By Michelle Simon, PhD, ND, Natural Partners Advisory Board member

I always assumed my affinity for nature was something I learned as a child. I spent hours and hours of “unstructured time” exploring the woods and streams behind my family’s cabin in rural Vermont.  I remember my first encounter with an Eastern Red Eft, a vibrant orange little newt with dark red spots.  Seriously?!  This was no camouflaged creature working at blending in.  Spectacular.  Thus began my love of the natural world.

Before the 1980s, most children were encouraged to play outdoors, mostly unsupervised.  In 2010 the Kaiser Family Foundation reported children ages 8 to 18 averaged more than 7.5 daily hours in front of   an electronic screen.  Many studies have linked screen time to health problems, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, impaired social skills, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity.1

These days I live in a city but I regularly escape to the countryside to get recharged.  I thought it was just my rural roots that propelled me to seek this type of solace.  Maybe not.

In fact, research is amassing that establishes how important our connection to nature and the natural world really is and how specifically we are improved by it.  Nurturing this bond can reap many rewards for ourselves and our communities.

Improved health

  • Direct benefits in children’s health from activity in natural environments includes building and maintaining healthy bones and muscles, reduced risk of obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, reduced feelings of depression and anxiety, and improved psychological well-being.²
  • Patients in hospital rooms with tree views had shorter stays, less need for pain medications, and fewer negative comments in the nurses’ notes compared to patients with views of brick.³
  • Exercising in a green environment produced a 50% greater benefit in mood and brain stress levels than equivalent exercise indoors.

Improved community

  • Exposure to the natural environment leads people to nurture close relationships with fellow human beings, value community and be more generous with money.4

Increased performance

  • After spending an hour outdoors interacting with nature, memory performance and attention spans improved by 20%. 5,6
  • Workplaces designed with nature in mind result in employees who are more productive and use less sick time.7  

Nature is a restorative environment, fostering stress management, health promotion, psychotherapy, and disease deterrence.  Richard Luov coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” which he defined as “a diminished ability to find meaning in the life that surrounds us.” Easy treatment:  liberal doses of vitamin N.  N for nature… or for newt!

Interested in more outdoor and summer tips? Click here!


References:

1Council on Communications and Media, “Children, Adolescents, Obesity and the Media,” Pediatrics, July 2011. www.pediatrics.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2011-1066

2 McCurdy, LE et al. “Using Nature and Outdoor Activity to Improve Children’s Health”, Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health, May 2010; 40 (5): pp 102-17.

3 Ulrich, RS, “View through a window may influence recovery from surgery”, Science, 1984, April 27; 224 (4647):420-1.

4 Weinstein, N et al, “Can nature make us more caring? Effects of immersion in nature on intrinsic aspirations and generosity”, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, October 2009;35 (10):1315-29.

5 Berman MG, et al. “Cognitive benefits of interacting with nature”, Psychological Science. December 2008; 19 (12): 1207-12.

6 Berto, R, “Exposure to restorative environments helps restore attentional capacity”. Journal of Environmental Pscyhology. September, 2005; 25 (3): 249-259.

7 Heerwagen, JH. “Green Buildings, Organizational success, and Occupant productivity.” Building Research and Information. Vol. 28 (5):353-367. London, UK. 2000


*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.