nature and that more time in nature offers peace to certain stresses makes sense.

How did we get here?

Louv frames nature deficit disorder as a problem of only recent years. An increase in screen time among children, an increase in “stranger danger” fears among parents, and urbanization are a few reasons worth considering. Instead of exploring our surroundings, we spend a lot of time inside glued to some sort of screen.

Others, like Elizabeth Dickinson think this is a cultural shift that was a long time coming. Dickinson argues that Louv’s theory is a misdiagnosis that fails to examine the cultural roots of the problem. Communication and lifestyle could be the key.

No matter who is more right in the cause, we agree that a little more time in the wild could do us good.

How can we reconnect?

Organizations are popping up with the goals of reconnecting our kids with nature. For example, some schools in the USA are encouraging the integration of nature and traditional classrooms. Also, the Cities Connecting Children to Nature is a resource for US cities who want to help our children reconnect, provided by the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

Another example, NatureHood is a program developed by Nature Canada to get kids exploring “nature in your ‘hood.” Quite a few similar initiatives are being found around the world as people attempt to return to their wild roots with intentional outdoor play.

We aren’t finished with this topic just yet, but we’ll leave you with this to consider for now: If signs suggest that humans are mentally and physically healthier when connected to nature, why not give it a try for yourself? Most of us would probably like a little extra time hanging out between the trees.

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