April showers finally arrived and I’m looking forward to the May flowers it brings. I read a recent article about Nature Deficit Disorder that really spoke to me and I’d like to share a few of the highlights. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “Children today are not spending time as much time outside as previous generations. This reduced time outdoors has negative implications for children's mental, physical, and emotional health, and for their success in school. It also has implications for their desire to protect the environment.” They go on to explain how Nature Deficit Disorder can diminish the use of our senses, attribute to attention difficulties, higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses, and child and adult obesity.
I’m guessing that many of us spend the majority of our days inside. Whether it’s in front of a computer, a classroom or tending patients we may only see the sunlight through a passing window. Then after work we rush to errands, to children’s events and when we arrive home it’s off to household chores and getting ready to start another day. This gives me pause to think children aren’t the only ones suffering from lack of time in nature. The fact that we are not getting outdoors like we should could result in issues such as obesity, hypertension, depression, shortened life span and even a fear of the outdoors.
The outdoors can be a simple journey; it doesn’t have to be to a state park or distance destination. Here are a few ideas that come to my mind and as you read through them have a family discussion about where your next time can be spent.
· Take a walk in your yard or in your neighborhood and pick up sticks. Maybe help out neighbors that need some extra help. Don’t forget, you can just play a game of ball or blow bubbles with the kids too.
· Plan how to do some simple flower, herb or vegetable container gardens. These can provide both pleasure and product without the extensive work of a regular garden or large flowerbeds. Whichever you choose, just working in the dirt and having time outside is great exercise and stress relieving.
· Take time to explore parks or trails in your community. OARDC has some beautiful trails that label many flowers and trees so it can be a learning experience also. There are many community parks that offer trees, streams, trails and tables for a picnic, to enjoy as well.
· Create a birdbath in your backyard to attract birds for your enjoyment. Check out a book from the library to identify how many different ones you see.
· Allow time to just sit and enjoy the clouds, smell the fresh spring air or freshly cut lawn, see the bight colored flowers, or hear the sounds of spring at dusk. This is truly therapeutic and it’s free!
· For those in the farming community, being in the fields can be long hours. Look for the nature’s signs around you that might offer appreciation for your work. Practice an attitude of gratitude with each pass.
Stress has become such a part of our life that many have “just learned to live with it”. Getting outside has been shown to reduce stress and slow our heart rates so that we can enjoy the moment. Use dinner time tonight to talk about how we are going to enjoy being outside the rest of the week or the weekend.
Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.