By Jon Spayde, Experience Life
You know that immersing yourself in the natural world can refresh your spirits and lower your stress level. But your demanding job keeps you chained to a computer, and after work there’s a houseful of family responsibilities. You rarely seem to take that nature walk, or spend that leisurely “green hour” so widely recommended for kids and adults alike (learn more at www.greenhour.org).
Retired University of Minnesota psychologist Martha Farrell Erickson, PhD, who serves on the board of the Children and Nature Network, is dedicated to overcoming what founder Richard Louv calls our “nature-deficit disorder.” Erickson’s convinced that even today’s screen-bound, overworked adults can find green time if they’re willing to try a few simple measures.
Too little nature time
The feeling that you’d like to get outside more, for pleasure and health, but can’t seem to make it happen.
Barriers to Overcome
Worries about time, connectivity and productivity. Tech-driven anxiety can keep us indoors, says Erickson. “If we don’t return an email in a couple of hours, we worry that people will think we’re slackers or we’ve fallen off the edge of the earth.”
Cyber-amnesia. Many of us have no idea how much time we’re spending in front of screens, especially in our leisure hours. We lose track of time, so we lose time we could have spent outdoors.
Outdoor anxiety. “A lot of people are afraid to let their kids go outside, because of ‘stranger danger,’” says Erickson, “but many younger adults who have grown up indoors aren’t comfortable outside, either.”
Weather worries. If you wait for a perfect day to go outside, you’ll get precious little nature time. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate clothing,” says Erickson.
How to Cope
Make nature time part of the workday. Erickson suggests scheduling time to be in nature as a regular part of your routine, and treating it like any other recurring appointment. “Let your friends and associates know ahead of time that you will be away from your desk at a certain time of the day,” she advises. “Set up an auto-reply on your email and a message on your phone answering machine that lets people know when you will be reachable again.”
Try “tamed” nature. If you’re apprehensive about the outdoors, remember that you don’t need to plunge into a trackless forest or buy a lot of fancy protective gear to enjoy nature. “A short walk in a formal park or on a carefully maintained nature trail gives you what you need: access to living, growing things,” says Erickson.
Enjoy a nature “snack.” An outdoor jaunt doesn’t need to be long to be renewing. Even a few moments tending a front-porch container garden can help you feel refreshed and recentered. (For more on this topic, see “The Kitchen Garden.”)
Grab nature time when you’re on the road. Erickson keeps a canvas folding chair in her car and settles into it for 15-minute outdoor breaks when she finds herself near parks or other green spaces.
Get a group together. Erickson takes daily walks with a group of friends around the lake near her Minneapolis home. Being part of a group makes keeping up the outdoor habit — or any new habit — easier, she says.