Richard Louv

Recipient of the Audubon Medal

Author of the National Bestseller Last Child in the Woods

From the Blog

Ten Reasons Why Children and Adults Need Vitamin N

I recall my father's dark tanned neck, creased with lines of dust, as he tilled our garden. I ran ahead of him, pulling rocks and bones and toys from his path." -- The Nature Principle 

In "Last Child in the Woods,” I focused on why children need nature. In my new book, “The Nature Principle,” I tell how the whole family – and whole communities -- can become happier, healthier and smarter through more contact with the natural world. I do hope you'll read the book to find out how, but for starters, here are 10 reasons children and adults need nature:

  1. The more high-tech our lives become, the more nature we need. We have a human right to a meaningful connection to nature, and we have the responsibilities that come with that right. Few today would question the notion that every person, especially every young person, has a right to access the Internet. We should also have access to the natural world, because that connection is part of our humanity.
     
  2. Humans are hard-wired to love and need exposure to the natural world. Researchers have found that regardless of culture people gravitate to images of nature, especially the savannah. Our inborn affiliation for nature may explain why we prefer to live in houses with particular views of the natural world.
     
  3. We suffer when we withdraw from nature. Australian professor Glenn Albrecht, director of the Institute of Sustainability and Technology Policy at Murdoch University, has coined the term solastalgia. He combined the Latin word solacium (comfort — as in solace) and the Greek root – algia (pain) to form solastalgia, which he defines as “the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault.”
     
  4. Nature brings our senses alive. Scientists recently found that humans have the ability to track by scent alone. Some humans rival bats in echolocation or biosonar abilities. Military studies show that some soldiers in war zones see nuances others miss, and can spot hidden bombs; by and large these tend to be rural or inner city soldiers, who grew up more conscious of their surroundings.
     
  5. Individuals and businesses can become nature smart. Spending more time outdoors nurtures our “nature neurons” and our natural creativity. For example, at the University of Michigan, researchers demonstrated that, after just an hour interacting with nature, memory performance and attention spans improved by 20 percent. In workplaces designed with nature in mind, employees are more productive and take less sick time.
     
  6. Nature heals. Pennsylvania researchers found that patients in rooms with tree views had shorter hospitalizations, less need for pain medications, and fewer negative comments in the nurses’ notes, compared to patients with views of brick.
     
  7. Nature can reduce depression and improve psychological well-being. Researchers in Sweden have found that joggers who exercise in a natural green setting feel more restored and less anxious, angry, or depressed than people who burn the same amount of calories jogging in a built urban setting.
     
  8. Nature builds community bonds. Levels of neurochemicals and hormones associated with social bonding are elevated during animal-human interactions. Researchers at the University of Rochester report that exposure to the natural environment leads people to nurture close relationships with fellow human beings, value community, and to be more generous with money.
     
  9. Nature bonds families and friends. New ways are emerging to make that bond, such as family nature clubs, through which multiple families go hiking, gardening or engage in other outdoor activities together. In the U.K., families are forming “green gyms,” to bring people of all ages together to do green exercise.
     
  10. The future is at stake. The natural world’s benefits to our cognition and health will be irrelevant if we continue to destroy the nature around us, but that destruction is assured without a human reconnection to nature.

_____________________________

Richard Louv is the author of THE NATURE PRINCIPLE: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder and LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. He is Chairman Emeritus of The Children and Nature Network.

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Comments

The results of this study may help zero in on #7 - http://www.economist.com/node/18864354

“We suffer when we withdraw from Nature” rings true for me - the days that I don’t take time to absorb the precious energy from nature I feel the drain - physical, emotional and spiritual. Scattered and confused! But Nature is healing, soothing, loving, caring and giving. The creatures of nature perform the such melodies that are soothing to my soul!

I never can understand how people on a beautiful day prefer to go to a gym to walk/run on a treadmill or ride a bicycle moored in a spot rather than go on a walk/hike or ride a bike in the great outdoors!

Thanks for this timely reminder, Richard! (Timely for this coming long summer weekend.) It strikes me how similar Nature is, in it’s being hard-wired into us, to happiness. Seeking either is unnecessary, since they already exist in and around us. Our job is to uncover and liberate them with our sense of curiosity and wonder (also hard-wired). Have a wonder-full 4th weekend!

Thank you Richard for your wonderful book “The Nature Principle”.

I was very sad to read in your book of what happened to your father. When I first started my blog I wrote quite a bit about getting kids out in nature but, while I believe that is hugely important, my heart lies with teaching adults.

