Nature-deficit disorder, as coined by American author Richard Louv, should be adopted as a scientific term. Research shows spending time outside delivers mental and physical health benefits, makes people feel more relaxed, less stressed, more invigorated and gives them a break from the pressures in their daily lives. Despite 55% of Canadians believing that nature relaxes them, a full 56% of Canadians feel they don’t get enough outdoor time. Ugh. Sure, we can blame technology, full calendars, or gross weather. But in the end, I would go even further. I believe that we not only have a tendency to place a higher value on structured activities as opposed to free play. But I also think that we avoid the unknown. A minute-by-minute schedule is comforting, somehow, and once it’s all done, we feel accomplished and successful. Going off to search for a four leaf clover that may never materialize is comparatively frightening. Without teaching or kids to venture into the unknown, however – without the safety net of the construct of a video game or piano lesson – we are failing them. Ourselves too.

mountains-and-optisNature Valley, in their summer campaign to encourage Canadians to experience #NatureMoments, lists 100 potential activities geared to discovery / adventure, escape / unplug, active, or simple pleasures. Reading through the list, I actually felt tears welling up in my eyes. There are so many items on the list, like listening to night crickets, making daisy chains or blowing dandelion seeds into the wind that became fond memories from my childhood. But I’m not sure that my boys have ever done them.

While we are fortunate to live deep in nature and lead a highly active lifestyle outdoors, it became incredibly clear to me that because of our busy lifestyle, simply ‘being outside’ isn’t enough. We need to add the mindfulness that helps us escape, unplug, discover simple pleasures and truly take notice of the beauty around us. Though we ski, hike, sail and kayak – the activities can easily turn into simple exercise. Maybe the boys don’t even notice the mountains, the water ripples or the tiny trail mushrooms. If this is the case, we might as well just be in a dingy gym.

So this summer, my goal isn’t just to ‘get outside’. It’s to pay attention and practice being mindful of nature. And I am determined to give my boys some of the memories from my childhood that sent tingles up my spine whenever I recall them.

The Summer Mindfulness List:

  1. Blow dandelions (perhaps into the yard of a nasty neighbor).
  2. Go on a scavenger hunt like I used to do during Brownies and Girl Guides.
  3. Roll down a grassy hill.
  4. Jump into the water with clothes still on.
  5. Build a fort out of driftwood, bits of rope and anything else we find on the beach.
  6. Float a paper boat in the water.
  7. Dance in the rain
  8. Hug a tree
  9. Watch a bee collect pollen
  10. Go for a walk and find the perfect walking stick

While less than half of Canadians (40 per cent) get outside every day, more than 
half of Canadians (56 per cent) have a desire to get outside more often.

driftwood-fort-buildingEven though 27% of Canadians feel ‘too tired’ to go explore nature – it doesn’t have to be onerous. We just have to open the front door. Look at some stars. Learn to whistle with a blade of grass. Even a 60 second activity can help revitalize us. 83% of us have a park close to our home, and 1/5 of us live within 250 metres of a park!

So help me stick to my summer plan, and I encourage you to find a few things on the list that tickle your fancy too. Just remember to look around and be mindful while you are out there. If we don’t teach our kids to love the planet, our environmental situation can only become worse.

Note: This is a sponsored post that originally appeared on NatureValley.ca. All opinions are my own.

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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