Ever since I was a child, I always had a great love of nature, the outdoors. My playground was the local farmers’ fields and the rugby club grounds beside our house.
No matter where you live in Ireland, you are relatively close to nature; a park, a beach, a mountain etc. We have an abundance of natural resources and landscape here in Ireland to rival anywhere on earth and even if you live in one of the major cities, you will have quick and easy access to one of these natural resources to get away from all the noise of modern life.
There’s something for everyone to enjoy, regardless of age or condition. You can go for a 20-minute stroll on the beach, go for a walk in the park or if you’re more adventurous, hike up a mountain or for the adrenaline junkies, you can partake in some extreme sport such as mountain biking.
We may say that it is hard to find the time in our busy lives to slow down and appreciate the beauty around us. We spend a lot more time indoors, doing homework, studying, watching TV, on our computers etc. we need to remember just how important it is to spend time outside.
We should take the opportunity to get outdoors whenever the time permits, and if you don’t have time, make time!
And don’t use bad weather as an excuse: as the owner of our local outdoor shop says, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes!”
In previous generations, people worked outdoors a lot, getting sunlight and fresh air and all the health benefits that go with it.
We are spending much more time indoors under artificial light. Could this be contributing to increased stress and depression?
Not spending enough time in nature can be a really serious problem for a lot of people. Scientists call it Nature-Deficient Syndrome, and people that suffer from it have all sorts of problems, like a lack of concentration, anxiety, stress and hyperactivity. Kids that don’t get enough time in nature often find it difficult to get along with their friends and teachers at school.
Nature can help improve the health and well-being of children and adults alike. Both physically and mentally. It can improve mood, prevent stress, anxiety and depression. It helps with concentration and creativity. In fact, nature is the most under used anti-depressant there is.
Research has also shown that spending time in nature can make our brains more active, reduce our stress, improve our blood flow and refresh our bodies. We become healthy mentally as well as physically. No wonder spending time in nature makes us feel so good!
More and more professions now are moving away from physical outdoor work to indoor, sedentary jobs.
And unfortunately, after sitting all day, people tend to spend more time commuting to work in their car or public transport. And then maybe go home and sit down to watch television or go on the computer, ipad or smart phone!
Unfortunately, we have swapped interaction with nature for technology.
Many factors have come together to push people indoors, including land development and more people living in cities, additional demands on children’s time-such as more homework and structured activities-video games and the Internet, and parental fear. Also, grown-ups tend to watch more TV and use computers instead of interacting with people and nature.
When using technology in this way, information is just being fed to us from an outside source, keeping us entertained. Whereas, when we interact with the natural world around us, we are exploring and learning and having a useful experience, which is particularly vital for young people in their formative years.
I know that in our busy lives, technology sometimes seems more important than nature, but think about where you live. I’m sure there are areas of natural beauty; things you pass every day that remind you how beautiful life is. When you were at school, were you like me? Did you love playing outside? Have you started to forget about this other world around you?
This is particularly important for children. Playing in nature makes them stronger and gives them a great sense of freedom. As children, we went everywhere on our bikes. This surely leads to better physical and mental health and well-being.
I believe that naturally we develop much better when we spend more time out in nature. Increasing evidence demonstrates the many benefits of nature on children’s psychological and physical well-being, including reduced stress, greater physical health, more creativity and improved concentration.
If we had kids moving around and burning off energy, we would have much less difficulty with kids having trouble paying attention in the classroom.
Research shows that frequent nature outings and encouragement of their independent play and exploration outdoors, helps children mature into well-rounded adults. Children who experienced the biggest increase in green space near their home after moving improved their cognitive functioning more than those who moved to areas with fewer natural resources nearby.
A host of studies are showing just how essential outdoor activities are for the developing mind.
Often, parents aren’t aware of nature’s benefits to their children, or aren’t sure how to tear their children away from the computer or television screen. The best approach is gradual change: taking children out on the front lawn for an hour, for example. And make it a family activity, helping you bond with your family also, so everyone benefits.
The basic finding seems to be yes, nature does seem to be really good for kids.
It is really important for us to hold on to our love of nature. We must continue to learn more about the nature around us, not take it for granted, but understand it, and realize how precious it is.
Without building a connection to the natural world when they’re young, it seems unlikely that children will possess much of an affiliation with Mother Earth as adults. Childhood participation with nature may set individuals on a trajectory toward adult environmentalism, making us aware of, and maybe help us do something about, issues such as global warming and environmental pollution.
There is a real connection between kids’ experiences in nature and their later life attitudes and behaviours. It is a principle of human nature that you care for what you know and what you love. Learning about climate change just by studying it on the Internet or reading about it in books is one thing, but to come to know and love the natural world first hand from an early age just gives you a different kind of motive for preserving it.
We’ve all seen those powerful images on the internet of polar bears on shrinking glaciers, with their habitat melting away. Hopefully ours and the next generation will do something about it.
As many young people are spending increasing amounts of time watching television or playing video games, some kids are much more likely to head off on their bikes or rally some friends to create an outdoor adventure. As young adults, these children grow up to be fit, creative, adventurous and strive to protect the environment that they’ve learned to love and appreciate.
Humans have an innate affinity for the natural world.
As well as the health and cognitive benefits children may gain from free and unstructured play outdoors, nature also provides them with a sense of wonder and a deeper understanding of our responsibility to take care of the Earth. Yet increasingly, nature is the last place you’ll find children, research shows. In today’s society of indoor children, personal connections with nature seem hard to come by, which threatens to lessen future generations’ concerns about the environment. It’s important to realise that it doesn’t have to be a huge all day trip to the mountains. You can do something every day.
And perhaps consider paying a few short visits to your Gym each week to keep in optimum condition so you may enjoy those outdoor excursions fully!
So, in conclusion, I hope I have convinced you of the benefits of making time to include some outdoor activity in your busy schedule every week.
And I’m sure you can see why indeed we do call it The GREAT Outdoors!