Occasionally you hear a phrase that just resonates! For me “Nature Deficit Disorder” sums up in 3 words a key issue we face in our 24/7 wired, digital age. An article in today’s New York Times discusses America’s fight with obesity, states that surgery and diets may not be the answer, and suggests that “there is an obvious solution — just outside the window.”

East Ridge Trail, Redwood Park
East Ridge Trail, Redwood Park

Of course, getting outside and into nature does more than exercise the body. It takes us out of our digital environment, away from the stress of work, school and society, and helps us relax and unwind. When I feel abnormally stressed, there is a particular trail I like to hike in nearby Redwood Regional Park. As I walk beneath the redwoods that tower above Stream Trail, I can’t help but feel that my troubles are pretty insignificant. I reflect on how long those redwoods have been growing along the banks of the stream, and how long they will be there after I am gone. As I breathe in the clean air and hear only the murmur of water tumbling along the streambed, my stress just evaporates. For me, this helps provide the balance I need to offset the stress of my wired world.

Stream Trail, Redwood Park
Stream Trail, Redwood Park

Even though I had no words to describe it at that time, I first discovered the therapeutic effects of nature as a young boy exploring the woods and fields of my native Ireland. Writer Timothy Egan credits Richard Louv with coining the phrase “Nature Deficit Disorder” in his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods. According to Egan, Louv finds that “Kids who do play outside are less likely to get sick, to be stressed or become aggressive, and are more adaptable to life’s unpredictable turns”. That certainly makes sense to me!

Hiking along Stream Trail, Redwood Park
Hiking along Stream Trail, Redwood Park

I’ve added Last Child in the Woods to my ‘need to read’ list. But before I check to see if I can find a Kindle edition, I just need to grab the kids, turn off the smartphones and laptops, and head for Stream Trail!

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