Do any of you have any personal anecdotes, or from your children of Nature Deficit Disorder? Any positive changes by being outdoors more often? Any negative changes by moving, ...
Luckily we have a great forest less then a kilometer away. Great for our family. We go for walks with the 3 and 1,5 year old. We walk, play and do movnat! I can only attest for positive changes!!
absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt. Mood, Energy, both tied directly to exposure to outdoors.
I used to play in the woods constantly as a kid. Nothing but fond memories. Now I get teased for being the Kid when we go outside, hanging from trees etc.
My degree is in outdoor recreation. I've worked as a adventure instructor and backcountry guide for several years and will be headed overseas shortly to an awesome outdoor job. When I have to leave an awesome outdoor seasonal job to go back (temporarily) to an indoor retail job, I am literally miserable. I cry on the way home. I get anxious, nervous and never feel balanced or happy. I get depressed and gain weight. When I'm out there, I have little self doubt and feel strong and empowered. I feel connected to what is actually real, to life.
Most of my best earliest memories are outdoors. My parents were constantly taking me outside as a very young child. I learned to swim and climb trees really early and our vacations were always to national/state parks, all the way through high school. They really planted and then nurtured a love of the outdoors and also a stewardship of it. From the beginning I was very emotionally connected to nature (I cried when big old maple and oak trees were cut down in my neighborhood) and was a very opinionated conservationist as a teenager.
I believe there are two variables that account for the positive changes I see in the children I lead in the backcountry. First, the wilderness is usually beautiful and 100% authentic. Everything is real. Nature won't lie to you. Nature forces humans to move with it's cycles - we feel less in control but also more involved with this flow of energies (tides, seasons etc) We cannot change the forces around us, but we can change how we react to, and interact with, them.
The second variable is experiential learning. Experiential learning is learning through or from an experience. Experiential learning means putting people just outside of their comfort zone. It is here we grow as individuals. We learn to solve our own problems, endure discomfort, help others solve their problems, work as a group, lead others and follow others. All very important to being a successful and content human in society.
Play is also HUGE. I think its really important for kids to get to build forts and play pretend. Its even better done outside. My best memories are of building secret hideaways in the woods behind my house as a kid.
One great thing about my field is that even "inside" work is often taken outside. People I work with will often hold meetings, brainstorming sessions or planning time outdoors. Sometimes work needs to be done, but its such a beautiful day outside! Even though we've gotta get work done, at least we don't feel like we've entirely missed out on the pretty day. I've written lesson plans while sitting on a beach looking at the Indian Ocean! I think this is helpful to get a little extra vitamin D and also a little more time outdoors. Don't limit your family's time outside to just leisure or recreation. The sky above gives you "room to think" so to speak. The nice thing about doing say homework in the back yard is that it breaks that conventional connection. Homework is done at a desk, fitness in a gym, cooking in a kitchen etc.
Here are some resources: the association for experiential education on what experiential learning is: http://www.aee.org/about/whatIsEE
a list of accredited aae camps if you ever want to send your kids to outdoor adventure camp: http://www.aee.org/accreditation/programs (I used to work at High Rocks, on the list, all boys though. GREAT CAMP!!)
hey! i actually have a good friend who works with children and nature network! she gave up a career as an attorney in vermont to work with them. they are a great org.
we are lucky to live in a pretty rural area with a ton of protected land around us, both forested and coastal. i ALWAYS feel like im not taking as much advantage of it as i should, no matter what. its a little tough now because of the age of our kids (1 and 3) and the weather (FREEZING) but we still try and get them out every day, even if its just for a few minutes. in summer we are out there dawn to dusk. one thing i LOVE to do with my three year old is to go on "hazel led hikes" where i follow her- we go at her pace, look at things she wants to look at, and call it quits only when she gives the word. its incredible for us both. its a test of patience for me that always pays off, and for her she can just explore and be in charge for once. youre going to laugh, but she actually sits on the potty and reads an "animal tracking" book with pictures of tracks and scat from appalachian mountain club. the preschool that we are sending her to takes kids out every day, no matter what the weather, and is a nature/science/arts based non-academic curriculum. they do incredible stuff.
when i was in practice (im a psychotherapist, but now stay home with the kiddos) i tried to incorporate some ecopsychology into my work with clients. i wouldnt say that it was always successful, but it was always interesting and fun.
Absolutely. Im a firm believer of this.
I'm trying to find another cool MDA article that, if I remember correctly, associated spending time in parks, nature in general, provided a great deal of health and mental benefits. It discussed in Japan (I think) that the gov't supported this idea so much that the either opened up parks or paid people to go camping and spend time in nature. I could be off on the details, as I read it a long time ago. I'm actively looking for it and will update my answer when I find it. Anyone else remember this article?
I will also say, I never feel better than after some quality "me" time either from getting some Vitamin D at the park, going for a hike, on a nice walk around the neighborhood. In fact, I just sat down to play on PaleoHacks after a nice 45 minute walk (taking full advantage of my day off). Gorgeous out here in San Diego.
While I certainly agree that time spent out in nature is far superior to time spent indoors, I'm still of the opinion that most of the psychological diseases of civilization are the result of chronic nutritional deficiencies.
If I stay inside for too long, I become very agitated and unhappy. Getting outside and moving around is crucial to my well-being. I played outside all of the time as a child.
The problem I see now with children, in general, is they don't get outside enough. I have two daughters, one in grammar school and another approaching 1 year of age. My oldest is happiest when she gets time outside each day.