NEW DIRT ABOUT HEALTH:
Playing house, collecting Barbie dolls, and wearing dresses are common
acts of raising a young girl in our society. But according to a recent
study, it could be detrimental to their health.
Clough, a researcher at Oregon State University, has discovered that
women who have higher rates of allergies, and other autoimmune
disorders are a result of being too clean. In other words, parents who
let their children run amok in dirt or mud tend to have healthier kids.
if you're okay having your little boy play in the dirt, you should be
okay having your little girl play out in the dirt as well," Clough
infected with the auto-immune disease Lupus outnumber their male
counterparts 9-to-1. While there isn't a concise explanation as to why
the disease occurs more frequently in women, the expectation for young
girls to stay cleaner than boys may provide a reason.
boys are more often than little girls encouraged to play in the dirt.
Little girls are dressed in clothing that's not supposed to get dirty,"
Being exposed to high amounts of bacteria found in dirt can actually help build a healthier immune system.
is some thought that getting exposed to things, even parasites and
different microbial elements in the dirt, might actually improve the
overall immunity that a child develops," said Dr. Aoi Mizushima of
Providence Medical Group Family Practice.
OF MONEY: Chinese students came into the lab and were told they
would be participating in a test of finger dexterity. One group was
given a pile of Chinese currency to count. Another group was given
blank pieces of paper to count.
Then, some of the students were
asked to put their fingers in bowls of water heated to 122 degrees
Fahrenheit and rate how uncomfortable it felt via the natural sense of temperature.
The subjects who
had earlier been counting money and had their hands in the painfully
hot water reported that the water didn't feel so hot to them, compared
to people who had counted slips of paper.
The experiment and
related ones are described in a research paper titled The Symbolic
Power of Money, published in the journal Psychological Science.
Combined with earlier work, it maps out a curious connection. As far
as our brain's concerned, money can act as a substitute for social
acceptance, reducing social discomfort and, by extension, physical
discomfort and even pain.
ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS: A study of urban American adults by
Nancy Wells and Kristi Lekies of Cornell University sheds some
light on environmental attitudes. Wells and Lekies found that
children who play unsupervised in the wild before the age of
11 develop strong environmental ethics. Children exposed only
to structured hierarchical play in the wild-through, for example,
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, or by hunting or fishing alongside
supervising adults -do not. To interact humbly with nature we
need to be free and undomesticated in it. Otherwise, we succumb
to hubris in maturity. The fact that few children enjoy free
rein outdoors anymore bodes poorly for our future decision-makers.
REDUCE DEPRESSION: Country walks can help reduce depression
and raise self-esteem according to research published today,
leading to calls for "ecotherapy" to become a recognised
treatment for people with mental health problems. Ecotherapy:
the green agenda for mental health is the first study looking
at how "green" exercise specifically affects those
suffering from depression.
According to Mind, England
and Wales's leading mental health charity, it produced "startling"
results proving the need for ecotherapy to be considered a proper
The study by the University
of Essex compared the benefits of a 30-minute walk in a country
park with a walk in an indoor shopping centre on a group of 20
members of local Mind associations.
After the country walk, 71%
reported decreased levels of depression and said they felt less
tense while 90% reported increased self-esteem.
This was in contrast to only
45% who experienced a decrease in depression after the shopping
centre walk, after which 22% said they actually felt more depressed.
Some 50% also felt more tense
and 44% said their self-esteem had dropped after window-shopping
at the centre.
The university also conducted
a second study, asking 108 people with various mental health
problems about their experiences of ecotherapy. A massive 94%
said green activities had benefited their mental health and lifted
depression while 90% said the combination of nature and exercise
had the greatest effect.
DENIAL: In Reconnecting With Nature,
Michael J. Cohen
shows how our "normal" nature deficit leaves us feeling
unfulfilled and, unaware of this defeciency, we seek and, for
a profit, are fed negative news in the media. Such news conveys
that the world is dangerous. This makes us feel better because
our intellect believes it knows why we feel bad: we are helpless
victims of a dysfunctional world. "This clarifies why the
media harps upon the negative and excludes the nature-connecting
antidotes, remedies and preventatives readily available at Project NatureConnect."
says Cohen. "It is as if establishing a mutually supportive
relationship with authentic nature is an illicit affair. We ignore
the psychologically based medical science of nature healing that
uses alternative, complementary nature-connected antidotes including
spiritual, natural and energy medicine preventatives."
Cohen demonstrates that our
exploitive prejudice against nature symptomizes our fear of the
unknown. That fear results from the extreme separation of our
thinking from nature's intelligent grace, balance and restorative
ways. His survey and empirically based testimonials show that we can reduce most of our dysfunctions and
vastly improve our personal and global life community relationships
by learning and teaching the simple process of genuinely connecting
our thinking to how nature works.
