Vitamin N: A prescription for well-being
Have you ever heard of Nature Deficit Disorder? It’s not a medical diagnosis, but a term coined by researcher and author Richard Louv to describe the physical, emotional and spiritual effects related to the sharp decline in experiencing the outdoors. The condition is currently trending in America. The lure of electronics – known as videophilia – and restricted access to natural areas has contributed to this condition that affects both children and adults. The remedy: vitamin N (for nature), a simple daily dose of fresh air experiences.
Exploring the outdoors reduces stress, boosts attention spans and instills a respect for natural resources. Key to optimal results from vitamin N is the type of outdoor activity. Team sports don’t pack the beneficial punch that unstructured play does. The benefits of unregulated activity are so strong that some pediatricians are writing “park” prescriptions, patient referrals to local parks and trails, in an effort to address the unhealthy effects of inactivity.
For more information about park prescriptions and Nature Deficit Disorder, please visit our Vitamin N Resource Page.
Adults need nature, too. Ever wonder why your office is sprinkled with green plants? Is it because they reduce noise and help control the climate? Possibly.
However, the biggest effects plants have on the workplace are increased productivity and reduced stress. Yes, this tiny bit of nature improves our sense of well-being and raises our level of tolerance for things that irritate us. But don’t let office greenery be your only interaction with nature today. Take your lunch outdoors! Shake off the day’s stress with a twilight walk around the block or join an evening yoga session in the park instead of in the gym.
For ideas on where to find a dose of nature in your area, please visit our Vitamin N Resource Page.
Looking to make memories with your family this summer? You don’t have to visit Yellowstone National Park to be wowed by nature.
Iowa’s park system offers all kinds of amazing experiences. Indulge in a weekend soaking up the sun at Clear Lake, hiking along the Loess Hills, spelunking through the Maquoketa Caves, exploring the woodland at Effigy Mounds or touring the Mines of Spain. Iowa’s many forests, parks and recreation areas provide accessible, free or low-cost facilities and offer an invitation to relax, explore, and learn while strengthening your family and social bonds as well as your health.
For a full list of Iowa’s parks, please visit our Vitamin N Resource Page.
An education found in nature
Lewis Major, Naturalist, Polk County Conservation
As a naturalist for Polk County Conservation, I often hear from teachers and parents about how much their students benefit from being outdoors learning. Every once in a while it’s not just the students that are learning.
Recently I led a group of at-risk students with disciplinary and behavior issues on a day-long canoe trip, chaperoned by their school administrator. Part way down the river we stopped along a sandbar to talk about the geologic history of Iowa. We discussed how our rivers were formed and how we presently treat them. I encouraged the students to explore the area and bring back some items for discussion.
The students became fascinated with the assignment, looking for rocks, bones, mussel shells, etc. Before long they returned with their collection, eager to learn more about what they found. After reviewing each item, we returned to our canoes where the school administrator shared his astonishment.
“These are the kids that are usually in my office,” he said, “but out here they are actually focused and eager to learn.”
This experience reminds us that nature provides different types of learning opportunities for many different types of learners. It is without a doubt the ultimate classroom.