The Therapeutic Value of Extended Nature Immersion

I am often asked why it is important for the children to be outdoors for extended periods of time and in all weather. Although I am a proponent of connecting young children with nature for any length of time, I believe that it is important to commit to extended periods of time in nature on a regular and continuing basis. Really, I am recreating my own play memories from my childhood.

The natural world moves at a much slower pace than the human-made world of linear time. Our culture is always in a hurry and we expect that when we enter nature we can learn its lessons on our own time or in the short amount of time we have allotted to its exploration. Nature is something that is meant to be steeped in so its relaxation and re-setting of our frantic time line can take place.

Everyone knows that it is calming and often refreshing to spend extended time in nature. Anyone who has been lead in guided meditation knows that the images that are evoked are all nature ones. No one is asking you to imagine you are in a crowded city sitting at the base of a skyscraper! And yet, while we all know this, nature is often the last place that modern Americans seek out when they are feeling stressed or enraged. Where did this cultural disconnect come from?

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Comment by Michelle M. Finn on March 25, 2012 at 7:15am

I couldn't agree more with what you are saying about extended time in nature.  I lived as a caretaker of a survival skills school and for two years I dwelled in a semi-subterranean shelter I had built, watching over the land year round to keep out vandals.  What I noticed was that as each new class came barreling through, there was a pattern.  On the first day, it was like being ambushed with the intense, hurried pace of the city.  Everyone was speaking quickly, moving quickly and it felt so hectic to me.  Then, after the second and third days, it was like this eeeeease of nature would kick into these people's consciousness.  Everything would slow down and the pace would get back to woods time.  The people would be profoundly changed by this experience as it was probably the first time they had been in the wilderness for an extended period in their adult lives.  What you are doing for the children is so important...really giving them the foundation for their connection with nature that will last the rest of their lives.  With these adults, I felt that they were "returning" to that place of childhood.  But now it seems more and more that that place we all experienced as children playing for hours in the woods and swamps and rivers and beaches of our lives, is something that is really not happening.  I fret over the long term repercussions of this and am glad you are actively encoding the next generation as animals belonging to the natural world rather than humans separate from it!

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