Various studies show the positive effect nature has on humans. A study done by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan from the University of Michigan has shown that nature reduces mental fatigue and stress.
Too much directed attention at one particular subject creates fatigue, which leads one to be impulsive, irritable, and distracted. But spending time in nature quickly diminishes those feelings.
The Kaplans conducted a study involving participants who completed 40 minutes of fatiguing, tiresome assignments, which in turn drained their directed attention. After the 40 minutes were completed, the participants spent 40 minutes walking in either a nature preserve, an urban area, or sitting listening to music.
The participants that spent time in nature reported less anger and more positive emotions than the participants that didn’t spend time in nature.
Research done by Frances Kuo have shown that violence and aggression are highest in places that are not near nature. After conducting a study in 2001 of the Ida B. Wells public housing in Chicago, Kuo found that crime rates were much higher for residences who had no access to nature compared to the same residences that had access and views of nature.
Another study by Kuo showed that housing units with no access to nature had more aggressive fights with spouses and children than the units near nature.
Yet if it is so clear and obvious that nature has positive effects on people and reduces stress, tension, and aggression, why do we spend so much time indoors? On average, humans spend about 90% of their time inside. We eat our meals inside, go to school inside, drive around inside a car, and spend our free time inside, usually on a computer or in front of a TV. A lot of people do not make the effort to go outisde.
But senior Sam Freeze, president of Environmental Club, has a different approach to nature than most people.
“I don’t want to be at a computer all day; I want to be outside all day. I just love an active lifestyle. I feel very at one with the earth, very at peace and intrigued,” said Freeze.
Not only does Freeze feel calm and relaxed when in nature, but he also loves the various creatures and plants that nature has to offer.
“I love to look under that log, or look under that rock–it is very interesting to see how everything is tied together. I like the critters, especially the snakes and different reptiles,” said Freeze.
Nature also has an incredible benefit towards children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Studies done by Kuo have shown that children suffering from ADD and ADHD focus better after spending time outdoors and in nature. Children who spend time in an outside environment have increased attention span.
This recent fact is supported in Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods. Louv writes, “Several of these studies suggest that thoughtful exposure of youngsters to nature can even be a powerful form of therapy for attention-deficit disorders…we can now assume that just as children need good nutrition and adequate sleep, they may very well need contact with nature.”
Nature has various benefits and is clearly instrumental in reducing ADD symtoms as well as aggression. Being outdoors is not only calming and relaxing, but also proves to lessen stress. As worn out teenagers living stress-filled lives, our best way to become relaxed is to spend time in nature.
Wendell Berry said it best in his poem “The Peace of Wild Things”: “For a time/ I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”