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  • Writer's pictureTracey L. Kelley

Curbing the Nature Deficit

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

Won't even pretend: I'm not a fan of snow or cold. Never have been, even as a kid in Southern Michigan when some of the best sledding hills in all the land were right behind my house.

Sure, I'd go out and have a good time, but still pined for a cup of hot chocolate and a good book while curled up on the hearth of the big stone fireplace in our family's farmhouse. As a winter-born baby, you'd think it would be just the opposite--that frolicking in frigid temps would seem like my natural habitat. But each February, I fly as far south as I can to change my attitude and latitude, even for a few days. (In fact, through the magic of the interwebs and scheduled posting, I'm actually on a cruise right now to Honduras and Belize. Ahhhhhhh....) After living in the South and the Deep South for a lot of my adult life, I learned when I moved back to the Midwest that winter isn't my jam. At all.

Sure, that first sparkling snow that quiets the earth is magical. And then it's just gray, brown, sleet, and ice that sucks color from the sky and keeps me from wearing sandals.

Nevertheless, even during Mother Nature's cold slap to Iowa each December through April, I try to get outside each day for a few minutes--and not just walking to and from my car. This is because modern society is suffering from a nature deficit--so much so, it actually has become a disorder. We simply don't spend enough time in the natural world like we used to.

And we need to. Not going outside decreases vitamin D (which is hard enough to supplement in winter anyway), and increases attention problems and desensitization. Being cooped up inside all the time also promotes exposure to airborne pollutants, which means we're more likely to catch the latest virus going around. The good news is researchers say as little as five minutes outside each day provides positive benefits, including:

1) Enhanced calm--which we all love 2) Improved focus--and less "screen neck" and eye strain! 3) Reduced pain--the attraction to natural environments helps ease our nervous systems 4) Decreased depression--being outdoors heightens activity in the prefrontal cortex, which helps stimulate more positive thoughts 5) Heightened sense of wonder--forming a connection with the greater natural world is awe-inspiring

There are other benefits, too. One of the ways I make myself go outside for a few minutes each day--no matter how icky it seems--is to fill bird feeders and water baths. I like watching the little creatures and it adds to my happiness to provide for them. If you're not a winter person either, think about what you can do for a bit that helps you step away from the screen and see, feel, and sense the natural world. Walk the dog a little longer. Pick up sticks in the driveway. Look at the changes of backyard plants in their dormancy. Even bundle up for a nice hike or sledding event!

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