I scuba dived with sharks, skied glaciers and went sky-diving. Nothing gets me more excited than the sense of adventure and wonder you can only get from challenging yourself by exploring new horizons.
It’s called the ‘great’ outdoors for a reason!
Immersing yourself in nature is exhilarating, revitalizing and a guaranteed mood booster. It can also be relaxing, soothing and peaceful.
Nature provides us with a “quiet response”. Our stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces. We breathe more deeply. Our muscle tension decreases. Stress, frustration and worry melt away.
And it’s always been this way. We’re genetically wired to thrive in nature. For all of human history (even pre-history) humans have been spent their lives outside. For many of us, this means vivid memories of being told to ‘go outside and play’ as children.
Only in the last two or three decades has childhood moved indoors. Nowadays, the average American child spends less than an hour a day outside – the lowest of any generation. Their parents spent about two-and-a-half more hours outside when they were kids.
This lack of (unstructured) outdoor play profoundly impacts the wellbeing of our children.
Childhood obesity rates are at an all time high, the percentage of young people diagnosed with ADHD is growing steadily and pediatric prescriptions for antidepressants are rising at an alarming rate.
I say it’s time to reverse this trend. If our kids are out of shape, stressed and anxious because we’ve cut them off from nature – let’s help them reconnect to the natural world! Let’s get them back outside.
Even the White House is catching on. President Obama recently announced that every fourth-grade student in America will receive free admission to America’s national parks and monuments starting with the 2015-16 school year. He’s hoping this will “inspire the next generation to discover all that America’s public lands and waters have to offer”.
“Young people are spending more time in front of screens than outside” says the White House on its Blog, “and that means they are missing out on valuable opportunities to explore, learn, and play in the spectacular outdoor places that belong to all of them.”
Studies show that kids who spend regular time playing outdoors are more likely to be great students and learners. They’re better able to socialize, share and problem solve. They’re also more creative, curious, and generally healthier and happier overall.
To fulfill this mission, he co-founded and chairs the Children & Nature Network, an organization helping build an international movement to connect people and communities to the natural world.
I’m sure I’ll write more about his wonderful work in the future, but for today, I’d like to finish with these inspiring words:
“Imagine a world in which all children grow up with a deep understanding of the life around them. Where obesity is reduced through nature play. Where antidepressants and pharmaceuticals are prescribed less and nature prescribed more. Where every school has a natural play space. Where children experience the joy of being in nature before they learn of its loss, where they can lie in the grass on a hillside for hours and watch clouds become faces of the future. Where every child and every adult has a human right to a connection to the natural world, and shares the responsibility for caring for it.” (Richard Louv, The Nature Principle)