Nature, Creativity and Health

I have been reading a fascinating book titled The Nature Principle: Reconnecting to Life in a Virtual Age by Richard Louv. In his book Last Child in the Woods he coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder about the negative impact that spending less and less time in nature has on children. In this more recent book Louv tells the story of how after a lecture on the impact of nature deficit on the young, a woman came up, grabbed the labels of his suit jacket and exclaimed, “adults suffer from Nature Deficit Disorder too you know.” So Louv wrote this book to address that concern.

Beyond a discussion of the negative impacts, Louv elaborates on the many benefits that spending time in nature brings including improved physical and mental health, enhance creativity and a greater sense of connection and belonging. He highlights actual medical research on the value of time in nature for patients suffering from conditions such as Alzheimer’s, depression and stress. Some mainstream medical doctors have begun prescribing Vitamin N (time in nature). Agencies like the National Park Service, in their urban parks, have set up prescription trails to support people in spending this healing time outdoors. Nature therapy is a growing field.

Having grown up camping all over the American West, nature got into my blood and has been a lifelong love. I attribute my connection to nature with helping me to age gracefully and maintain a youthful body and spirit. Other people I know who have a strong bond to nature and spend a lot of time outdoors are also blessed with good health and a greater aliveness. I am grateful for the deep sense of connection and kinship I feel with the Earth and her other than human inhabitants. I started looking at birds when I was 16 and their beautiful presence and song fills my life wherever I go.

I have found, too, in my own work as a writing teacher and life and creativity coach that in the workshops and retreats I offer in nature that people have more profound insights and shifts than when we work solely indoors. People relax and open up more readily in peace and beauty of the natural world. The use of their senses as well as being more present in the moment expands, which is a key element in opening more fully to creative expression.

The Nature Principle is an inspiring, hopeful and empowering book. In it Louv invites us to consider balancing our relationship with technology with time unplugged in nature. He suggests that the more high tech we become the more nature we need. He also sees a new nature movement afoot that goes beyond environmentalism: One that’s “about maximizing the potential of nature to enhance our health, our minds, our societal vibrancy”.

It can start as simply as going outside finding a patch of grass and taking off your shoes. Feel the moist earth under your feet and relax into it. Go sit in a garden. Simply looking out the window at nature has been shown to help. Grow lettuce in a planter on your patio. Go for a walk in nature and see if you don’t feel some of the tension of daily life dropping away. And use your imagination. How can you connect to nature, how can you help her?

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