Book Review: Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life by Richard Louv
If hearing the term nature-deficit disorder concerns you, then this brainstorm book of solutions for integrating more of the outdoors into your life is easy to read for those suggestions that apply to your life, and skim over those sections that don't.
If you want to know more about the research behind nature-deficit disorder, then check out the Research Library at the Children & Nature Network.
Richard Louv has written two other books on this subject as well. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder focuses on readers concerned with the impact of nature-deficit disorder on children, while The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder is geared toward helping adults.
As a child-free minimalist, I found many inspiring ideas and stories here.
- Create a G.O. Bag
One of his first suggestions to make a G.O. Bag made me smile. As someone who enjoys The Walking Dead and dystopian stories, I am somewhat familiar with prepping. Usually, a GO bag consists of emergency supplies to help someone survive a natural disaster or some other tragedy.
His twist was to make the duffel bag a Get Outside Bag filled with days packs, nature guides, maps, clothes, comfy footwear, granola bars, sunglasses, and water. Throw the duffel into your car trunk and you're ready to get outside whenever inspiration hits.
What a great way to use older items that may be taking up space in your closet, but they're not ready to be recycled yet.
- Organize a Photo Scavenger Hunt
Make a list of natural items that you want to take pictures of over time. As you head outdoors, look for and photograph those items. You could set this activity up as a competition or a cooperative activity.
I like this idea for vacations too. If I'm planning a trip to someplace new, as I do my research, I could make a list of photos to find. What a great way to prepare for a trip and have some fun focus as I travel.
- Paint Snow Angels for a Fashion Show
Living in Arizona, I don't see snow often, but my nieces and nephew do. One of the fun activities I'm going to be sure to tell my sister about involves filling plastic squirt bottles with water and adding a few drops of food coloring. When the kids make snow angels, have them paint faces and clothes.
But why stop there? Paint your snow person. Paint your snow fort. Make beautiful pictures in the snow and paint a frame around them. You could create a gallery of images all along your side walk.
- Landscape From the Inside Out
People often spend time and effort creating yards with curb appeal. Louv advocates designing your landscaping to look good from inside your house. It is your view, after all.
- Take Advantage of Crowd-Sourcing Opportunities
Throughout the book, Louv lists numerous organizations that appreciate people signing up and offering to record observations about weather, wildlife, plant growth, and environmental changes.
- Other Cool Programs
I had not heard of Every Kid in a Park, which started in the U.S. in September 2015. Students who are in fourth grade get free admission along with their family to our national parks and other federal lands and waters.
I love this idea! As a kid, I was lucky enough to travel extensively through many of our national and state parks. I also always had an expansive backyard and nearby school playgrounds where I could run around. Reading a CDC statistic that "fewer than half of all kids in the United States can safely walk to a park from their home" just makes my heart sink. Knowing that there are programs that try to give all kids an opportunity to explore gives me some hope.
And then there's the First-Time Camper program in Georgia. Never been camping before? No problem! You can borrow the vast majority of the gear and have a state park ranger help you set up camp. They'll even give you an emergency number you can call in the middle of the night. There's no extra fee for these services. You just have to be a first-time camper. I wish every state had a program like this one!
In each chapter, Louv creates a balance of inspired ideas and various pieces of research. One of the pieces of research that struck me involved patients in hospitals.
Louv writes, "Pennsylvania researchers have found that patients in rooms with tree views had shorter hospitalization so, less need for pain medications, and fewer negative comments in the nurses' notes, compared to patients with views of brick." If someone you love is ill, make sure they can see nature, even if you're hanging pictures on the wall or showing videos.
Two other points also affected me. First, Louv shares how "Stephen Pont, MD, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Obesity, is particularly concerned about what he and other health officials now call the pandemic of inactivity."
Basically, he makes a strong argument that sitting is the new smoking.
And then there's our culture's constant need to be faster, better, more productive. But as we increase our screen time, we also seem to be suffering from more memory problems.
Louv writes, "Getting more music, art, yoga, meditation, weight-lifting—whatever—into our lives can help. But technology fasting while spending time in the natural world may be the most effective antidote."
Louv offers a variety of ideas for technology fasting, but my favorite was Camp Grounded: Summer Camps for Adults.
The camps are located in Northern California, New York, North Carolina, and Texas. I checked prices for the three sessions that are coming up and each four day camp session is $645 plus a $29.53 fee. Transportation is not included, but seven gourmet meals are along with activities, live music, daily yoga, campfires with S'mores, and even more! For about $225/night, that's not bad pricing at all. Plus they have scholarships and low-income tickets.
Yes, I just signed up for their newsletter!
I guess what I love about this book the most is how it made me rethink how much time I spend not only outdoors, but also disconnected from the myriad of screens around me. Am I really taking advantage of what nature has to offer if I've got headphones plugged in? Do I need to watch CNN every day? Do I even need to check email every day?
Many, if not most, of the suggested activities have recommended sources listed. Books and organizations. At the end of the book, there's a nine page bibliography and recommended reading list as well.
If you know that you need to disconnect more, but you're making excuses, then this book may hold just the right amount of inspiration to get you outside.