What is the Worst that Could Happen?
The outdoors gets a bad rap. We talk about the bad weather, the accidents that happen, the hardships of living off the land, and a lot more. What we forget to mention are all of the benefits of spending time in the natural world and all of the enjoyment that comes from disconnecting. There is so much information and new research out there that talks about the importance of a balance in your life. The average person today spends 35% of their waking hours in front of a television or a computer. That is equal to 4 hours and 20 minutes every day. Some of that time needs to be balanced because we are loosing our connection with the natural world. Historically, we are connected to nature as a species and we rely on it to survive. The problem is the convenience of technology has begun to pull us away from it all.
Most of the time spent in the outdoors today, we look past all of the flora and fauna around us. In the walk to our car, we are missing out on at least half of what we might be able to experience in the outdoors. This has become know as plant blindness, where we do not see or notice the natural things around us because of our misguided tendency to rank them as being inferior. This tendency is cause partially by how we perceive the world around us as well as our views as a society. Our communities as a whole put a dollar value on all of the land around us. We rank areas of land by how much money it is able to generate. An “empty space” or natural area does not bring in revenue for the community. This opens them up to businesses for development. Despite the fact that these areas may not have a large dollar value, they are greatly important to our health and well being. We are part of the natural world, but how can we “…protect something that we do not love, we cannot love something we do not know, and we cannot know something we do not see. Or hear. Or Sense.” (R. Louv, 2011).
I believe all of this can be summed up into a single sentence. As William Bruce Cameron (made famous by Albert Einstein) has stated so eloquently, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
There is great joy that can be found in experiencing something new. Time seems to slow and things are more memorable the first time. When we are in a new environment or are trying something for the first time, the neurons in the the brain fire at a faster rate. This makes us perceive time as moving more slowly and gives us more vivid memories. We are only around on this planet for such a brief amount of time. Why does it have to go by so quickly? If I can “cheat” a little extra time by trying something new, I am going to.
All of the benefits that I have talked about cannot be realized unless you go out and try spending some unstructured time in the outdoors. The worst thing that could happen. You could find something new and exciting. That is something worth sharing! And the best thing about activities in nature: They are free! All they require is a little creativity.
Here are a few reading materials for you for that time indoors:
- Rediscovering the Sacred Balance by David Suzuki
- Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
- The Nature Principle by Richard Louv
- Orion Magazine
- Why exercising outdoors is better than hitting the gym, The Globe and Mail
- The more high-tech schools become, the more they need nature, Child & Nature Network
This week’s idea: Go find a spot in nature, around your home, work, school, etc., that resonates with you. Make it a new place that you find relaxing or enjoyable (Be creative!) and spend some time there. Bundle up and dress for the weather. Finally, make sure that you have something comfortable waiting for you when you get back.