Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Nature-Sufficient Syndrome


My husband (pictured above, with San Francisco in the background; more photos below) and I had just parked the car last Sunday and were headed for the trail on San Bruno Mountain when I remembered, "Oh! My first-Tuesday blog post is due this week. What shall I write about?"

"Well," he said, following close behind, "you could write about how most of us are too attached to our electronic screens and devices. And how the industry is exploiting human vulnerabilities." This came as welcome news, especially since it wasn't that long ago that between the two of us, it was only me issuing frequent warnings about "cyber addiction" in our house and in society. A great uncontrolled experiment is being conducted our collective brain, and aside from a few researchers raising the alarm, few seem to care.

My husband was an early adapter of personal digital devices, being one of the first Apple Newton users and buying each successive iteration. When we finally purchased a flat-screen HD TV, the effect on him of watching even mediocre commercials was impressive: lounging on the sofa almost slack-jawed and reminding me of a listless opium-den habitué. The rapture lasted only a few weeks, though. Then one night I noticed him looking at my iPad while watching TV. Did I mention that we live smack-dab in Silicon Valley, where the ante is constantly being upped in the digital-distraction game?

Fortunately, living here also means we have a rich variety of hiking trails in every direction. Getting out for a trek together at the coast, in the redwoods, through the inland valleys has been a great unifying thread throughout our married life. No matter what else was going on when either of us suggested a hike, the other one always said, "Yes, let's go." These outings have been our salvation in more ways than one.

Living with ADHD, in oneself or a partner, the threat always lurks of being distracted from self-care and relationship-care by the easy stimulation. So it was that on beautifully foggy and cool day, as we started up the trail, I nixed the idea of talking about the blog post in favor of savoring the sights, smells, and sensations.  And my husband gratefully agreed. Wildflowers still bloomed in abundance. Fog rolled over the hills. Birds chirped and swooped. The chaparral smelled fresh and sparkled from the light mist. We found a funnel-web spider's hole (see photo below). And my husband, a great forager, picked so many wild blackberries for me (the only time he does the "cooking") I had my fill. The heavy fog had kept most hikers away and we felt like we had the entire mountain to ourselves.

In hopes of inspiring you, too, to heal any lingering "nature deficit disorder" in your life or relationship, I share below some photos of our hikes over the last year or two.

I also invite you to share with other blog readers how you re-charge your batteries in the great outdoors -- perhaps with a sport, a bicycle, regular walks in the neighborhood, or lazing in the hammock and listening to the wind or the birds.
















38 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Linda! And thanks for your photo tips!

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  2. BOY DO I NEED HELP WIT MY ADHD

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    1. You've come to the right place then! ;)
      g

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  3. Gina, I get my dose of sanity-preserving time in the outdoors and away from screens by running three days a week with friends. The scenery isn't as glorious as on your hike, but the company draws me out of myself. We run and talk, hang out for a few minutes when we're done, and socialize. I can't do without it. ADHD or no, it is absolutely essential.
    Frank

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    1. Hi Frank,

      Thanks for visiting.

      You know, I think I'd trade some "glorious" for the camaraderie of a group of friends. That's great therapy, too.

      g

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  4. I often share a similar observation I made years ago and put it in terms of a "minimum weekly requirement", like vitamins, for which we have a minimum daily requirement to stay healthy. Our Nature connection/exposure needs to be regular to help us stay balanced, grounded and aware of our inherent place in the natural world. I count being with most any aspect of the natural world, like water( a hot bath), rocks, plants(gardening), animals (playing with or cuddling my cats or dogs) or watching a candle flame flicker.

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    1. Hi Nancy,

      Absolutely a great way to think of it: the MWR of nature.

      And good point about gardening, playing with pets and more as counting as "nature" time.

