Photograph by Cassidy McMullen
Alyssa Gunn and Billy Jessome recharge in the nature room during Aboriginal Awareness Day.
Durham College is reconnecting students with nature with technology.
At this year’s Aboriginal Awareness Day, Heather Bickle, the health promotions coordinator at Durham College, partnered with the event to set up a room for students to recharge with nature using projectors showing waterfalls, audio of water and birds and plants.
“Nature is a great way for us to heal and feel wellness,” Bickle says.
Nature deficit disorder is a disconnect or isolation from nature that results in a loss of creativity, behavioural and mental health issues. It’s not a clinical diagnosis but rather a term coined by author Richard Louv, who wrote Last Child in the Woods where he details the disorder.
“We’re not spending time in nature,” Bickle says referring to technology being a big factor in why that is.
“Technology is not necessarily the enemy,” Bickle says, adding there are ways to incorporate the two in our environments.
“This can be as simple as maybe on your desktop, on your phone, putting a screensaver image of nature, it can be playing a video or some nature sounds,” Bickle says.
Participants in the room were encouraged to sit down on one of the couches in the dark room for at least five minutes and take deep breaths to relax.
Lorrie Ann Parks, one of the drum circle presenters from the performance going on for Aboriginal Awareness Day, participated in the room.
“My stress level lowered,” Parks says. “It doesn’t take very long for that full calming level to come.
“We all live such busy, busy, busy, busy lives,” Parks say. “I think what that does is, that’s what it does it shows you that it doesn’t take much to change your inner, inner being to be less stressful, right? It doesn’t take much, all you had to do was go in there.”
In the room, to go along with the theme of environmental wellness, they also talked about environmental sustainability.
“I think sometimes we think it’s about recycle and reduce and reusing, that was kind of drilled into our head when we were little,” Bickle says. “But sustainability is so much more than that. It’s learning where our food is coming from, how are food is being handled, how we can make environmental sound choices day-to-day.”
Bickle says it’s important to think about where your packaging or furniture comes from in order to start being more sustainable.
On campus, Durham College has a Living Green initiative for students.
“The Living Green initiative seeks to enhance the environmental sustainability of campus operations, planning, administration, curriculum, research, innovation and stakeholder engagement,” the Living Green blog says.
“Environmental wellness is not just an Aboriginal, Indigenous issue. They are often our fighters and our voice for our communities,” Bickle says. “It is often our Indigenous communities that are on the forefront, fighting for our environment. So, this is hoping to bring some awareness today that it’s a full community and we all need to be more aware of how our environment is being impacted.”
Bickle is hoping to make the room a service offered at Durham College when the Health and Wellness offices get switched to the C-Wing on the Oshawa campus this spring.
She also wants to provide students with nature walks behind the residence buildings on the west side of the campus.
Until then, Bickle encourages people to take a little extra time between buses or walks to take nature in.
“A little as 10 minutes each day just sitting out in your backyard, even if you live in an apartment building,” Bickle says. “Looking outside your window, looking at the sky looking at the clouds, doing some breathing.”