Outdoor enthusiasts are familiar with the age-old wisdom that nature heals and reconnects all human beings. Science has provided evidence for this; there have been numerous studies showing that spending time in nature helps balance the mind, alleviate depression, and boost creativity. Doctors have agreed and note that getting vitamin D from the sun (cautiously) is beneficial and particularly helps those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. If nature is so helpful, can not getting enough time outside actually harm you?
This is a loaded question and one that many people may not want the answer to. The average American does not realize how much time they spend indoors. On average, Americans spend nearly 3 hours watching TV, 2 hours on a computer (not including while at work), and a half an hour or more blankly staring at their cell phone. Our society has seen a slow, but progressive evolution to life inside. With technology at our fingertips, work constantly beckons and with the challenging economy, more people are venturing back to school, taking night and weekend classes to keep up with the ever elusive achievement of comfort and stability. This translates into far less time outside. Children, free of these burdens, are nonetheless taking cues from their adult counterparts and spending their time inside also. This is contributing to an onslaught of behavioral problems that is impairing the community by plaguing youth and constricting adults.
This idea that the lack of connection to nature may be contributing to the rise of behavioral problems first came to popularity in Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods. Louv poses a hypothesis called Nature Deficit Disorder; it states because human’s are spending progressively less time outside it is resulting in a host of behavioral and physical problems including depression, attention disorders, myopia, and obesity. These physical and behavioral problems are not the sole effect of limited time outdoors; like any condition there are multiple factors from genetics to environment that play a part. Additionally, Nature Deficit Disorder is not a medical condition; it is more of a description of a sociological effect. However, despite the fact that Nature Deficit Disorder is only a small facet of a much larger issue, it is the most easily treatable aspect. Simply go outside.
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By Alyssa Harmon