Be Happy, Feel Beautiful
In today’s day and age, electronics seem to be the ever-present, ever-advancing forces that navigate us through life. While technology and urban centers are, in a way, the reflection of Man’s ability and mind, they can put our innate skills to sleep by allowing us to use technology as a crutch: our lives have become increasingly dependent on technology and less integrated with nature and our natural abilities.
That isn’t to say that technology is the arch-enemy of nature. On the contrary, journalist and author Richard Louv wrote in one of his blogs, “technology is an entry tool to nature”. Thanks to man-made products like the compass, tent, microscope, binoculars, camera and more, we are able to appreciate nature, record it, and live in it. So where does one draw the line?
According to Louv’s observations, human capacities and senses are enhanced through the power of nature. Louv’s The Nature Principle discusses how the “restorative powers of the natural world can boost mental acuity and creativity; promote health and wellness.” The basic idea is that by connecting with nature, we are connecting with and developing our natural senses—our raw humanity—which results in a feeling of wholeness and fulfillment.
In his book Last Child in the Woods, Louv coined the term Nature-Deficit Disorder. Originally NDD was used to describe children’s growing gap from nature: for example, some children may choose to stay indoors and play video games instead of going outside and activating their innate senses. In The Nature Principle, Louv expands the concept of NDD to include adults as well.
In his article “Get Your Mind Dirty” for Outside Magazine, Louv wrote:
“While the study of the relationship between mental acuity, creativity, and time spent outdoors is still a frontier for science, new data suggests that exposure to the living world can even enhance intelligence. At least two factors are involved: first, our senses and sensibilities can be improved by spending time in nature; second, the natural environment seems to stimulate our ability to pay attention, think clearly, and be more creative.”
The Toronto Star reported that, for some patients suffering from stress or depression, Dr. Conrad Sichler suggested a walk through the woods as a “prescription”. Sichler claimed that the great outdoors were an outlet for patients to escape their daily and often chaotic responsibilities: he viewed time outside as a way for patients to get “in touch with a sense of beauty and reverence that can enhance their mental and emotional health.”
But beyond the emotional benefits of nature, there are undeniable physical perks as well:
Sea Breeze: Next time you’re by the ocean, try to pay attention to your breathing. Inhaling salty air or steam actually reduces irritation, stimulates secretion, and cleanses cells in the respiratory system. So next time you’re by the sea, breathe deep!
Sun Kisses: The sun promotes vitamin D synthesis in the skin. This means that just by being in the sunlight, you’re soaking up some vitamin D, an essential nutrient which allows for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus.
“Green Exercise”: Now that it’s summer, skip the treadmill and jog outdoors. Not only does the spontaneous terrain offer a challenge, but the atmosphere does wonders for the mind. Jules Pretty and Jo Barton released a study in Environmental Science & Technology that focused on “green exercise”—physical activity carried out in nature. It was observed that five minutes of exercise outdoors benefits mental health by decreasing the risk of mental illness.
Are we ourselves a biological reflection of the enormous concept of nature, and if so, is it healthy to separate ourselves from that which we were formed? Is it in our physical well-being’s best interest to be surrounded with electronics and man-made structures? These questions are open-ended, and answers remain at the mercy of Time as we observe the emotional, cognitive, and physical effects of this technologically-savvy era on the human being.