Mar 11 2012

The Benefits of Nature

A few weeks ago Rob sent me a copy of Richard Louv’s book, The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder.  I have really enjoyed reading it and am learning a lot.  Louv writes brilliantly on how “Every day, our relationship with nature, or lack of it, influences our lives.” Noting studies from several different fields, he discusses how nature plays an important role in our physical, mental and spiritual health.  He shows how exposure to nature affects children’s ability to learn.  He also discusses how exposure to nature encourages creativity, reduces stress and loneliness, and even helps make aging easier.

It would take a lot of time to list all the benefits nature offers that are mentioned in this book.   Even I was surprised by some of the benefits identified.  Seeing these made me wonder how with all these benefits available people today are spending less and less time in nature.   Luov discusses some of the reasons for this.  One of the primary ones is the cultural shift to a technological society.  Our lives revolve more around gadgets today than nature.  He says that the “electronic immersion” drains “our ability to pay attention, to think clearly, to be productive and creative” and concludes “the more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”

Another reason people are spending less time surrounded by nature is fear.  Having become unfamiliar with the natural world we are afraid of the unknown.  Louv admits that “spending time in nature, particularly in wilderness, can pose physical dangers, but rejecting nature because of those risks and discomforts is a greater gamble.” When you consider what a person misses by not spending time in nature, I cannot help but agree with Louv’s conclusion.

There are more benefits to exposing ourselves to nature than any one person can imagine.  Some may find all these benefits in nature surprising, but not me.  I believe that they are grace gifts.  We read repeatedly in Genesis 1 that after each day of Creation God declared that what He had made was “good.” It truly was and is.  God’s Creation is, in fact, both good and good for you.  It’s now up to us to take advantage of the gifts to be found there.  How foolish it would be not to!

–Chuck

(The top image shows my friend, Steve Ausmus, inside Double Arch at Arches National Park.  The middle picture shows me surveying the scenery high in Haleakala National Park.  The bottom picture shows Rob Sheppard photographing near his home in California.)