Connection with nature
The Collective Journey’s first guiding principle of mentorship is connection.
“We are all connected. What we do to another, we do to ourselves.”
Humans, like most sentient beings, are wired for connection. We need connection not only to survive, our mental and physical wellness depends on it.
If we need connection so deeply, why do we become disconnected so easily?
We will consider three levels of connection to explore this further:
Starting with our connection to self is logical. So in this series, we will start with nature!
Sometimes you need to see the bigger picture to understand the details within.
N A T U R E
The phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations.
Why is our connection to nature so fundamental to our collective wellness?
Research suggests there are positive correlations between human health, intelligence and nature. Children and adolescents are healthier, happier, and more creative when they have a connection to nature. Adults are more productive when nature is incorporated into their work space design, and hospital patients heal faster when they have a view of nature from their window. Quite simply, being in nature relieves stress and improves our mental and physical health.
Richard Louv, co-founder and chairman of the Children & Nature Network and author of Last Child in the Woods, The Nature Principle, and, Vitamin N: 500 Ways to Enrich the Health & Happiness of Your Family & Community, has raised awareness of the importance of nature for children, what they miss by spending so much time disconnected from the outdoors, and the emergence of a “Natural Deficit Disorder”. This disorder presents through diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses, a rising rate of myopia (short-sightedness), obesity, and Vitamin D deficiency.
Alarming right? More on this another time.
In the absence of this personal connection to nature, there are also consequences more broadly for the environment.
Researchers at Cornell University found that, when children are exposed to nature before the age of 11, they become adults who care more about the environment than those who did not spend time in nature. This caring translates into more pro-environmental behavior and decision making in adult leaders and mentors. Imagine if all the resources spent on public education around the “why” of waste management, forest preservation, or renewable energy was invested in the actual projects or infrastructure? When we have a connection to nature, we already understand the “why” and often the “how” and the “when”. It is integrated into our way of being.
As parents and mentors, we can choose to prepare children and adolescents for life, rather than protect them from it. The growing emphasis on structure and our developing fear of stranger danger, germs, insect borne diseases and permanent stains on designer label clothing can limit opportunities to raise children with an awareness of and connection to nature, and a love of exploring the world they live in.
Shifting our perspective that nature is “out there” can be an easy first step in overcoming the perceived challenges of immersing ourselves in nature between day-to-day commitments. Revisit the definition of nature above. Maybe you don’t have time for a hike or access to a beach. How about setting up an indoor herb garden in your apartment? Or visiting a playground on the next block with ants and bugs to observe instead of an hour on a screen indoors? Scheduling your next meeting as an outdoor walk and talk? What about an extra five minutes on the walk home from school to climb that tree or wall?
How will you shift your connection with nature this week?