The benefits of spending time in nature range from supporting mental health and reducing stress to helping to develop responsibility for the environment. Below are 5 reasons why supporting a healthy relationship between youth &the outdoors is important:
1. Disconnecting from Technology = More Sensory Experiences. While technology has its place in everyone’s lives, it is oftentimes hard to find a disconnect and allow the brain to rest from screen time. Richard Louv, author and co-founder of the Children & Nature Network warns that, “As the young spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow and this reduces the richness of human experience.”1 The beautiful thing
about investing time outside is that the senses are engaged simultaneously. Encourage your children or students to leave their phones behind or turn them off while they participate in outdoor activities in order to fully immerse themselves and be fully present.
2. Nature creates a sense of wonder. Naturally, youth tend to be curious as they grow and soak in information. Spending time in the outdoors can create
conversations about natural phenomena as well as advance creativity, imagination, and even promote responsibility for the environment. It might just take one hands-on experience to foster a connection between the earth and a youth’s sense of wonder. Additionally, the phrase we’ve most likely heard before, “Stop and smell the roses,” lends to this idea about taking time to slow down and notice the little things. Encouraging this mentality can help youth develop awareness and appreciation for the world around them and also support self-awareness.
3. Natural environments reduce stress.
With studying, working on projects, being involved in multiple extra-curricular, many youth are on the go and encounter stress which can affect their health and attention span. According to Attention Restoration Theory, nature has the “capacity to renew attention after exerting mental energy” and that “natural environments are restorative as they enable the directed attention system to recover from depletion”…in other words: recharge the mental batteries! In a study conducted by The Nature Conservancy, “90 percent of kids who spent time outside said being in nature and taking part in outdoor activities helped relieve
stress.” Reducing stress, in turn, improves mood, sleep, and the overall well-being of an individual.