THIS. IS. YOUR. XENNIAL. BRAIN. ON. NATURE.May 30, 2019
Remember that 90s drug awareness commercial with John Roselius (the guy from Mars Attacks! & Con Air with Nicholas Cage) where he cracks open an egg over a frying pan and says, “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs.” It was a staple of my preteen childhood and one that my kids tell me is now a meme. It was part of a time where PSA commercials like that were seen by a lot of young people during our afterschool programs or Saturday morning Saved by the Bell screen time, as YouTube or social media memes weren’t a thing to help lead the fight against drugs.
A few weeks ago I started listening to this Audible book called, The 3-Day Effect: How Nature Claims Your Brain by Florence Williams. It’s the first audiobook I’ve listened to that felt more like an extended podcast then a book that was recited. It was intriguing and I loved having the background sounds of her journeys as she logged her observations and story throughout the book. You might know that I’m a bit of a nature lover. Being a Girl Scout leader, camp-keeper of a Tentrr campsite on our family farm, and big advocate of having a porch swing as a part a morning routine I couldn’t wait to share this book on how scientists are studying ways we could effectively administer dosages of nature for trauma survivors. I consumed her 3 hours of audio, and then relistening to it again! It was that good!
I won’t spoil the entire premise of the book but I will share that afterward, I felt like I had finally gotten the full idea of what John Roselius had meant in that afterschool PSA. It was like Florence was saying the entire time, “This is your brain. Now, this is your brain on nature!”
With a population that is continually pushed more drugs than anything other consumable on the planet I feel, it occurred to me that perhaps Xennials (micro-generation between GenX and Millennials 1977-1985) would be the best advocates for Ms. Williams’ work and her counterpart scientists. Recently there’s been a movement of Millennials who have taken to nature, it’s why our Tentrr site is so popular. They love having the ability to go off grid yet still post to an InstaStory! It’s super appealing to their generation. I must admit, some Millennials are quite skilled in the outdoors, however, unlike past generations, they desire the ability to log their time outside digitally. Being invisible for a while isn’t their cup of tea. I considered that possibly it’s that they aren’t accustomed to being ignored or unseen, and Xennials, like myself, do have a relationship with being invisible. Matter of fact, nature might be the one place we feel the high of being seen, being heard, and enjoying being invisible to the world, and here’s why:
THE LAST GENERATION RAISED TO BE ADDICTED TO NATURE
- I think one of the key parts of The 3-Day Effect that struck me was that Florence was raised going on outdoor adventures with her father. Now, I know that doesn’t qualify solid evidence of generational intelligence. I’d assume all generations have members who’ve spent time outdoors with a parent in some shape or form. However, Xennials are more than likely to have gone camping with family or scouts for longer periods of time, spent more time outdoors as a preteen without any supervision, and experienced more road trips in their youth than current generations. The downturn of interest in scouting, the increased fear of knowing where your child is at all times, and gas price increases over the years all account for these things to be more prevalent for Xennials. Reading this book made me think about how little my nature trained brain from childhood receives a good dose of nature living in a digital world. Xennials have transitioned very easily to digital lifestyles and technology so we can be relevant in both work and social circles. It doesn’t mean our nature addicted brain doesn’t go through withdrawals or have desires for a fix of our life-long addiction. I find if I go more than a three-month time frame and do not have any time spent outside to observe and soak it in without digital influence I can end up completely burned out, depressed, and feel like I am going through withdrawals. Craving just one hit of vitamin D to my nature addicted brain.
XENNIALS LOVE A GOOD PLAN
- We Xennials were a part of a generation that required us to make a plan before we’d adventure out anywhere. The excitement of time outdoors is mostly about making the plan for us, am I right? Just think, no Google Maps, no GPS to give you the ETA of your arrival, no way to contact the friend you are meeting if something didn’t go just right. If you’re a Xennial I’d be surprised if just reading that didn’t get your heart pumping a little faster. In order to get your hit of nature or outdoors, even for a simple bike ride, you needed a freakin’ plan when we were growing up! In The 3-Day Effect, Florence goes on a nature trip with a group of women who have been rehabilitated out of human trafficking here in the US. They are guided by an organization called SHE.IS.ABLE and part way through the trip it’s starkly important that they change their plan. Do you know how that happens? A cell phone. I can remember going on a camping trip with my grandma and my cousins as a kid, there was a horrible lightning and thunderstorm that ensued. I swore our tent was going to fly into the storm with us in it! It was so scary that just writing about it now makes me think how crazy it was to be out in the open like that with kids, and how awesome it was to experience it too! There was no app to tell us the doppler radar or to give us a tornado warning alert, all we could do was hunker down. The next day though, you better believe the talk around the breakfast picnic table was exhilarating, a buzz was left over from the lightning to energize all of us for the unexpectedness of the day ahead. Xennials know that planning is important and that no plan will every completely go as planned.
XENNIALS FEEL INVISIBLE EVERYWHERE BUT HERE
- I don’t know when it struck me but I think it was in the first chapter when the author, Florence Williams of The 3-Day Effect, asked a veteran who’s on a rafting trip with her if he thought her heartbreak from her current divorce was similar to the trauma of PTSD from war. The Vet confirms that heartbreak can be trauma too, different from war trauma but trauma to the brain all in itself. When I heard this portion of the audio it was like an explosion of emotion went off and I knew this part was huge for me personally. A few years ago, when my husband and I were going through troubling times in our marriage, I felt completely lost and was hit with anxiety like I had never experienced. I’d purposefully go outside and sit under a tree in our back yard, go for walks closer near our woods on our farm and it’s when my porch swing morning ritual officially started. There was something about nature that made me feel less invisible and that my problems weren’t as big as I felt they were. There is something about nature that makes us feel not so alone. Perhaps it was all those times as a child when my first friends where those in nature. That tree I climbed and fell from but somehow the base of it felt like it softened the fall, salamanders and crawfish from our creek I’d catch naming them instantly, caterpillars, lightning bugs and butterflies were never quick enough to not end up in my ball jar with holes on top of it. In nature, none of us are ever alone but I am not sure that is as a present for generations who spend time in nature with their devices. I believe that if you’re a Xennial and are experiencing feeling unseen, invisible or underappreciated perhaps some time in nature will bring back some of that childhood high of spending time with your first friends.