- What is Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD)?
- What are positive and negative ions and why should we care?
- Why do we need to get our nature fix on?
- Do we spend enough time in nature?
- Do our children spend enough time exploring the natural environment?
- Does it really matter?
- FREE National Parks Passes for the chronically ill and disabled
Positive and Negative Ions and NDD
Negative ions have a positive effect.
Negative ions are invisible, odorless, tasteless, molecules that we inhale in abundance in certain environments: mountains, waterfalls, bodies of water, and beaches. Once they reach the bloodstream, negative ions produce biochemical reactions that increase serotonin, alleviating depression and stress. They stabilize blood pressure, balance alkalinity, strengthen bones, accelerate physical recovery. They boost mood and energy and overall wellbeing. They clean and purify the air.
Positive ions have a negative effect. Positive ions have an adverse affect on physical and mental health. They are linked to an increase in allergies, infections, lethargy, depression, anxiety, suicide, and more. Positive ions are concentrated indoors. Electromagnetic fields, fluorescent lights, and air pollution all increase the number of positive ions in an environment. Your first defense is to open the doors and windows to fresh air!
It is in our best interest to increase our exposure to negative ions. Negative ions are abundant in nature with the highest concentrations near moving water and old growth forests. Notice how you feel when you’re near a waterfall, at the beach, in a forest or a lush garden. Breathe in that fresh-clean-negative-ion-air and you feel alive, vibrant, energized yet refreshingly calm.
Nature Deficit Disorder
A recent study shows that children now spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes a day, or about 53 hours a week using media, such as cell phones, video games, TV, and computers. All of which produce harmful positive ions. Studies have shown that this nature disconnect contributes to reduced academic achievement, lack of self-confidence, and many other social, emotional, intellectual and physical problems, which author and co-chair of The National Forum on Children and Nature, Richard Louv, coined as, “Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD)”
Today many people of all ages suffer from NDD, which produces a reduced awareness and a diminished ability to find meaning in life.
Children no longer have the great opportunities to play freely in nature, exploring the natural environment and soaking up the beneficial negative ions. Their time is structured, their lives more protected due to stranger danger and other factors. And schools are increasingly cutting back on recess and field trips.
I grew up in cities with parents who took me to Yosemite several times a year, in every season, as well as other wilderness adventures. We camped in the snow! My first camping trip was at six weeks old in Yosemite in November! Boating, fishing and time on the water were also a big part of my childhood. We also had a creek behind our house that all the neighborhood kids spent hours upon hours exploring throughout our childhoods. I can catch a crawdad with my bare hands like a boss! Alaska was even a part of my childhood!
Time on the water is therapeutic for me. It’s my “natural habitat!” A day on the lake, river, or ocean, for me, is as rejuvenating as a week-long vacation. I have a chronic illness and time on the water and the effects of the negative ions always improves my health.
Anytime spent in nature is cathartic.
My children were born in the outskirts of California’s Bay Area and we did a lot of camping and boating and spent as much time in nature as possible, including road trips to the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and of course trips to Yosemite! We spent a lot of time on the California Delta! And yes, we also went to Disneyland and Six Flags!
When we started having issues with our neighbors and their adverse effects from over population, positive ion overload, and Nature Deficit Disorder: hostility, gang violence, depression, bad manners, rudeness, lack of respect, a general disconnect – we decided to pack up our boys and move them to as close to a modern day “Mayberry RFD” as possible. We wanted to live where we could have free-range children. About two hundred miles north we found it! They grew up in an oak grove with a creek and pond in the neighborhood and wild animals that live all around us! Incredibly starry nights and fresh air. Lots of adventure! Nature all around us.
One of our sons couldn’t wait to blow this pop stand and head to the big city and so he did! And now he craves time in nature. He comes home often to spend time in nature to unwind, renew, and replenish. His goal is to live in nature again.
