Antidote for Nature Deficit Disorder

Journalist and author, Richard Louv, in his book “Last Child in the Woods,” coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder to describe the psychological, physical, and cognitive costs of human alienation from Nature.

As human beings, we evolved within Nature, as a part of the whole wild ecosystem, with all of Nature shaping our senses, our identity, our sense of place and belonging, and stimulating our brain development and toning our physical fitness.  From Nature we gathered our food, our shelter, some of our entertainment, and a sense of belonging to a larger family that included our neighbors, the animals and plants of forest, mountains, and waters.

However, as human society grew into cities and urban lifestyles, we now live much further removed from the rest of Nature.  It is less common to smell or feel the bare earth under our feet and more common to walk with shoes on cement or pavement.  When is the last time you looked at the sky? Unbelievably simple, but it is very easy for most of us to walk through our day without looking up at the sky for hours or even all day.

This is becoming increasingly common as more and more of the population moves from agricultural work into the service and technology sectors. Many of our Corporate and Teams clients spend all day in an office cubicle, seated, staring at a computer screen. “Working in an office is the new smoking” said one of our corporate Amazing Race participants in reflection of their sedentary lifestyle where they sit in front of a computer for 8 hours a day. Taking just 20-30 minutes for a break during the day to get outside significantly increases overall health and wellbeing.

There are scientific studies that show how looking regularly at distant views like the sky dramatically helps preserve our eyesight, rather than un-interrupted viewing of computer and smartphone screens which can reduce our eyesight flexibility and quality over time. And, then there is the aspect of looking at the sky whereby we are gifted a perspective of spaciousness or perhaps a sense of effortless flow of clouds moving. I don’t know about you, but I’m always ready for a greater sense of spaciousness and effortlessness in my day!

Let’s connect with another aspect of Nature… the forest. In Japan, there is an age-old practice of walking through a forest quietly, with no talking, and simply allowing one’s senses to be washed over with the sights/sounds/smells of the forest.  The Japanese call this forest bathing.  In South Korea they have official Park Rangers who specifically guide forest bathing walks.  Scientists have discovered that plants, especially conifer trees, emit various natural phytochemicals into the air which we inhale, and these terpenes have impressive positive impacts on us. Scientific studies have shown that these terpenes from trees have effects that are anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, stress-reducing, mood-elevating, pro-neuron health, and pro-cognitive health.  Further, studies have shown that after time in the forest, the positive effects of these terpenes in our body can last for several days AFTER our time in the forest! No wonder I feel so awesome after a hike in the mountains!

How about connecting with water?  In Colorado we hike beside mountain streams and often hear them before we see them, as they cascade down granite boulders, with splashes echoing through the forest.  In summer, we hike by alpine lakes and watch native trout swim in crystal clear water.  In winter, we put on skis or snowshoes and float across water crystals of snow and are dazzled by the rainbow light reflecting off snow crystals blowing in the wind.  Connecting with water we remember how to flow naturally in the moment, and let go of past and future for a while.

So, come join us for a mountain adventure where we will get outside, energize our bodies, activate our minds, breath in healthy forest air, and fill our minds with the spaciousness and inspiration of the Colorado sky and the flow of the moment!  Read more about our corporate wilderness adventure activities, team building, and leadership development events.

Written by Brad Kahland, Guide and Educator for Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides. Brad has worked as a Grand Canyon National Park Ranger, a Sea Kayak Guide in Monterey Bay and Tomales Bay, California, an Adventure Guide in Vietnam, Alaska, Mexico, Canada, and the U.S., and a naturalist in Boulder, Colorado. Brad explored vast areas of Colorado working in wilderness-therapy programs for adolescents and their families, serving variously as a Field Instructor, Logistics Coordinator, Education Director, and Family Counselor. Brad was also a support team member of the Extreme Ice Survey, a global project documenting the rapid retreat of the world’s glaciers and leading to the film Chasing Ice.