Being Outdoors Can Help Reduce Stress
Developmental psychologist Marti Erickson practices what she preaches, and what she advocates is simple: spending time in nature is one of the most easily accessible ways of reducing stress levels for both adults and children.
Richard Louv, author of the 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, agrees. He has introduced the term “nature deficit disorder” not as an actual medical condition but as a means to describe the growing disconnect between children and nature. But the idea doesn’t just apply to children. Louv suggests that adults should also consider the implications of their own divergence from nature, and that they should ask themselves why they have forgone nature for the sake of immersion in an increasingly automated and technological world.
Many studies have now concluded that more time spent in nature (or in environments replete with nature-based design) helps reduce stress, depression, anxiety, healing time and dependency on medication. Medical professionals took note and in a 2010 program in Portland, Oregon, physicians teamed up with forest service members to help families increase their exposure to nature.
Other studies have pointed to additional benefits. In 2008, University of Michigan researchers showed that even an additional hour of activity in nature helped boost memory and attention span by twenty percent. And in 2012, a University of Kansas study concluded that people who entrenched themselves in nature for a few days exhibited a fifty percent increase in overall creativity.
The Baby Boomer generation could very well be the last wave of Americans who believe that it is normal for children to grow up playing in the woods. As a means of trying to reconnect the younger generations with their environments, adults should consider planting a family garden, or going on hikes with their kids, so that the next group of people has positive early experiences in nature. In this way, our fundamental need to participate in the natural world will be cultivated and cherished by all.