I grew up in the forest. Spending most of my time outside. As I am sure some of us reading this had a similar upbringing and can relate. I remember building houses for the ants out of pine needles and moss. I remember hours upon hours of imaginary fun out in the wilderness. If we wanted to play with a neighbor, we had to walk or ride our bikes along the dirt roads. Boredom was a regular feeling and was met with our wildly alive imaginations.
Today, we have transitioned to something drastically different. Not one child I know spends the majority of their time outdoors. Nor adults. In less than a generation’s time our lives have transformed drastically with the boom of digital technology in direct correlation to our relationship with our planet. Our home. While there are so many wonderful, incredible things that technology has brought us, it has also come with an overhaul of sickness.
Our people and the planet are seeing the detriments of our disconnect. We are natural beings and quite literally need time to be in our natural habitat. Mental health sickness is skyrocketing, with the biggest spike among young adults. Our bodies and brains have quite literally hit a breaking point. There is such thing as nature deficiency that wreaks havoc on our overall health and we are seeing it the effects of it.
Unfortunately, instead of looking at the root of the problem, we are also seeing an increase in medications to mask the symptoms (anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotics and ADHD prescriptions). Now, I certainly am not saying that all of those children just need to get outside instead of medication. Yes, there are circumstances where medication is very helpful and necessary. What I am saying is let’s look at fixing the root cause of the problem. And the main root cause I see here is a our disconnection from nature.
With a growing loss of connection to our natural planet we are an increasing population who has little to no personal time and experience in and with nature. Without understanding nature on a personal level it is extremely difficult for people to care for it.
The short long of what is happening – increasing technology has led to less connection to nature. Symptoms of disconnection and nature deficiency have been masked with medication for short-term relief. Human disconnection from nature leads to less firsthand experience to our natural habitat. This leads to fewer and fewer people understanding the importance of nature and the health of our planet. All this to say, our disconnection from our planet is hurting us as well as our home.
So, what can we do? Has everything gone to hell? Why try, it’s too overwhelming?!
That is where my job comes in. That’s where my unwavering passion comes in. To help reconnect people to nature. To help with solutions to the root problem. All while looking at simple, natural and realistic ways to incorporate healthy change into your busy lives.
…so, how do we do it?
Limit your screen time
…and your kids’. The actual problem here is the amount of time we are on our screens. However, I also realize it isn’t realistic to say we should stop using our phones all together. Here is a wonderful opportunity to meet ourselves where we are and be really honest with ourselves. What would limiting your phone time look like? Perhaps it’s setting a timer and once the timer goes off you put away your phone. Maybe it is certain time of day you say no screens, or certain day of the week. Play with it and set some realistic goals and see how you feel after a week of practice.
Literally. Get outside. Each and every one of us should be aiming to be outside for at least seven hours a week. Break it down – an hour a day. Or a half hour a day and more on your days off. You can do this by starting your morning sitting outside for 10 minutes. Have young kids? Bring them with you. Have pets? Bring them with you. Do you work a desk job all day? Schedule it. Each day schedule 15 minutes mid-day to get outside. Start your day out by stepping outside. End your night by stepping outside.
Encourage activities with others outside
We all feel the crunch for not enough time, too much to do and too many people to see. One way to get more time with your favorite people as well as getting outside is to do just that. Grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend? Why not take your reusable cup to the park and enjoy it there? Need to catch up with a co-worker on a meeting topic? See if they want to chat outside. Take this opportunity to be the one to suggest getting outside. It will encourage others to think outside of the box as well.
Take your meals outside
We all may automatically think of lunch, which is a great idea. What about eating your breakfast outside? What about you and your partner, family, roommates eating breakfast outside? Eating outside brings such a great atmosphere to your meal. How can you get creative with this? Picnics are one of my favorite ways to do this.
Try something new
Have you been wanting to try paddle boarding? What about getting into hiking? Check out events in your area to see what’s going on. It’s easy to join in and start something new by attending an event that is already planned. Or reach out to that adventurous friend who’s always down for trying something new. Have fun, play, get curious. Who knows, you may be missing out on your new favorite pastime…
Adopt a sit spot
This is for adults and kids alike. Find a sit spot. This is a place near your house where you sit outside each day for 5-10 minutes (to start – you can increase as you go). The key here is simply to get to your sit spot as often as possible. From there, it’s about being in nature. Even if you have a balcony in the middle of New York City, you can still have a sit spot. Come to your spot, and simply observe. What’s going on in nature? What’s the energy at different times of the day? Different times of the year? What is the weather doing? The wind, the birds, the bugs, the trees? This simple nature exercise has been said to be one of the most profound for many naturalists. Try it out. Ride your edge – maybe even take your rain jacket out in a rainstorm and see how nature is reacting to the weather in the rain.
Come on a Nature-Connection Retreat
Yes, this is self-promoting, but it’s also because I am a huge believer in this method. With our busy schedules, it is so rare we have extended time to truly disconnect from the constant stimulus and reconnect with the quiet, with ourselves, with Mother Earth. The amount of reconnection , transformation and reset you experience at a retreat is truly incredible. You can check out my nature-connection retreats here.
Take your regular tasks outside
Love yoga? Why not do it outside in your backyard, on your patio, in a park, beach, forest? Taking a class? Take your textbooks to a grassy spot or beside the river, lake or ocean. Have a daily morning routine? How can you include something outdoors in it? We have even brought all of our dinner ingredients on the back porch to prepare outside – such a fun way to make dinner! As you go about your days - what do you regularly do, is there something you can do outside instead?
Prepare ahead of time
So much of what we don’t do is because we weren’t “ready” or prepared. There are ways to get ahead of this. Have a car? Throw some outdoor gear in the trunk – picnic blanket, umbrella, folding chair. This way, you are ready to go should you find some extra time while you are out and about. Work a desk job? Keep a pair of walking shoes under your desk for those times where you can take a 15 minute stroll outside. When preparing for your day or week how can you plan for outdoor time? Can you schedule it? What will you need? Getting into the habit of making nature part of your regular schedule.
Connect to your food
Along with our busy lives, we are often eating our meals while doing four other tasks. One way to improve your nature connection is to bring mindfulness into your daily ritual of mealtime. When preparing your food, observe the plants and ingredients. Awaken your senses by feeling what the plants texture is. Can you imagine where your food came from? Where it sprouted? What it went through in the growing process? Intuitively, what do you think that plant heals within your body? When eating your food, can you take some time to simply connect to your food as you eat it? Really taste it. Embody gratitude for the nourishment it provides you.
What do you think?! Lots of options to help reconnect us back to nature. Do you have other ways that you like to connect with nature? Comment below – would love to hear.