A tree-packed forest next to a small river. A virgin beach scene framed by a low stone wall. Simply by visualising these two pictures in your head, you can already feel a breath of well being invading your body. This is what we call peace of mind. Now we know why nature can relieve stress not only in adults but more specially in children, avoiding and minimising what is known as Nature Deficit Disorder or NDD.
We could say we’re 100% ‘technology creatures’ but let’s not forget that our nature is still closer to that of an animal. Our wellbeing is also closely linked to how much fresh air we get or how often we can go for a walk in the woods. This is, at least, one of the conclusions presented by EUROPARC in Spain in their Health and Protected Areas study.
This can appear as a generic statement, but this research offers some very specific benefits and data. To be precise, contact with nature can improve not only children’s response to stress but also they’re able to develop specific skills to fight adverse situations.
These insights highlight what writer and journalist Richard Louv called Nature Deficit Disorder some years ago. This concept was introduced in his book Last Child in the Woods, where he talks about the absence of nature in the lives of today’s children. From his work psychologists and education specialists further researched this social problem, which affects children’s behaviour and cognitive development. Nowadays, this disconnection with the environment has been linked to stress, obesity, breathing problems, hyperactivity, ADD and vitamin D deficiency.
In summary, the lack of a natural environment can be likened to what happens to captive wild animals. A transformation which affects even their reproductive instinct.
Among direct benefits of nature, EUROPARC research also refers to improvements in the immune system after having being in contact with forests, cardiac frequency reduction and arterial pressure. All of them are aspects we should pay close attention to when rebalancing our immune system and cardiovascular health.
Visualisation exercises, such as the one presented in our introduction, have been used in meditation as relaxation techniques for years. If simply imagining those scenes can bring you peace, think about the power of actually walking on that forest or beach, breathing that fresh air and running your fingers through that stream of water.
These conclusions are a great excuse to organise a trip to the countryside during these holidays. A perfect opportunity to enjoy the winter landscape, leaving our digital life behind for a day or two to reconnect with nature.