We humans are facing a new disorder. It’s called Nature-Deficit Disorder a phrase coined by researcher Richard Louv. NDD is the human cost of alienation from nature. I learned about this listening to CBC and it struck me like a bolt of lightning. One of the many reasons that people are feeling so disconnected from themselves is the lack of time spent in nature. I see it again and again with leaders that I coach. When I ask them about their ideal day or what they are craving to do that would be renewing they all say – be in nature…by the water, walking in forests, climbing a mountain peak. Richard Louv states in his book The Nature Principle. “The future will belong to the nature-smart – those individuals, families, businesses and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balances the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”
Studies show that without regular immersion in nature, we can suffer from physical and emotional distress, including anxiety, depression and obesity. While the research is focused primarily on children, I wholly believe that this is a human challenge that is significantly impacting leaders and organizations.
When coaching leaders, part of the task is to help them find their centre where they can be most aligned, grounded and confident. I work with them on different ways that they can get new perspective and how to expand their thinking about self and their role. This often leads to some form of finding their way into nature – be it daily, weekly or monthly. One client takes a New Moon Retreat where she takes herself into nature for a day to vision, reflect, and renew. Others rediscover a long lost childhood activity like riding a bike so they can feel the freedom of movement and wind in their hair as they explore. For others, it’s the simplicity of taking a walk at lunch.
There have been times where I’ve taken clients on guided nature experiences like a walk in the woods or a trip to the beach. We use the natural elements as metaphors for their experience and to help them envision their future. I see them soften and relax in nature. As they do so they uncover something deeper and more powerful than if we were sitting in the concrete jungle that is their office. They come alive and more creative in nature.
To be whole and integrated in your leadership, here are a few suggestions to try. All will wake up your senses and provide quiet time for renewal – the magical ingredient that helps ground people and sustain more vibrant leadership.
1. Take 10 minutes each day to just be outside.
2. Take off your shoes and walk in the grass, sand, mud or puddles. This is an especially good way of shifting energy and letting go of tension.
3. Walk in the forest. Don’t just look at the trees and grasses, touch them – feel their texture.
4. Start your day in nature – a quiet coffee on your deck, a walk or jog.
5. Walk to work.
6. Watch a sun rise or sunset. Settle in for the magic of the whole experience.
7. Go outside, close your eyes and breathe deeply. Enjoy using your senses of smell, hearing and touch instead of relying on visual cues.
I invite readers to share their tip for using nature as a place of renewal. My hope is that this will spark some awareness about the importance of going back to nature. It’s an essential source for leadership success.