      I know that when I'm working too much on "cerebral" efforts at the computer, I hold out as a reward for myself an hour of weeding. Yes, it really is a reward! :-)

      g

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  5. Thanks g, great taking a walk with you guys out there overlooks SF Bay. Only problem: I missed that great conversation when you sat down for a breather... Is that a hummingbird nest in the third from the top?
    cp
    CorePsych

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    1. On your next visit then, Chuck.

      Actually, that is a funnel-web spider hole! I had just learned about them somewhere and started looking at a likely spot (a shady vertical area on the side of the trail). Lo and behold!

      So many details in nature to hold our interest, if we know how to look.

      g

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  6. Speaking as the hubby, I'm here to tell you that contact with a nature is a great way to improve ADHD symptoms!

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    1. Do tell, Dr. Goat! Next time YOU can write the blog post. :-)

      xo
      g

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  7. Hello! I'm a great advocate of nature... use it often in my private practice with kids and young adults. I would recommend checking out the website Children & Nature Network, it was started by Richard Louv who wrote, "Last Child Left in the Woods" and "The Nature Principle." Even though this site is geared towards children, there's great info about the positive benefits of nature (studies included). His books are great resources as well. He refers to nature as "Vitamin N" and coined the term "Nature-Deficit Disorder." This guy a contemporary guru for nature! Gina, thanks for being an advocate and getting the word out.

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    1. Hi Andrea,

      Thanks so much for mentioning Richard Louv! In fact, I was trying to recall who it was talking on that very subject in a recent SF "City Arts and Lectures" radio program.

      I admit. I bristled a bit when it was insinuated on the show that kids wouldn't have ADHD if they got outside more (not that simple!) because there is already so much skepticism if not outright scorn in the Bay Area against ADHD as a legitimate diagnosis.

      Some people will even say, "My kid doesn't have ADHD when he's outside!" Well, yes, that's because ADHD is a context-driven condition, and unless the kid can live his entire life playing outside, that idea will go only so far. ;-)

      But Louv seemed to take a more measured approach, even if that's not how some ADHD-deniers will hear his message.

      And really, how lamentable is it that many kids don't get as many chances to play outside as kids of a few decades enjoyed, unmonitored to the nubbins. I shudder to think of my childhood without the freedom to roam the hood on my bike, wind in my hair. The idea of cutting recess? Absolutely incomprehensible.

      Let's hear it for a balanced approach!
      g

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  8. Gina, I enjoyed this post very much! Thank you for sharing it along with the lovely photos. I've visited San Fransisco before and have seen that lovely bridge, but certainly not from this lovely vista. I'm also going to try to pay more attention to this great suggestion of "minimum weekly requirement." Your post was well-timed too as I've been complaining about the 4 days of no internet caused by Sunday's storm. But look, I survived!
    Thanks again,
    Mary Kay (from ADDpro list)

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    1. Mary Kay! How nice to hear from you again.

      Oh, I've felt so badly for my friends without power on the East Coast. That heat and humidity. I hope it breaks soon.

      I'm glad you survived Internet withdrawal!

      g

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  9. Hi Gina,
    I used to run 6 to 10 miles most every day to deal with my now 2 or three year old diagnoses of ADHD. Now, with some inconvienient injuries, and aging, I hike out of the city around 6 miles with my also seemingly ADHD dog. It works well for both of us.
    Unfortunately, he recently ran after an unseen fawn, just a few yards off the trail, and was nipping at it. I got to him very quickly, and there appeared to be no harm done.

    There was a bystander who's only comment was basically, "you dog owners never seem to get it, dogs need to be on a leash".
    They are probably right, but this, as well as many other incidents bring out, in me, all the worst, of living with ADHD.

    Yes, I feel terrible that the fawn was attacked, and that I was responsible for it. It will take me the full day to run through all the ramifications of what I could have done, should have done, should do now, how should I feel, do I feel bad enough, not bad enough? In additon to what my dog is feeling, how can I better train him, knowing that he is a rescue dog that was returned to the Shelter numerous times, was obviously abused (he would cowar at the first sign of a raised arm when I first got him) and he needs to run like you would not believe to be content, and on and on?

