Have you been outside today?
How about yesterday? The past week? The past month?
How long were you out there? Did you stop for a couple precious moments, before rushing back inside or into your car, escaping from the wintry air? Or did you take a long walk, moving past the cold and soaking yourself in the silence and birdsong?
‘Nature-Deficit Disorder’ is a term that was first popularized in the book Last Child in the Woods, which focused on the negative effects of children not spending any time in nature and too much time in front of screens. More recently, the same author wrote The Nature Principle, which focused on adults who have nature-deficit disorder, and how to create a balance between technology and nature.
It’s an unfortunate truth that most of us do, in fact, have NDD. Don’t believe me? Keep a notebook for a month and write down every single time you are inside, and for how long every day. Then, write down how much time you spend outside on a daily basis. For most children, young adults, and adults in today’s technology-focused society, nature is a nice thing to think about or spend time within in the summer once in a while, but it’s not an active and integral part of our lifestyle.
What this means, for those of us who practice a nature-based spirituality like many of those that fall under the label of “Paganism,” is that we, more than ever, must learn to practice what we preach. As I read through The Nature Principle, I looked back on the nearly-over month of January 2013, and I tried to remember all the times I had spent more than a few minutes in nature. I was horrified to realize that my nature excursions were limited to a select few days, spread out over the past 26 days – two days where I was forced to walk to and from town because my car was at the shop, one day for an hour-chunk in which I took some kids I was babysitting for a walk per request of the mother, and lastly, just two days ago when it was unusually warm for an Alaskan January (35 degrees Fahrenheit – it was like a spring day!) and I spent a few hours on the beach with a friend, taking photos.
I pride myself on the fact that I follow an earth-based path, and it’s what motivates me to try my best – as money allows – to eat all-organic and local, as well as to do what I can to lower my energy consumption. However, if I have nature-deficit disorder, as many people my age do, do I really practice what I preach, and am I really as connected with the earth and its patterns as I like to think I am?
Well, the answer is no, of course. Although the left side of my brain is scrambling to rationalize my relatively few nature excursions – it’s Alaska in January, it’s effin’ cold out there! Just a week ago, a guy was lost for three days in the wilderness and almost died! - the right side of my brain is recognizing that my spirituality and life would be all the more richer if I spent more time in nature each day. I know, at my core, that nature is healing, and if ever I feel within myself an imbalance, if my emotions are out of whack and I feel out of place, sad, angry, or uninspired, a simple walk in the forest or on the beach for an hour will give me more rejuvenation that a pint of ice cream and a movie will ever do. Yes, it’s cold outside (today, it’s six degrees Fahrenheit out, not including wind chill, which lowers it to about zero degrees Fahrenheit), but that’s what clothing layers, jackets, hats, mittens, and fleece-lined leggings are for.
If I believe, in my spirituality, that the earth is Divine, and that we are part of the Earth, does that not mean that I should be out there communing with it? That I should be out there connecting with it? More than that – if I want to create the life I truly wish to live, that is, one of peace and joy and creativity every day, then spending time in nature is the ingredient that I haven’t yet taken a hold of yet. I keep searching for the missing link to happiness, and it’s been in front of me all along – nature is the key, and I have no excuse to not take it and put it in that lock.
Ways to Incorporate More Nature into My Life
- Take a at least ten-to-twenty-minute walk each day
- Make the walk fun by incorporating a creative or spiritual goal into it, like walking meditation or collecting natural items for art
- Walk with a like-minded friend
- Take art into nature – paint or draw or photograph in a natural setting
- Practice my spirituality in nature – for example, circles in the woods or balefires on the beach
- Plant a garden (this will have to wait until I move to Maui in April, of course)
- Recycle and compost