Nature A Great Healer
According to extensive universities studies just being in nature can help to alleviate many mental and physical problems such as anxiety, depression and high blood pressure. Spending time in this beautiful natural environment is so important to our well-being, helping to reduce heart rate, muscle tension and production of stress hormones.
“When I wrote Last Child in the Woods in 2005, this wasn’t a hot topic,” said Richard Louv, a journalist in San Diego whose book is largely credited with triggering this movement and who coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder. “This subject was virtually ignored by the academic world. I could find 60 studies that were good studies. Now it’s approaching and about to pass 1,000 studies, and they point in one direction: Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive functioning.”These studies have shown that time in nature — as long as people feel safe — is an antidote for stress: It can lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, reduce nervous system arousal, enhance immune system function, increase self-esteem, reduce anxiety, and improve mood. Attention Deficit Disorder and aggression lessen in natural environments, which also help speed the rate of healing. In a recent study, psychiatric unit researchers found that being in nature reduced feelings of isolation, promoted calm, and lifted mood among patients.
The growing body of research — combined with an intuitive understanding that nature is vital and increased concerns about the exploding use of smart phones and other forms of technology — has led to tipping point at which health experts, researchers, and government officials are now proposing widespread changes aimed at bringing nature into people’s everyday lives.
A new study led by The Wildlife Trusts finds that time spent in nature can benefit children in a number of ways.
The conservation charity commissioned the Institute of Education at University College London (UCL) to undertake the research, which focused on over 450 primary school children and the effects of Wildlife Trust-led activities on their wellbeing.
The outdoor activities involved children learning about nature, such as how to identify trees and plants, and considering the needs of wildlife habitats and their importance to the world at large.
The study was one of the largest of its kind into the effects outdoor activities have on the wellbeing of children and their views about nature, with 451 children aged mainly between 8 and 9 years old taking part.
The children completed surveys before and after they participated in the outdoor experiences. After connecting with nature during the activities, children demonstrated high levels of enjoyment, and showed an increase in their personal wellbeing and health over time, in addition to an increase in nature connection — The Wildlife Trusts describes nature connection as the level at which a person considers nature to be a part of their identity, including a love of nature and feelings of care and concern for the environment.
The benefits of spending time connecting to nature weren’t just emotional, but were found to positively affect the children’s education. An overwhelming majority of children reported that they felt their experience could help their school work, and made them feel more confident. Most also agreed that they had better relationships with their teachers and classmates.
In light of their findings, The Wildlife Trusts believe every child should be able to access nature on a daily basis in order to experience the benefits this brings.
“The Wildlife Trusts believe everyone should have the opportunity to experience the joy of wildlife in daily life, and we’re calling on government to recognise the multiple benefits of nature for children — and ensure that at least one hour per school day is spent outdoors learning and playing in wild places,” said The Wildlife Trust’s Director of Strategy Nigel Doar.