I spend a lot of time telling other people they should get outside more. I can spout off ten scientifically-proven facts about the benefits of spending time in nature without breaking a sweat, but how often am I actually breaking a sweat in nature? The dawn of a new year has encouraged me to take a closer look at my personal nature habits, and I have concluded that there is definitely room for improvement.
I recently learned about The Nature Pyramid in Florence Williams’ fabulous book The Nature Fix. Tanya Denckla-Cobb and Tim Beatley of the University of Virginia have taken the idea of the ubiquitous Food Pyramid and given it a nature-makeover to provide clear guidance on exactly how much nature the average human needs to maximize the health and well-being benefits provided by green spaces. One rendition of the pyramid looks like this:
Here are the basic recommendations:
1. Have casual interactions with nature in your neighborhood daily.
examples: sit in a natural-light drenched room, notice the trees and bird song as you walk to and from your car, tend your backyard garden
2. Spend at least one hour weekly in an intentional nature area, such as a regional park or green space.
examples: go on a walk in a park, go birding in a local nature preserve, take a walk on a beach
3. Designate one weekend monthly to more thoroughly immerse yourself in nature, preferably overnight.
examples: camp in a National Park, rent a cabin in the woods for one night
4. Unplug and get off the grid in a remote, farther-flung natural area for at least a 3-day period yearly.
examples: go on a multi-day backpacking trip in the wilderness
With this framework in mind, here are my #2018NatureGoals:
- Improve my houseplant game. I am a notorious unintentional plant-killer, but I am determined that 2018 will be the year my brown thumb turns green.
- On weeks when I don’t get to visit the forest with my students I will make a point of taking a short walk or hike in nature either after work one day or on the weekend.
- Take at least one longer hike or outdoor adventure each month (bonus points if I can convince my husband or friends to join me). There are so many beautiful hikes and Mother-Nature’s-Showing-Off-Again destinations just a short drive away from my home in the Bay Area, so I really have no excuse on this one.
- Go on a backpacking trip (for the first time since high school!). Admittedly, this is the goal that generates the most anxiety for me. I adore camping, but the type-A control freak in me breaks out in a cold sweat just thinking about all the unknown factors and out-of-my-control elements inherent in a backpacking trip. Fortunately I have a robust support system in my circle of friends, and I know they will hold my hand through this (and bully me into doing it if I try to bail).
Cheers to a nature-filled 2018!
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