Richard Louv coined the expression ‘nature deficit disorder’ (NDD) in his 2005 book about the detrimental effects on children of spending too much time indoors in front of screens. He associates the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation to disturbing childhood trends: obesity, attention disorders, depression. Now we’ve learned adults too can suffer NDD, caused by insufficient fresh air and evidenced in feeling ennui.
Unlike seasonal affective disorder that occurs primarily from lack of sunlight and vitamin D deficiency, NDD can take hold at any time of year — though the onset of winter tends to make people cocoon indoors, a temptation to resist. Because reports claim experiencing nature makes us happier and healthier.
The pandemic lockdown elevated my appreciation of nature. I not only went for daily walks but also practiced forest bathing and read outdoors rather than at home, in a café or at the Library. As well, walking and talking with friends plus dining on a couple’s patio helped satisfy my essential quota of both nature and sociability. In fact whenever I put nature to a test by abstaining for a day or two, my mood turns pale blue.
According to an article in Psychology Today, “we know exercise is good… exercise in nature is good, but the [positive] effect applies even if you spend time in nature for relaxation.” Fortunately cities and towns now take nature into account in their plans. Parks, community gardens, benches, exercise stations, greenways: all entice us to get outside. The other day I chatted with a friend who was seated on an outdoor bench, her “office”, dealing with paperwork. That’s a healthy workplace! And apparently people who are unable to go outdoors, for whatever reason, can improve their quality of life and cognition simply by viewing nature through windows: seeing the seasons, absorbing natural light, watching birds and plants.
A recent study says 120 minutes a week in nature suffices to reap its rewards. But more is better. Perhaps Oscar Wilde’s witticism applies to communing with nature: “Everything in moderation, including moderation”. •