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The average person li

ving in western society is disconnected from nature. Tell me when is the last time you were consciously in nature? Did you take the time to appreciate the surroundings, you know taking it all in? Just to clarify by nature we mean outdoor places such the beach, woods, forest, rivers, lakes, mountains, national parks, countryside, wild animals etc. According to a study conducted by the United Nations, 90 % of the UK population live in towns and cities and nearly 50% of the population worldwide live in urban areas. These figures raise concerns as to how the human population is becoming disconnected from nature and that this may be affecting our health and well being. This is not just a tree hugging notion but rather a fact backed by research on nature and its link to health and well being.

The purpose of this article is to remind everyone (in particular our children) of the benefits of being in nature. Of course, we don’t have to go outside to be in touch with nature. If the setting is indoors then you can have plants, fish tanks indoors etc. You could also have a garden. Though this may help, there is no substitute for the real deal, the great outdoors.

Why are we disconnected?

The main reason would have to be urbanisation and loss of green space due to the increase in people living in urban areas. As mentioned previously over half of the world’s population live in urban areas. Access to the limited green spaces is affected by socioeconomic and demographic factors. Put bluntly, the provision of green parks/woods is lower in poor areas than in more affluent areas. Children are no longer exploring the outdoors as much as previous generations and therefore discover less of nature. This is mainly due to parental fears and control all in the name of safety. Most children aren’t even allowed down the street by themselves, chances of exploring the natural world are slim to none. Yes, traffic does of course play a factor regarding safety understandably. The biggest one of course when it comes to children is ‘stranger danger’. The fear of strangers abducting children is exacerbated by the media and current affairs (Maddie McCann) means parents aren’t willing to allow their children to play outdoors unsupervised. The authorities e.g. teachers, councils, police also contribute by actively stopping children from interacting with nature (not allowed to climb trees) for fear of legal action and compliance with health and safety.

Why is it important to stay connected?

With global warming, deforestation issues, plastic in the seas, animals going extinct just to mention a few, we all have a responsibility to play our part. Connectedness to nature may be one of the main solutions. Connectedness to nature is important because it leads to concern for nature. To quote Mayer and Frantz ‘if people feel connected to nature, then they will be less likely to harm it, for harming it would in essence be harming their very self’. Conversely ignorance of nature leads to a lack of interest and care for it.

Research is increasingly finding links between contact with nature and human physical and mental health. A survey found that 74% of adults who visited parks and public gardens reported that the fresh air was their most important reason for doing visiting.

Benefits for children

· Spending more time in nature helps children develop a stronger connection to nature

· Increase children’s knowledge and skills for solving environmental problems

· Increase children’s activity levels

· Encourage less screen/TV time

· Help develop imagination and instincts

· Better vision – outdoor activities reduce the risk of developing near sightedness (myopia)

Benefits for everyone

· Boosts immunity - phytoncides, the airborne chemicals that plants emit to protect themselves from rotting and from insects also seem to benefit humans.

· Exposure to sunlight – we all know about the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D

· Inspires creativity - in nature our minds can drop down those threat responses, which leaves us with leftover resources which we can apply to being more creative.

· Improves Memory and Cognitive Function – Taking in the sights and sounds of nature is beneficial for our brains. as you pause you reset therefore restoring mental energy

· Stress relief – prolonged periods in nature lower levels of cortisol a hormone uses as a marker for stress. Outdoors + exercise = improved mental health

Make it a habit to spend more time in nature, be a walk, a run in the park, lunch outdoors. At the very least, get a plant for your office and definitely a few for your home.


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