Stop Making Excuses

In Caledon, Ontario, Peace Ranch operates as a “therapeutic farm”–a community mental-health agency where residents learn to manage their schizophrenia by participating in horticulture, animal husbandry, equestrianism, fitness, art and music programs. A study by the University of Illinois supports the importance of nature in helping mentally ill patients, and shows that taking a walk outside is equal to or more effective than medication in aiding children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder to concentrate.

Talk Is Cheap

Much of this momentum can be attributed to author Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. In this book, Louv coins the term “nature deficit,” and links it to rises in obesity, attention disorders and depression. His book inspired the creation of the Children and Nature Network (C&NN), which “encourages and supports the people and organizations working to reconnect children with nature.”

As momentum continues to build and our lifestyles continue to shift to a balance between technology and nature, I urge each one of you to do your part to get outside. You’ll be happier and healthier for it, and might just inspire those around you to do the same. I suffer from the same malady that so many of us do–it’s easier to talk the talk (or in my case, write the talk) than it is to walk the walk.

I sit here, in front of a screen, earnestly researching and writing about the need for all of us to fling open the door and run for the nearest mountain. And yet, by the time I am finished writing, it will be dark outside, the temperature will be below zero, and the last thing I will want to do is strap on my skis. The couch, a bowl of soup and the latest episode of The Office are calling my name. Will I give in to the siren song of mindless relaxation? No, not tonight! Tonight I will silently glide through the forest with the moon above and a chill on my cheeks. The couch and the soup will wait. The Office is being recorded. And someday, when I have children of my own, I’ll take them to the trails and begin a lifetime of appreciation of nature’s greatest gift to us all–itself.

For more information, the C&NN Web site, www.childrenandnatures.org, offers a wealth of research, relevant news and practical advice.

Gretchen Wieman is a Marketing Coordinator for USKH Inc. A lifelong Alaskan, she lives, works, and plays in Anchorage. Her high school graduation gift from her father was a pack filled with a tent, a sleeping bag and a stove. He told her that now she could go anywhere. Thanks, Dad.

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