The lost art of spending time outside

Danielle Zukowski

With the increase in production of technology, healthy interaction with the environment has fizzled. Human influence on nature has shifted more and more toward the long lasting effects of pollution and the draining of natural beauty.

Society has unfortunately evolved into a sedentary lifestyle. Kids prefer television and their cell phones over adventures in the woods or walks in the park. This has caused a disconnect from the environment which is very specific to this generation.

In the past, kids that wasted away life indoors were considered abnormal, but it has now become typical. Significantly less time is spent interacting with nature, to the effect that it has become a foreign idea. Modern parents perceive nature as a threat, a danger that should be avoided. They fear the consequences of their kids being alone in unfamiliar territory. In this way, they are inhibiting children’s creative processes. Imaginative play time is a glimmer in youth that shouldn’t be blackened. The mind of a child needs to be nourished.

Restricting natural exploration interferes not only with juvenile’s social abilities, but also extends to their concentration capacities in educational atmospheres. This is why recess or recreational break time is such a cherished part of elementary school. That precious time slot between math and history, or whichever subjects, allows kids an opportunity to release excess energy and aggression. It provides a break, a breather. It’s an escape for a moment. Attention can then be focused. It’s a process of fulfillment to increase learning retention. Environmental release may be an essential part of development.

Nature deficit disorder is an unofficial term used by author Richard Louv to explain the behavioral problems associated with decreased activity in nature. The author has written multiple books on the subject including Last Child in the Woods. He proposes ways to encourage outdoor play time and alleviate some issues with social and educational relations. The book also notes an increase in diagnosis of attention deficit disorder and considers an environmental correlation.

Solutions to disorders such as this are evidently more complex than simply spending more time in nature, but outdoor activities are known to be very beneficial to health. Solidarity with the environment should be incorporated into our daily routine to reduce stress, increase attention span and improve social interaction.