The Sweet Smell of Childhood Memories
Have you ever gotten a whiff of the most familiar smell from the most unusual place that instantaneously sends you back in time? Crazy fun and weird, right? This happened to me the other day. I was going to try a new hair conditioner and decided to open it up and smell test it first, and what do you know, it smelled just like Bazooka bubble gum!
For those of you too young to remember Bazooka bubble gum, it was a soft pink pad of sweet chewy goodness that could produce the biggest bubbles you ever did see!
The moment I got a whiff of this new conditioner, I was immediately twelve-years old, hanging out with my best friend, Gretchen, scouring the shelves of our local Convenient Store on Madison Street looking for Bazooka bubble gum, SweeTarts and a host of other delicious treats for our leisurely walk home! So many memories flooded my mind during this flashback of my childhood and the experiences from that long-ago place.
Ah, the sweet smell of childhood…
I often think back on my childhood because it was a very special time for me. I know not everyone has a great childhood, but I was lucky because I did. I come from a large family of six kids who had an array of pets, have great parents, and lived in a neighborhood bursting with kids ready and willing to play at any given moment. This was a time when we would leave the house in the morning right after breakfast and not get home till dinner — with only a brief stop in between for a quick PB&J at someone’s house for lunch.
Unlike today, the outdoors were our playground. For me that meant wide-open fields to run around in endlessly; marshy wetlands to trudge through getting good and muddy; and long-winding creeks in which to search out and catch crayfish. This is where nature was explored and discovered ~ be it voluntarily or not. I say “or not” because the boys were notorious for teaching the girls about “flying” snakes, “flying” salamanders, and “flying” earthworms. Regardless of how nature was discovered, I loved every bit of it! Okay, maybe not the “flying” snakes as much, but I’m sure the snakes didn’t appreciate the impromptu flying lessons either!
A love for the natural world is forever embedded in me!
These experiences with friends and nature set my foundation for the life ahead of me. If anyone back then would have said to us, “Forty, fifty years from now children will have a disconnect from nature and it will be called Nature-Deficit Disorder”, we would have thought they were crazy. Nature is truly all around us so how can anyone not feel a connection to it?
But today it is true, Nature-Deficit Disorder is a reality. With the rise in technology, nature has taken a back seat. As I mentioned in my last blog, 70% of U.S. mothers reported they played outside everyday as a child while only 30% of their children do. While another statistic showed that 82% of U.S. parents view spending time in nature as very important to their children’s development. Seems like we have dueling realities.
The true reality is that Nature Nurtures Us!
Your Brain on Nature: It has been shown that nature can improve one’s creativity by up to 50%. A 15-minute nature walk can decrease one’s stress hormone by as much as 16%, reduce blood pressure by 2%, and drop heart rate by 4%. Studies have also shown that the areas of the brain associated with empathy and altruism lit up when shown natural scenes, meaning nature makes us nicer as well as calmer. Although we often focus on the benefits of nature on children, it is clearly beneficial to adults as well.
The best news is that nature is ALL around us! One doesn’t need to go to a famous National Park or Preserve to reap the benefits from nature. Simply step outside your door and notice the trees and flowers and critters that call your neighborhood home. Each breath of nature you take in will make your spirit soar!
So here’s to the sweet smell of childhood past, present and future, and to the wonder of Nature ~ for the effects are immediate and can truly last a lifetime!