The Benefits of Nature

Surveys report that, on average, Americans are spending as much as 93% of their lives indoors.

This migration indoors has been on the rise since the 1980s because of advances in technologies such as cable and satellite TV, video games, computers with internet access and cell phones. The health of Americans has also been deteriorating during this mass migration from outdoors to indoors. Adults and children have both experienced dramatic increases in rates of chronic physical and mental illnesses during the same time period. Many health experts have mounting concerns because of growing rates of health problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease that have a correlation to the less active, mostly indoor lifestyles of many Americans. In the last 10-15 years, there has been a growing awareness of this disconnection from nature and many studies have been done to document the benefits and importance of spending time in nature. Richard Louv, the bestselling author of the book Last Child in the Woods, created a term for this alienation from the natural world, calling the problem “nature deficit disorder.” On the website for the Children and Nature Network, www.childrenandnature.org, that he co-founded, they state that “an expanding body of scientific evidence suggests that nature-deficit disorder contributes to a diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, conditions of obesity, and higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses.” Because of the book mentioned above and the studies and research that it has prompted, many Federal, State, and local government agencies, as well as community grassroots organizations, to create new children-in-nature program and initiatives. Of course, children are not the only ones who can suffer from Nature Deficit Disorder. We all need to find daily opportunities to connect with the natural world. This connection can start almost anywhere. It can happen with a house plant, a pet, in a garden, in your yard, or in a local park. Going for a walk outside by yourself, with a family member, your dog, or a friend is a simple way to get started today. Just 2 hours a week can have lasting health benefits.

Some of the benefits include:

☼ Enhanced Immune system functioning

☼ Reduce blood pressure

☼ Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease

☼ Reduced stress

☼ Reduced anxiety

☼ Improved mood

☼ Increased ability to focus

☼ Accelerated healing from surgery or illness

☼ Increased energy level

☼ Improved sleep

☼ Improved self-awareness and positive body image

☼ Improved cognitive functioning

☼ Boosted results of exercise

(Source: Southwest Utah Public Health Department magazine, Summer 2018)

Nature benefits for children:

☼ Improved school performance

☼ Increased self esteem

☼ Enhanced creativity

☼ Better social skills

☼ More impulse control

☼ Improved critical thinking and problem solving

☼ Less disruptive behavior

☼ Improved health

(from www.childrenandnature.org)

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