By David Martin, RN, President and CEO of VeinInnovations
While the term Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD) isn’t a formal medical term with a diagnosis recognized and written about in scholarly journals, the popularity of author Richard Louv’s books and work would lead one to believe that it should be. Especially if you are among those of us who believe that a day outside – whether it’s hiking, gardening, golfing, or just being – is good for the body, and the soul. Fortunately for Atlantans, we are in abundance when it comes to the ability to get a “forest fix,” thanks to the foresight of State leaders who were among the first in the country to set aside land for state parks. First, more on NDD:
- diminished use of the senses
- attention difficulties
- conditions of obesity
- and higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses.
The Web site further states, “research also suggests that the nature-deficit weakens ecological literacy and stewardship of the natural world. These problems are linked more broadly to what health care experts call the ‘epidemic of inactivity,’ and to a devaluing of independent play.”
Man has been spending more and more time indoors for the last several hundred years. But the last 30 years, ever-present technology and its attendant screens, reduction in natural space, increased traffic, and parents being more and more afraid of letting their children out in the woods to explore, have accelerated the move inside. One of the biggest downsides? Louv believes the importance of the natural world has been greatly diminished in public and private education.
Louv’s 2011 book, “The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age,” includes adults in the conversation. The book’s central question “What could our lives and our children’s lives be like if our days and nights were as immersed in nature as they are in technology?
Some of the answers to that question could be found in information from recent studies showing that spending time in nature decreases stress and anxiety, and in some cases, lowers the feeling of depression. A study performed in Korea’s Chonnam University, wherein study participants were shown images of wilderness settings while undergoing MRI scans, showed higher activity in parts of the brain associated with emotional stability, positive outlook, and the recollection of happy memories.
Another study reveals that women spending two-to-five hours in the woods for two days in a row have a 50 percent increase in white blood cells, which helps in fighting cancer!
The great news for Atlantans, with regard to using nature as medicine? We have an abundance of State Parks and Historic Sites nearby, and the information about these sites, and how to visit them, is easily accessible.From the USA Today Travel Tips, written by freelance writer Lisa Floyd and based on information from Georgia State Parks, here are your best bets for visits within a two-hour drive of Atlanta:
About 40 miles northwest of Atlanta, at Cartersville, is Red Top Mountain State Park. Just off Interstate 75, the 1,776-acre park features the 12,000-acre Lake Allatoona, complete with boating and water skiing, fishing, swimming and amenities like marinas, ramps, docks and beaches. Also at the park, you will find tennis courts, miniature golf, picnic and group buildings, and tent, trailer, RV and cottage camping. The park has more than 15 miles of trails for hiking and biking.
In Lithia Springs, about 18 miles west of Atlanta, is Sweetwater Creek, near Interstate 20. The 2,549-acre park has a 215-acre lake for fishing and canoeing. It has nine miles of hiking trails with views of river rapids. About 50 miles from Atlanta, south of Interstate 20, is the 138-acre John Tanner State Park, featuring two lakes with swimming and boating. There are nature trails, tent, trailer and RV campsites, as well as a lodge and motel-like units. Both include picnic areas, group shelters and playgrounds.
Along Interstate 20, about 50 miles east of Atlanta is the nearly 6,000-acre Hard Labor Creek State Park in Rutledge. The secluded park is home to a golf course; two lakes with swimming, fishing and boating; equestrian centers; group camps; picnicking; nearly 25 miles of hiking; a playground and cottage, tent, trailer and RV camping. North of Hard Labor Creek, about 55 miles northeast of Atlanta in Winder, is Fort Yargo State Park along state highway 11. On more than 1,800 acres, you’ll find a lake, camping, hiking, pavilions, tennis and disc golf.
About 20 miles southeast of Atlanta is the 1,300-acre Panola Mountain in Stockbridge. Partake in hiking, biking, birding, tree climbing, fishing on two lakes, picnicking and seasonal events throughout the year. Just over 50 miles southeast of Atlanta in Flovilla, you’ll find Indian Springs State Park covering more than 500 acres. It has a 100-acre lake and beach, picnic, museum, playground, small nature trail, group pavilions, and cottage, group, tent, trailer and RV camping.
In addition to the large state parks surrounding Atlanta, there are a couple of Georgia State Park historical sites. At the Etowah Indian Mounds at Cartersville, you can visit a museum and picnic area.
Archaeologists believe the Muscogean Indians built the pyramid-shaped burial mounds between 950 and 1450 A.D. Among artifacts turned up at the site are two marble statues of humans, possibly ancient worship figures. About 30 miles northwest of Atlanta in Dallas, you’ll find the 765-acre Pickett’s Mill Battlefield, a Civil War battlefield featuring a visitor’s center, trail hiking and group centers.