In my own life, after many years of longing for the nature and open spaces I left behind in my native Scotland, I decided that nature starts right outside my own back door. When my kids lost interest in the outdoors as they grew, I realized that I too had lost interest. So, I began the change with me and it is spreading.

Thank you for what you do.
Regards, Alison Kerr

And then there’s folks like me. I’m not sure what to make of us in the fact of nature-love.

I sincerely believe that a need for nature is *not* hard-wired into me. I think I may be allergic to nature. ... Okay, I exaggerate, there, but not much. I’ve never liked the outdoors, even as a kid. I almost always prefer to be indoors. If I’m out in the sun for any length of time, I feel cranky (the idea of deliberately going to lie out in the sun for more than a few moments baffles me). My least favourite holidays have always been camping holidays. I hate hate *hate* bugs. Extended exposure to nature, especially summer-style nature, leaves me feeling uncomfortable, grouchy and anxious. I love living in a high-tech world.

And yet I in no way feel disconnected from myself or those around me. I *am* a happy and well person.

I’m not posting this to be a jerk, I swear. I just sometimes can’t wrap my head around the love-of-nature view of others and needed to vent about it, in case there are others out there who feel the same as me. Much as I try, I just don’t get it.

(I’m also a massive nerd/geek. Don’t know if that has any bearing on the matter…)

Thanks a lot for giving such useful information on Vitamine N . This post certainly helps many people. Keep up the good work.

Regards
Neck Pain Wharton

Saved as a favorite, I really like your blog!

Regards
Neck Pain Baltimore, MD

I totally agree. We need to step away from our machines and get outdoors and enjoy life. We need to exercise more too. And for that matter, we need to eat better and take vitamin and mineral supplements to balance our diets. Sitting if front of a computer or machine all day is not healthy. Vitamin N is a great way to counter the negative effects of technology.

I think vitamins and mineral supplements are good, but diet and exercise are best. Carly, my nutritionist, said we need at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. That has been the missing link in my health plan. I hope to start getting the exercise I need now that I know this.

I was very sad to read in your book of what happened to your father. When I first started my blog I wrote quite a bit about getting kids out in nature but, while I believe that is hugely important, my heart lies with teaching adults.

Yes, I believe that in this world of technology, what we need most is more nature and outdoor life. Interesting book, btw.

I have the luxury of living next to a forest. I take long walks there often. Nothing works better to clear the mind and relieve the stress of a hard day’s work than the silence of nature.

I love info on natural cures and trying to first solve problems naturally and not just turning to modern medicine.thanks!

I totally agree.  Grab a football and go play catch outside, lot better than Madden on the Xbox.

i really like your blog
great

I’d like to respond to Doug’s post, so that he doesn’t feel *too* alone!

We’re hard-wired to thrive in the natural world in that we *are* the natural world. We aren’t separate things. (I always talk about “humans and the rest of nature” to make that point.)

But there is a spectrum or continuum of need for that sense of connectedness. You are certainly at one end of that spectrum, but think of it this way. If you eat food and drink water, wear cotton or wool and sit on wooden furniture, then you are connected!

If sunny days make you uncomfortable, try going out for a walk or a sit on a cloudy day, just to see how it feels. I know people who feel almost angry when the sun comes out yet thrive on rainy days!

Totally agree with you Richard. I do feel these days that it’s all too easy to get lost in a world of technology and be stuck within four walls. For me I need my time with nature. It refuels both my mind and soul!

“Individuals and businesses can become nature smart”, I like your point on this. Thanks for sharing ^-^

thank you for the great post, i’m a big fan already, thank you and please keep writing!
http://www.garden-lighting.co

Nice article - I’ve been encouraged to be outside enjoying what nature has to offer so this is something I’m following with my children. Being in the garden and playing in their playhouse is far closer to nature than tapping into a virtual world on their computers!

I love nature. I like the outdoors.  I have 5 boys and ever since they were little, I always let them go out in the afternoon to play and rough it up and be dirty.  It’s a very normal thing for them to come home with minor cuts, scratches, bruises, etc. I’m so thankful that now that they are older, they like sports like soccer and basketball so they still spend a lot of times outdoors.

Scientists recently found that humans have the ability to track by scent alone. Some humans rival bats in echolocation or biosonar abilities.

Thanks, great article.

i love this post - thank you!!!

being a natural reiki practitioner and sacred drummer working in the earth based spiritual traditions - it’s so good to hear about this… as i believe that being out and spending more time in nature really helps “expand” our spirit body where, when, we spend too much time in the city - that time actually tightens our spiritual body…. thanks again and blessings to you.. weaver (((o)))

this post is so true, i am currently stuck at my desk on the computer, flourescent lights blaring down on me, i feel sick!
i am craving to go out side in the sunshine and sit on the grass
and no amount of coffee or candy bars will make me feel better
i am forwarding this post to my boss now as we speak!