Another lives on the beach, another lives in Yosemite – both getting their quota of nature and negative ions on a daily basis. One has returned to his country hometown after college and a stint in San Francisco. While living in the city, he often came home to the country to get his dose of nature. And the oldest calls Tahoe home where she lives in nature!
Friends from the Bay Area came up and went camping with us just up the road and they were stressed-out-basket-cases when they arrived, due to NDD. After some time in nature, they relaxed and found joy and it was a huge confirmation for me that our decision to leave city life for country life was a good decision.
But not everyone can do that due to their careers or desires or other factors. If you can’t or don’t want to leave the city life, make an effort to be in nature often. Your soul needs it. The human psyche needs it. (Encourage your neighbors to as well.)
Studies show that there are important positive correlations between human health, intelligence and nature. Research reveals that children are healthier, happier, perhaps even more intelligent and creative when they have a connection to nature.
Nature has positive effects on children with asthma, obesity, and attention deficit disorder – NDD plays a role in ADD/ADHD.
When nature is incorporated into the workplace design, the result is increased productivity, job morale, creativity – and improved health – among employees at every level.
Hospital patients with a view of nature from their window heal faster and experience reduced durations in the hospital! The benefits are increased when the window can be opened or the patient is allowed to go outside.
I’ve been hospitalized in many hospitals and the view makes a difference but Cleveland Clinic encourages their patients to go outside and provides gardens and fountains for their patients to enjoy! It’s wonderful! Makes a huge difference in healing time!
E.O. Wilson, the renowned biologist, believes that we are hard-wired with an innate affinity for nature, a hypothesis he calls biophilia. And research shows that if children do not have the opportunity to explore nature and develop that biophilia during their early years, then tragically, biophobia, an aversion to nature, is a risk factor. Biophobia can range from a fear of being in nature, to an intolerance and disrespect for what is not man-made and managed, to an attitude that nature is nothing more than a disposable resource.
In order to protect the environment and biodiversity, as well as the human psyche, creating opportunities to reconnect with nature is essential for people of all ages.
We need to spend more time unplugged and find ways to let nature balance our lives.
We need to increase our exposure to negative ions.
Pursuing even small opportunities for nature everyday, whether in the country, city, home, in the work place, schools, and neighborhoods – is vital.
Plant native species in your yard and leave part of it wild. Take kids fishing, hiking, camping, wading, nature walks – in all kinds of weather. Build or buy a bird feeder, go bird watching, walk in the park, ride a bike, set up a community garden, have picnics, exercise outdoors!
I would encourage every high school graduate to spend the summer between high school and college working and living in a Nat’l Park! Or any summer during college. Or anyone who’s trying to find themselves or anyone who just needs a summer job. Or longer than summer! My son went for the summer and decided to stay! You can decide from one season to the next! Apply now! Seriously. Just do it.
“By tapping into the restorative powers of nature, we can promote mental and physical health and wellness; build smarter and more sustainable businesses, communities, and economies; and ultimately strengthen human bonds.” – Richard Louv
In the US, our National Parks offer several free park entry dates every year, dates for the remainder of 2017 are as follows:
- April 22-23: Second Weekend of National Park Week
- August 25: National Park Service Birthday
- September 30: National Public Lands Day
- November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend
Or buy a NPS Pass and go a lot! For pass info, go here.
AND the U.S. National Parks provide FREE Lifetime Passes to the chronically ill and disabled community! Your whole family gets in for free when they are with you! Other discounts as well! Go here for details.
Explore our Nat’l Parks and other wild places ♥️
Photo Credits: Erica Sheppard, Justin Olsen, Dillon Olsen, Brady Olsen, Kylee McAuliffe, C.C. Olsen
Columbia University, Sonoma State University, Allene Edwards, managing editor of Organic Lifestyle Magazine. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, The Nature Principle, and Vitamin N (for nature), and co-founder of the Children & Nature Network. WebMD, E.O. Wilson