Nature is my lifeline. I am lucky to live in a small town surrounded by woods to which I am no stranger. I walk in the woods when I need inspiration, when I'm moody, have a problem to solve or need a natural pick-me-up. When I long for rest and restoration, it is a-camping I will go. Throughout my life, time spent in nature has afforded me such awe and fulfillment that I credit it for my happiness and sense of inner peace.
A child who has not been exposed to nature, is unlikely to love it as an adult. To grace your children with the gift of nature is a truly wonderful legacy. Spending time in nature will help them overcome difficulties and make their lives immeasurably better. Sadly, as increased screen time and urban environments draw us indoors, we respond less to the call of nature to our detriment. Time spent in natural environments can make us less aggressive, kinder, happier and more creative.
Less aggressive teens
Evidence suggests teens are less likely to be aggressive when surrounded by nature. Nature has been found to calm adolescents as well as young children, while improving academic performance and social interactions.
A study from the University of Southern California found that urban teens are less likely to be aggressive if they grow up in close proximity to green spaces such as parks.
The researchers followed 1,287 teenagers from 2000 to 2012. Parents were asked to fill out questionnaires about their teen's behaviour. These particular behaviours included destroying property, getting into fights and other acts of violence.
When the adolescents were exposed to a green space located within one kilometre of their residence, they were much less aggressive. Researchers believe that the reasons behind calmer teens included reduction of maternal stress, reduced pollution, an increase in physical activity and less ambient noise.
Researchers also believe that being surrounded by green space increased microbial diversity, which improves immune function in children.
Researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have found that both children and teenagers diagnosed with ADD/ADHD have better concentration and a reduction of symptoms when exposed to nature.
Prevent childhood obesity
Obesity rates in children and adolescents have risen significantly over the past 30 years, and tripled from 1980 to 2008. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 17 per cent of 12 to 19 year-olds are obese. In a separate study conducted in 2009 by the CDC, the total cost of obesity in the United States totalled $147 billion. According to research, children and adolescents who are active outdoors are less likely to become obese. Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed a connection between obesity and a deficiency in vitamin D, from a lack of exposure to sunlight.
Nature reduces stress
Taking a walk in nature can relieve stress and anxiety. While exercise of any kind helps to alleviate stress, Mother Nature adds a little magic to this experience. Japanese scientists asked some research subjects to walk in a natural setting while others did a walk of similar difficulty in an urban setting. Results indicated that the forest walkers had lower heart rates and higher heart rate variability, which showed that they were more relaxed.
Researchers in a Finnish study discovered that people who lived in the city and walked in a park for 20 minutes were less stressed than those who walked in the city centre.
A walk in the forest can make you happy
In a 2015 study, Gregory Bratman, of Stanford University, had some participants walk in an urban setting while others walked in a forest. After the walk, he set memory tasks participants had to complete. Not only did the forest walkers perform better on the memory tests, they were also less anxious, focused less on the negative aspects of their personalities and felt more positive emotions.
Be more creative
In a 2012 study by David Strayer, hikers who had just completed a four-day trip scored 47 per cent better at solving puzzles that required creativity than their stationary counterparts.
Increase your aptitude for compassion
University of California, Berkeley researcher Juyoung Lee, and a team of researchers, found that time spent in nature makes people more generous and helpful to others, and more trusting. Participants who were exposed to natural beauty tended to display these admirable attributes thanks to an increase in positive feelings.
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In another study, time in nature was found to increase cooperation and environmentally sustainable behaviour.
It can be tough to pry your offspring off the couch and away from their phones and laptops, but doing so will give them an empowering life skill that will make their lives happier, healthier and kinder.
This article was originally published on Greenmoxie.com.
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