Nature can reduce depression and improve psychological well-being. Absolutely true. And in our hustle and bustle world, we cannot enjoy this wonderful, free pleasure that is to be had.

So much healing, so much open exploration and meaning and so much blindness to this fact.

Sound sad to me.

Your article great,  can I reference? For children

I agree, so many kids today si in the house and play video games all day and never venture outside anymore. You can tell the shallow look in alot of these kids faces and their behavior is often edgy as well.

I have spoken with two of my friends who are medics at Texas drug rehab centers and I’ve asked them about the health benefits of spending time in opened spaces, in nature. They both agreed that we as humans have a great connection with nature and that withdrawal from it into cities has only bad side effects. The clean air and water, simple, unprocessed foods are the secret to a long healthy life and all these can only be found by reunitig with mother nature.

Interesting read…it has made me think about things more. Our earth is being destroyed, slowly but surely. More people need to think about these kind of things and it starts with articles like this, so thank you.

This the firs time I hear about Vitamin N. Yes, I must agree, family really needs nature as well. All the facts presented were so true. I can say Nature is healthy for every person. We really need nature without we will die.

Vitamin N is the source of all goodness for nature

i totally agree, “Nature brings our senses alive” we life in mother nature. thanks for information. this article make me remember nature.

I have really enjoyed your post…:)

There’s so much healing power in nature, especially in the sun.  Just watch a withering plant come back to life from exposure to a little sunlight.  Sad, the incubated lives we live.

Great post. I extremely like it…:D

Richard,

Lots of goosebumps after reading this.
Nature is where we come from and ultimately where we return. It reminds us of who we are and what we need to sustain ourselves.
Number six: Nature Heals is especially close to my heart and soul.
As a reflexologist, I am continuously encouraging my clients to “get back to nature” in order to reduce stress and feel alive again.
At 53 years old, I am finding more and more ways to visit the peaceful, humbling environment of Nature.
Thanks for a great list of reminders.

Wayne Nelson

So many people are distant from nature and overly plugged in to technology instead - the repercussions on us as a society are obvious - our health, our physical wellbeing, and our spiritual wellbeing…

Being one with nature is one of the keys to have a healthier life. Getting a great knowledge is also a big factor about this issue.

I love nature it’s such a stress relief for me, one of my best memories is camping at the lake or hiking to the waterfalls with my family, great book. thanks.

I absolutely agree. I love nature and being outside. I was a complete tomboy as a little girl, and I still love to be outside. But, like other adults, as we get older and more sedentary it becomes easier to just sit instead of getting out and enjoying all the nature at our disposal. And I do feel sorry for kids today, with all the technology, they just don’t get outside and play. My one grandchild, 3 year old girl, loves to go outside and play. Her brother, 6, would rather stay in his room and play video games. It is such a shame that technology has taken over our lives, to the extent it has. I love computers and technology, don’t get me wrong, but I think there needs to be a better balance at times.

Hi Richard, i am so much cherished by reading your article about nature, its really nice to see that people are really concern about nature. I love nature and i think nature is the best gift for our life, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

There is nothing that beats nature, it has the greatest cures for many problems.

Vitamin N is a very important thing for human health and it help improve the physical and mental health. Here the N stands for nature and the research suggests that natural environments if exposed help the stress, illness, and injury to be coped and recovered in a more rapid way. Natural elements can calm us and also help to fell less alone. Nature’s value can be seen as an antidepressant and it is very much important to improve the mental health. It also enhance intelligence and creativity.

I had never even heard of Vitamin N but your explanation makes a lot of sense. Thanks for this. You are right, there is nothing beats nature…

Is the book available in Audio btw?

This is good stuff. It makes sense that people should go back to what is natural during those times when our lives become cluttered and overwhelming. We all have basic instincts that will guide us through hard times.

Nature really is a key ingredient to everyone’s lives. I know I am in a much better overall mood after taking walks or just spending time out-of-doors and ‘in the green’.

Health has been defined by some philosophers and some psychologists (including some of the most notable, such as Carl Rogers)as the ability to have a deep connection with ourselves as human beings - with full access to our own true thoughts and feelings - and a sense of profound connection with other people and things.
For this reason, as well as all of the other reasons mentioned above, a sense of deep and abiding connection with the natural world is of vital importance to our health - in all meanings of the word.

Hi
I read your book it is nice.But it was very sad to know about you father.But you done a fantastic blog.

