Thursday, June 9, 2016

Prescription for Grief: Vitamin N Breaks Through Sadness

Children in nature's paradise. Author photo
IF YOU THINK BACK, really really far back, to a time in childhood when your bare feet touched cool grass, hot sand, a soft mat of pine needles, or smooth rock-- you are remembering paradise. It doesn't matter if the sky was blue or cloudy. And for that matter, even if you wore boots and shuffled through powder snow--it was paradise. Pure joy flooded your being.

You were out of doors.

Author Richard Louv is an outspoken advocate for the importance of time with nature; time away from technology. His book, Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life, 500 ways to enrich your family's health and happiness asserts that the natural world has "transformative power."

Louv describes some of the benefits of Vitamin N as:
  • strengthening interpersonal bonds
  • freshening the senses
  • nurturing resilience

Prescription for grief

Losing a loved one is a visceral experience:  muscular pain, fatigue, disrupted appetite and digestion, chest pain, headaches. Anxiety, sadness, regret and confusion may weigh so heavily as to seem unbearable. Sympathetic friends and family members often feel powerless to help. Pharmaceutical prescriptions, recreational drugs and alcohol may numb the misery, but they do not heal.

Part 6 of Louv's new book offers "ideas to use nature to heal." He is not settling for "organized play outside," but encourages those seeking healing to take "a retreat" in nature. This experience should include (regardless of weather):
  • an extended time out of doors
  • a focus with all senses to nature's stimuli, and
  • personal expressions of feeling through writing, imagery, and inspirational reading
As a friend to a grieving person (or family,) perhaps you are not as powerless as you may think. Could you take that person or family to a beautiful natural setting? Being in nature, briefly disconnected from electronics, positively affects the nervous system and respiration; a significant sense of calm can be achieved. At first, it may feel like a small dose, and will need to be repeated, but a cumulative effect is possible. Louv also notes that people who are not often outdoors should start small, making time in nature of short duration, until ready for a longer outing. 

Fee-Free days  

From time to time, the United States National Park Service, National Forests, and State Parks offer free admission to beautiful and often historic areas.

National Park Service Fee-Free Days (remaining in 2016):

August 25 through 28: National Park Service Birthday, September 24: National Public Lands Day, November 11: Veterans Day

National Forest Fee-Free Days (remaining in 2016):  

On these days, standard amenity fees at federally operated sites will be waived. Participation for concession operated sites may vary. The Forest Service is waiving standard amenity recreation fees at sites nationwide to celebrate three different events:   June 11, 2016 – National Get Outdoors Day, September 24, 2016 – National Public Lands Day, November 11, 2016 – Veterans Day

Could Vitamin N address a deficiency in your or someone else's life? On the chance that time with nature could break through pain and sadness, what have you got to lose?

Thank you for caring!

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