The Importance of Nature


Science is increasingly showing that humans need nature. We need to be inside less and outside more, and when we can’t be outside, we still need to connect with nature, such as by having house plants. It seems as if more benefits of nature are being found every day, and the benefits are nothing short of amazing.

According to Florence Williams, “Our sensory system evolved in the natural world and when we’re in those spaces, our brains become relaxed because these are things that we were designed to look at, hear and to smell”. Simply by being outside or around nature, our brains and bodies react positively, and this is important for children who are learning how to cope with emotions and stress, as well as people who experience symptoms of ADD and ADHD. According to a study by Wells and Evans, regardless of a family’s socioeconomic status, children who are exposed to more nature or greenery prove to be more resilient.[1] Another study showed that children exhibited fewer symptoms of ADD after playing outdoors; and the greener their surroundings, the fewer symptoms they experienced.[2]

Another benefit of nature is decreased stress. It’s believed that because our bodies and brains adapted in nature for so long, our senses naturally interpret information about plants and streams better than buildings, traffic, and other non-nature aspects of life. Because of this, a simple 15 minute walk in the woods can have positive effects on our bodies. Japanese researchers found that when 84 subjects walked in forests and 84 volunteers walked around city centers, the forest walkers showed a 16% decrease in cortisol (stress hormone), a 2 % decrease in blood pressure, and a 4% decrease in heart rate.[3] Incredibly, one of the researchers in this study also found in another study that our immune cells (or “natural killer cells”) increase in forests. Because of these findings, Japan has 48 therapy trails for public use to increase the overall health of its citizens. [4]

Besides for these amazing benefits of nature, children benefit greatly from nature because playing outside, learning about how leaves grow on trees, and touching grass, rocks, or trees all increase imagination, curiosity, and physical wellbeing. Unfortunately, many studies show that outdoor play is decreasing, and this decrease has been linked to rising rates of obesity, ADD, and depression. Luckily we can all do something about this by getting outside more. A walk on the bike path or by the river, playing in a backyard, reading under a tree, or climbing on a playground all stimulate imagination and creativity, increase resiliency and physical activity, and decrease stress. Sure, kids love video games and phone apps, but there’s something about nature that makes humans tick. Some even say we’re wired to be outside, and if that’s true, why not give it a shot?

[1] https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/f1b3/b8b51f9b11295debee2b9b4956e24422e6f9.pdf

[2] http://www.attitudematters.org/documents/Coping%20with%20ADD%20-%20Green%20Play%20Settings.pdf

[3] http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/01/call-to-wild/

[4] http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/02/nature-fix-brain-happy-florence-williams/?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_content=link_tw20170213news-booktalknature&utm_campaign=Content&sf55965627=1

#nature #playingoutside #natureondevelopment #development #playfordevelopment #handinhand

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