Finding the cure for city anxieties

19/10/2012 21:21
Finding the cure for city anxieties

A light but insightful article from Richard Glover of the SMH.

Full article can be read from the link above.   

…..American writer Richard Louv has been in Australia talking about his theory of ‘‘nature-deficit disorder”. For most people in their 50s and 60s, memories of childhood are wrapped up with nature: visits to farms owned by friends or relatives; days spent poking around the creeks or fields that intersected the suburbs; a tree house assembled by an unsupervised crew of 10-year-olds in nearby bush, mostly using materials pinched from home.

In just one generation, Louv argues, this easy access to nature has largely disappeared. This matters in all sorts of ways. Louv cites the recent leap in the incidence of short-sightedness. According to a 2008 Australian study, 12-year-olds with the lowest levels of outdoor activity were two to three times more likely to develop myopia. The reason: their eyes have not been exercised by focusing on a distant horizon.

There’s something unbelievably sad about a childhood without far horizons: not only the missing eye exercise, but the missing daydreaming and hike planning, the urge to both wander and wonder that comes with the sight of a distant horizon.

According to Louv, time in nature also reduces anxiety by giving us perspective on our problems. He admits he has trouble defining and explaining this effect, yet the experience is common among people who have had access to the bush.

Instead of this time in nature, many people – both young and old – now spend time with social media. Social media, of course, has many good points, especially the way it allows you to form communities outside the limitations of what’s on offer in your own neighbourhood, office or school.

It strikes me, though, that social media also involves experiences that are exactly the opposite to those Louv finds in nature……If the bush makes you seem a small part of a big world, social media makes you feel like a big part of a small world. If nature dissolves ego, social media pumps it up. No wonder so many of us are anxious…….Facebook and Twitter create a sense that you’re at the centre of a universe of your own creation – you’re the planet around which everything swirls: your friends, your tastes, your hobbies. They don’t call them iPads and iPhones for nothing……

Tess Michaels