    Yes, I may be putting my feelings into him, but if you watched him when he does not get a good dose of being outside, his responses are very similar to mine.

    Tuning out the self blame, negative talk and at the same time accepting responsibility, is a balancing galactic battle for me. If that person could have accepted, my apology, I would have still felt bad, but when people feel the need to make a blame statement, I wish they knew that, for me, it makes it even more detrimental to the situation than if they had just walked by, seeing that I was doing what I could to rectify the situation.

    I have learned to just walk away, rather than responding, as it never seems to help.

    Thin skinned is right, I'm pretty sure this is not an uncommon scenario for many of us with ADHD. Is it?

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    1. Hi there,

      So sorry to hear your outing was marred by that unpleasantness.

      I can empathize with the person a bit. Sometimes my husband and I hike near Fort Funston in SF, a beautiful trail along the ocean but often dotted with doggie deposits. On a hot day....shew! It really hits me in my limbic system! Dog owners are supposed to use bags but of course some don't. And some dog owners are almost antagonistic about it, as if their dogs have a right to poop wherever they want in public.

      So, maybe that person had had just enough of such careless dog owners.

      But I also empathize with you. I don't own a dog now, but old dog Lucy the Labrador mix...I could seldom bring myself to put her on the leash. She just loved roaming around, sniffing, and darting through the brush. And just watching her being so happy made me happy.

      Still, I understand that dogs in certain open spaces really disrupts the wildlife. Not even with "direct contact" but apparently the smell of dogs scares some little critters. And it throws off the whole ecosystem.

      I hope you can find an open space where dogs are allowed off-leash.

      As for the fawn, I'm sure it got over it. ;-) The deer in our neighborhood have practically taken over the streets, and they aren't fazed by much.

      Keep hiking and taking that dog with you!

      g

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  11. Thanks to your inspiring post, Gina, on the 4th, we actually took a walk along the Pacific Beach coast in San Diego instead of just looking at it from our hotel room!

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    1. Hey Susan,

      I know that beach! I used to walk PB for miles with my good friend. Reminds me how much I miss my friend and those walks. Who needed therapy when you had a good friend and miles of beach to cover?

      g

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  12. I find that varying the speed of my activities can recharge me in different ways. When I tend my bee hives, I have to go that very calm and gentle place, which can soothe my frantic soul. When I'm sluggish, bordering on crabby, a challenging hike or bike ride can kick my butt back into a more social gear. A gentle hike with my old dog can simply allow me to reflect on the gifts that I have been blessed to experience. Thanks for your wonderful encouragement, yet again!

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    1. And thanks for sharing your thoughts. Yours is an excellent point, that we can search for varying ways to channel our outdoor energies, depending on our mood and what's available to us. Dogs are always good. :-)

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  13. Personally I find time in nature to be extremely therapeutic. It seems that "green time" is a big help for those of us with ADHD. My operating theory is that the natural world is filled with constant, yet non-stressful stimulation. When I'm out hiking or observing nature the "noise" in my head is gone and I feel level of utter peace that's hard to describe--I call it a spiritual experience, even though I'm an atheist. The variety and beauty of nature allows the need to for stimulation to be met in a way that is relaxing and fulfilling.

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    1. Great way to put it, "constant, yet non-stressful stimulation." I wholeheartedly agree.

      Completely the opposite of electronic stimulation, in my opinion.

      Thanks for your comment,
      g

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  14. Thanks, Gina! I just had a brainstorm. Since the annual conference is in your neck of the woods, is there some way to incorporate green breaks in conference? Or...can we add a link on the CHADD website listing some areas close by the conference site to go for some nice walks? Perhaps for the early birds, we could set up some walking groups. Thanks for the reminder and the inspiration.

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    1. What a great idea!

