Five Reasons to use the Natural Environment to Enhance Children’s Health, Wellbeing and Learning

 

Wellbeing and Mental Health - Being in nature or even viewing scenes of nature has been shown to reduce anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. One of the most intriguing areas of current research is the impact of nature on general wellbeing. Young people report that their mood improves after spending time outside, changing from depressed, stressed, and anxious to more calm and balanced.

 

Physical Health - Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. Research done in hospitals, offices, and schools has found that even a simple plant in a room can have a significant impact on stress and anxiety.

 

Mindfulness - Furthermore, time in nature or viewing natural scenes increases our ability to pay attention. Because humans find nature inherently interesting, we can naturally focus on what we are experiencing out in nature. This also provides a respite for our overactive minds, refreshing us for new tasks.

 

Behaviour - Research on children with ADHD shows that time spent in nature increases attention span and natural settings, in or close to schools, provide a consistently positive environment for children with conduct disorders. Learning experiences outside the classroom have a positive impact on motivation and behaviour because they offer young people a different kind of stimulus from the formality of the classroom, providing them with opportunities to learn in a way that suits them as individuals, and demonstrating the value of real-life situations.

 

Social Connectedness - According to a series of field studies of children in Finland, time spent in nature connects us to each other and the larger world. In addition to this children that spent more time outside in nature displayed lower levels of aggression and a better capacity to cope with challenging tasks. Further studies that use MRI scanning techniques to measure brain activity reported that when participants viewed nature scenes, the parts of the brain associated with empathy and love lit up, but when they viewed urban scenes, the parts of the brain associated with fear, anxiety and lack of empathy were activated.