Sir, Great Concept of “Vitamin N”. Its really nice to go back to mother earth. Live a life that our forefathers lived.
Its “Going back to Basics”.

I remember one outing I had with my family when my kids were still small. We decided to go to a University located in the province where most of the courses offered were on Agriculture, Veterinary Medicine and other related courses. So the place was really big and located right beside a mountain. It was so beautiful there..there was even a botanical garden with lots of trees and flowers.  But the best part of our outing was going down to the creek. It was only a small body of water and quite neglected with a lot of trash on the side, probably from the students. I told my kids to take off their shoes, to pull up their pants, wade and enjoy the water. I joined the fun too and took off my sneakers and we ended up wetting our clothes. But it was so much fun! Up to now they still talk about their creek experience.

It doesn’t take much to take the family outside to enjoy what the earth provides.  Too often we’re content to seek entertainment from artificial means.

Nature is the key to good physical & mental health. Just take a walk in a green landscape and you’ll see.

We come from nature and cannot live without it. The nature around us is what makes our brain think because it needs to adapt to it. Nature brings new information to our brain and by that means our brain has to work and be active.

Interacting with nature is crucial for a healthy brain.

Great subject! Very interesting and helpful!
Thanks…

You are bang on with number 4, I love nothing more than being outdoors and that is certainly when I feel most alive. I find this to more true when the elements are at their limit like in freezing temperatures in the mountains. It really does take your senses to an entire new level.

We come from nature and without it we will not be here in this world. Planet earth is about nature and for us to not appreciate it is like not appreciating life at all.

I love nature and I have always been a big fan of outdoor activities. When I have children I will always encourage them to love nature and appreciate a good trip to the farm once in a while!

Great subject!

Thanks!

I agree with the fact that we need to balance our lives with nature. Occasionally I like to sit out on my back porch and just breath in the fresh air. Sadly, I’m not around any real nature like a forest.

I agree about the fact of natural healing.Our nature is the nature. We are all a part of this beautiful eternal possibility. The human body is a miracle of nature. Our bodies are blessed by the beauty and harmony of the whole and its exploration of what is possible.

I agree with you that we to spend more time with family and get connected with nature by means of outdoor activities. Aside from making the relationship grows stronger it also give us a more way to be fit while we enjoy the beauty of mother nature.

Vitamin N is actually a real substance, as it turns out…and the key to reducing immune system diseases.

The human body needs about 1000 different “helpful” microbes (bacteria) in our guts, not just to digest, but also to mediate the immune system.  Everything from allergies to Diabetes are being implicated as “caused by microbial imbalance.” 

Check out latest article in Scientific American (June 2012).  It’s amazing.

And here is the punchline:  a newborn baby has NONE of these microbes at birth.  They must be acquired from mom, food, or playing in the dirt.

Remember, without these “microbial vitamins” that baby will grow up with a whole host of health care problems.  Those microbes are essential to optimum health, just like any other vitamin. 

And, they don’t come from modern food which is sterilized (to protect against harmful microbes, which do exist as well.)

So where can baby get these needed microbes?  From nature.  Play in the dirt, kid.  Your city-raised friends will be wheezing, overweight basket cases while you are healthy.  Grow your own fruits and vegetables and eat them raw, just rinsed off in water will be fine.  They will be covered with all the natural biota (which is everywhere in dirt and air).

Or, make sure that baby is breastfed (again, even more important than ever) and that yes, mom pre-chews your food (the perfect way for her body to donate the right set of microbes to baby).

Cheers!

PS. Also check out articles showing that Amish farm kids have NO allergies.  They don’t even know what they are.  Why?  All their food is grown at home, non-sterilized, and fresh.  They grow up very early with their full complement of healthy gut microbes.

Great article!

You are right. The more closer to nature we are the more our natural instincts and senses begin to shine through.

There is a much deeper, more spiritual connection between humans and nature that make them one and allow for humans to feel more apt to be healed through nature because of this.

Your book has made me rethink the blues that I deal with each winter. 

During the winter I generally only go outside when I’m walking to or from my car - so, on cement without really any grass or trees around and only for a couple minutes.  I’m now wondering if my winter blues is possibly a result of nature deprivation and if spending even 10 minutes outside every day, even in the dark or a grey day, would help.

Your concept that “nature heals” is one I witness on a regular basis. So many families arrive at a campground on Friday night, frazzled, arguing, frustrated, fatigued and cranky. 

I love seeing their transformation over the weekend as they get some time outdoors.  By the time they leave on Sunday afternoon they are smiling at each other, walking a little closer to each other, and most don’t want to leave grin

Nature truly does heal.  Thanks for a very insightful post.

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