“Imagine a world where we experience the joy of being in nature before we learn of its loss.” ~ Richard Louv
I take a multivitamin every day. I’ve started taking some B vitamins specifically to combat fatigue and for lower Cholesterol (via Omega-3 fatty acids), a fish oil capsule. I eat a variety of foods and try to stay away from junk, but of course, like most people, I’m not consistent. And that’s why my vitamin supplements make me feel like I’m “doing something healthy” for my body to counteract the harm I often inflict via neglect and over-indulgence.
The allure of taking different vitamins to cover deficiencies, balance nutritional “sins,” increase energy, and help with everything from weight loss to cancer defense is beyond appealing. And it’s big business, too! We all seem to buy into the idea of taking concentrated pills to make everything “right” and to “help” our bodies be more productive and healthy.
My dad died of a heart attack at age 59. His diet, alcohol, and smoking habits over a lifetime were surely to blame. Though he heroically quit smoking many years before he died, I believe the damage was done. The irony of this is that he was an avid “vitamin aficionado.” He loved taking his vitamins! He thought his vitamin regimen would cancel the ailments of his ascending age, correct his history of self-sabotaging wrongs, and add years to his life. The way we all do, he believed that certain vitamins would “even” the score. But he was wrong.
Magazines and health journals like to ply us with articles touting the benefits of specific vitamin supplements and herbs in order to sell the dream of an easy fix: Take Turmeric for heart health, brain function, and arthritis! Take Garlic to fight the flu, boost immunity, and reduce high blood pressure! Take Green Tea Extract to revitalize metabolism and lose weight!
Several years ago, all the rage was Saint John’s Wort which was promoted to help brighten our moods and alleviate depression. And while I’m sure there are indeed many truths to the benefits of certain supplements, the hype is also very much about selling products. “Clinical studies” and good press tend to fuel big sales. Again, the idea that a little pill will make us magically feel better has quite the powerful pull. Just walk through the aisles of any drug store and you’ll find stacks of vitamins from A – Z, making bold claims we all want to believe.
But there’s one specific vitamin that most people don’t get enough of – and no one really talks about it. There’s a “vitamin” that helps alleviate almost every bit of negativity in our lives. It wards off stress, helps us feel better inside, and look younger (and happier!) on the outside. It promotes serenity, and increases our overall sense of well being. And we need way more than we’re giving ourselves.
“N” is for Nature!
Audubon Medal recipient, Richard Louv wrote several wonderful books on the idea of Nature as an essential vitamin. Here are two favorites: Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life: 500 Ways to Enrich Your Family’s Health & Happiness and The Nature Principle. He refers to our technology-driven lives as “Nature Deficit Disorder,” and it’s indeed a fitting descriptor for what most of us experience (voluntarily and involuntarily) in our lives. We’ve seemingly stopped “absorbing” the best possible remedy for human health which happens to be both FREE and easily accessible for most. As he writes in The Nature Principle, it’s “about the power of living in nature—not with it, but in it. This is the most creative period in history. The twenty-first century will be the century of human restoration in the natural world.” He makes a convincing case that “through a nature-balanced existence—driven by sound economic, social, and environmental solutions—the human race will thrive.” His books help us rethink the way we live, how we raise our children, and how we tackle our common, (but less serious) health related issues.
It seems fairly obvious, right? Then why aren’t we getting outside more? Why are we plopped in front of our televisions and our computers?
A little nature, every day, is a “miracle cure” for some of the emotional and physical ailments that plague our human souls. Vitamin “N” is one of the most substantial and consequential dietary requirements left untapped.
Delightfully, Vitamin “N” is not about big business. No one collects or profits from our hard earned money (except maybe some deserved monetary donations toward the upkeep of our beautiful parks and trails). With Vitamin “N,” no one can prey upon our health fears or insecurities. No one can create problems where there are none. All we have to do to get our fill is get up and go outside. Vitamin “N” does not require a gym membership. When we walk, run, hike, swim, meditate, climb, jump, and cycle our way through part of every day, Vitamin “N” fills our senses (and our souls) to the brim!
We seem to love the idea of a quick fix remedy, and nothing is quite as easy as finding moments to simply get outside. The sights, sounds, and even the air entering our bodies serve to “fix” us in ways that medicine, a concentrated tablet, and/or therapy can’t. It empties our overloaded brains and pushes the reset button. Nature is a life promoting gift, and we can give ourselves as much as we want, because the recommended daily dose is unlimited!
When we go beyond the scope of our yards and our neighborhoods, and purposely spend time in open, green spaces, our activity generates a different perspective about what we actually need to not only survive, but thrive in our beautiful, living world. A 20 minute power walk can help us reconnect, clear our busy heads, and calm our anxieties, naturally. Vitamin “N” serves to counteract the harm we do to ourselves when we keep emotions bottled inside. There’s something about being outside that simply makes us feel alive and well. Maybe it’s the oxygen.
The next time we reach for a supplement, we would do well to remember that popping some essential Vitamin “N” might be the one thing we need instead.
Simply slip on some shoes, open the door, and step outside.
Easy and free? Sign me up!