Nature deficit disorders (NDD) are common in today’s world, even if you live close to a park or in a suburb with green space and enjoy nature regularly. People are not breaking out from their digital distractions and life obligations often or regularly.
Not spending enough time in nature leads to a variety of mental health and physical well-being problems. A nature deficit disorder has been associated with higher rates of anxiety, chronic pain, diabetes, obesity, and many other conditions.
But how can you tell if you suffer from a nature deficit disorder? Besides taking my do you have a nature deficit disorder quiz, here’s 10 tell-tale signs you should spend more time in nature:
1) You haven’t been outside today
If you haven’t been outside at all today, that could be a sign of a nature deficit disorder. While walking from your car to work is better than no outdoor time at all, you should strive to spend at least 15 minutes a day outside (more if you want optimal levels of Vitamin D). Try to stay off your devices as they cause a diminished use of the sense, meaning you don’t take into account the natural environment as well.
2) You experience high levels of stress
If you constantly feel stressed, it could be a sign you’re not getting out into nature enough. Time in nature reduces stress directly in the brain. Exposure to nature decreases the blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls fear responses and is responsible for stress. Often, nature works better than other healthcare options to reduce stress!
Experiencing awe and wonder, common in nature, is another benefit of time outside. Wonder and awe lower your inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 levels and improve your immunity, which is naturally suppressed when you are chronically stressed.
3) You don’t have any sort of nature where you work, whether houseplants, a poster of nature, or a window
If you don’t have any signs of nature in your favorite or most frequented indoor spaces, you might have a nature deficit disorder.
The benefits of nature don’t have to exist outside the home and workplace. You can green the indoors to bring the health benefits of nature inside to you. Greening the indoors is a simple practice to fight against a nature deficit disorder.
Signs of greening the indoors can include:
- Having indoor plants in your space
- Hanging pictures or posters of nature in your space
- Adding more green and/or blue to your space as these are two colors commonly found in nature
- Working near a window or with a window view
4) You have trouble maintaining focus
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and/or inattention Even if not a medical diagnosis, many of us have attention difficulties these days, and have many different demands on us, and some of our inattention and inability to make decisions can be laid at the feet of digital distraction.
If you lose your focus frequently, you may benefit from spending more time outdoors. In nature, your attention is drawn, not pushed, to a variety of often unexpected but not unpleasant sounds, colors, aromas, textures, and forms. This can increase your overall attention span, even after your time in nature. Walking in both urban and wilderness nature settings for 30-90 minutes can improve thinking, cognitive function and energy level.
5) Your screen time is extremely high
The dangers of spending too much time behind screens is very real. Not only could it lead to a lack of focus and less time outside, increased screen time can have a negative impact on your mental health and lead to disconnection from the regular world.
In children, it can be even more detrimental as it cuts into outdoor play time. Check out my recent video about the harms of high screen time for adolescents.
→Still unsure if you have a nature deficit disorder or want customized suggestions on how to fix it? Take the free quiz.
Environmental education programs and incorporating nature movement into your child’s routine can help. All human beings, regardless of age, can benefit from a stronger nature connection. To learn more, consider reading Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder by Richard Louv, which outlines behavioral problems which can be solved with more time in nature.
6) You don’t like being around nature or fear nature
Fearing nature or disliking time in nature could be a sign of a nature deficit disorder. A parental fear of letting kids play outside is another related sign. We fear what we don’t know, so a fear of nature might mean the natural world is unknown to you. Even disliking nature could be a sign that you don’t get out in nature enough.
7) You haven’t been outside in nature for a substantial amount of time in the past week
While it’s important to get outside as often as possible, there is a difference for your health between a ten minute walk and a day-long hike. Some substantial activities which could be healthy to include in your week are:
- Long walks in nature
- Outdoor workouts
- Playing with a pet
- Listening to birds
- Have a picnic
If you haven’t been able to experience nature in a substantial way for longer than 30 minutes to an hour at least once this week, you might be suffering from a nature deficit disorder—and subsequent mental disorders this can cause.
8) You don’t eat a diet with a variety of plants
Nature deficit disorders don’t only relate to time spent in nature. They also can impact what you put in your belly. A lack of natural ingredients on your plate could also be a sign of a nature deficit disorder. If you don’t eat the recommended 6-8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day or find yourself grabbing for processed snacks, it might be time to reassess your diet and relationship to nature.
What to do about a nature deficit disorder
Having a nature deficit disorder is easily fixable: spend more time in nature. There are many nature activities to improve your mental and physical health, but if you’d like customized activities delivered to your inbox, check out the Do You Have a Nature Deficit Disorder quiz?
This quiz will determine if you might be suffering based on your specific lifestyle, health concerns, and more. After you take the quiz, you’ll also receive weekly emails with curated tips and advice on how to transform your physical and mental health with more time in nature.