      Here is a link to the hotel's website on "activities":
      http://sanfranciscoairport.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels-sanfranciscoairport/activities/index.jsp

      The Hyatt has a shuttle that goes to Burlingame (an upscale area with a downtown nice for walking) and it says BART is "convenient." Plus, there is a jogging path along the bay, it says.

      Here is the website for planning trips throughout the Bay Area, with a range of transit options. You plug in your location and destination, and you receive step-by-step instructions.

      http://tripplanner.transit.511.org/mtc/XSLT_TRIP_REQUEST2?language=en

      I'll try to investigate this further in the coming months....

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  15. Part of my self-care as a partner of a person with AD/HD is to jog regularly with a running group. My husband is an enthusiastic supporter of this activity for me, although he can't participate himself. When I do a fun run, he's there with bells on his toes at the finish line to tell me how proud he is and hand me some water. :-)

    One of the things we love to do together in the outdoors is geocaching (http://www.geocaching.com/). It combines the fun of hiking with the intellectual engagement of a treasure hunt. We will often combine geocaching while traveling, in addition to relying on it as a fun, outdoors activity. It's great for kids and dogs, too!

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    1. Hi Janet,

      Geocaching sounds fun! And what a great way to get kids interested in hiking.

      How wonderful that you've found a compatible running group -- and that your husband is so supportive. Some spouses get "jealous" of outside activities.

      take care,
      g

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  16. I am the spouse of.....the question I have is this: how do I get him to leave the electronic stuff in the first place???? He is like an addict--on the Kindle Fire every spare minute of the day. He used to read and do other activities but doesn't any more-- and he needs to "get moving" since he had a heart attack last fall.

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    1. P.S. You might want to read another post on this blog, about "cyber junkies":

      http://adultadhdrelationships.blogspot.com/2012/04/adhd-and-cyber-junkies.html

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  17. "like an addict" -- or an actual addict? ;-)

    These electronic gizmos can really hijack anyone's attentional system, but people with untreated ADHD are especially vulnerable.

    Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to your question. You don't mention if he is pursuing treatment for his ADHD. That's where I'd start. It would give his attentional system a fighting chance in resisting the easy electronic lure and getting his backside outside.

    good luck!
    g

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  18. Love it! I hike barefoot in the woods here in the Blue Ridge Mountains with my pup, while shooting photos along the way :)

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    1. Oh, that sounds like heaven. I used to live in Knoxville, with the Smokies and Blue Ridge Mountains very close by. Some beautiful memories of hikes there. And one memory of sitting with a friend by a creek, and it turns out we'd sat in poison ivy! Boy, was it hard to sit at work that week!

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  19. This article really hits home for me - as I have been a strong advocate for getting out and experiencing life - especially having ADHD - I realize how critical it is to not get tied to the web of distractions available online.
    The photos are great!

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  20. Beautiful photos! I live with a daughter who has ADHD - she is 12, almost 13, and a husband who I believe has it also. We are definitely a family of electronics. It drives me crazy! With the xbox, Wii, PS3, tv's and computers, Ipods and Ipads, it's really endless. My husband works in technology, so that is his excuse. Really makes me sad that my kids aren't out making mud pies and experiencing the innocence of all those things we experienced as children. They make me feel like I'm a monster when I make them go outside! Times are a 'changing, and not for the better! We are becoming an unsocial society.

    Danielle
    upstate New York

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  21. We love geocaching (http://www.geocaching.com/)! It combines enjoying nature with the intellectual challenge of a treasure hunt. It's great both for familes with children and empty nesters, such as ourselves. We've been delighted to discover hidden treasures of natural beauty we never knew existed in our own back yard thanks to geocaching.

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  22. I can attest to the salutary effects of nature. I grew up on a farm and always looked back on it with a mixture of distaste for the hard labor, and wistfulness for the breeze, the green and the quiet.

    A year ago we moved from the city to a farm and the change in me was instantaneous. Every day we live in the outdoors, the weather; with the sky, the soil, the animals, the rain and sun. ADD or no, it is profoundly good for the soul.

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