RECOVERY "The students bonded as a community. They also
bonded to a trashed natural area near their forthcoming new school.
To protect the area's integrity and availability for future NSTP Natural Attraction Ecology
activities, these "incapable" youngsters successfully
cleaned up, weeded and replanted it, wrote environmental protection
effectively presented their work to Education Boards and
Administrators who were intent on paving the area as a parking
In addition to their improved
mental health test scores, every students' attendance and academic
progress improved while they were in this project.
The student's sensed that the
natural area, like their nature, wanted to recover from the abuse
it received from society. They said that, like them, it had been:
'hurt, molested, invaded and trespassed,' 'It wanted to become
healthy or die.' 'It felt trashed and overwhelmed.' 'It had no
power, it needed a fix or help to recover.' They wrote:
'This wilderness community
is being choked by alien plants and stressed by pollution, abandonment
and major loss. We, too, are being choked by drugs and alien
stories that pollute our natural self. We feel abandoned by our
society, treated like garbage, and cut off from nature which
fills us with grief. By protecting and nurturing this ecosystem
we find the strength to open our minds, hearts, and souls for
the survival of our Mother Earth and ourselves.'"
Kurtland Davies, Ph.D., Counselor
A series of studies suggests immersion in nature "brings individuals
closer to others, whereas human-made environments orient goals toward
more selfish or self-interested ends," according to a paper
posted on the Web site of the Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin. "These findings suggest that full contact with nature
can have humanizing effects," the researchers conclude. "Our results
suggest that, to the extent our links with nature are disrupted, we may
also lose some connection with each other."
RESTORE HEALTH An editorial published in a special
issue of the British Medical Journal (November 26, 2005) claims
that ecotherapy - restoring health through contact with nature
- could be beneficial for children with emotional and behavioural
problems. The BMJ points to a number of studies that show ecotherapy
can help these kids overcome social isolation. "Partnerships
between healthcare providers and nature organizations to share
and exchange expertise could create new policies that recognize
the interdependence between healthy people and healthy ecosystems",
writes author Dr Ambra Burls.
In the first study to look at the effect of neighborhood greenness on
inner city children's weight over time, researchers from the Indiana
University School of Medicine, Indiana University-Purdue University
Indianapolis and the University of Washington report that higher
neighborhood greenness is associated with slower increases in
children's body mass over a two year period, regardless of residential
work, including our own, has provided snap shots in time, and shown
that for children in densely populated cities, the greener the
neighborhood, the lower the risk of obesity. Our new study of over
3,800 inner city children revealed that living in areas with green
space has a long term positive impact on children's weight and thus
health," said Gilbert C. Liu, M.D., senior author of the new study
which appears in the December issue of the American Journal of
Preventive Medicine. Dr. Liu is assistant professor of pediatrics at
the IU School of Medicine and a Regenstrief Institute affiliated
AN UNUSUAL STUDY: An unusual study was conducted in
psychiatric hospital in Sweden on the effects of the visual representation
on nature. Based on records kept during 15-year period, it was
found that patients often complained of many of the paintings
and prints that the psychiatric hospital displayed. Seven times
over this 15-year period patients attacked a painting or print
(e.g., tearing a picture from a wall and smashing the frame).
Each time the painting or print substantially consisted of abstract
art. In contrast, there was no recorded attack on wall art depicting
nature (see Ulrich, 1993).
CHILDHOOD NATURE EXPERIENCES "Although domesticated nature
activities -- caring for plants and gardens -- also have a positive
relationship to adult environment attitudes, their effects aren't
as strong as participating in such wild nature activities as
camping, playing in the woods, hiking, walking, fishing and hunting,"
said environmental psychologist Nancy Wells, assistant professor
of design and environmental analysis in the College of Human
Ecology at Cornell. She analyized data from a U.S. Department
of Agriculture Forest Service survey conducted in 1998 that explored
childhood nature experiences and adult environmentalism. She
used a sample of more than 2,000 adults, ages 18 to 90, who were
living in urban areas throughout the country and answered telephone
questions about their early childhood nature experiences and
their current adult attitudes and behaviors relating to the environment.
"Our study indicates that participating in wild nature activities
before age 11 is a particularly potent pathway toward shaping
both environmental attitudes and behaviors in adulthood,"
said Wells, whose previous studies have found that nature around
a home can help protect children against life stress and boost
children's cognitive functioning. "When
children become truly engaged with the natural world at a young
age, the experience is likely to stay with them in a powerful
way -- shaping their subsequent environmental path."
VIDEO GAMES: "Without
parents discouraging this lack of connection to nature, with the
purchasing of an endless stream of video games and systems, it is scary
to wonder how much longer we have before our need to protect our Earth
is removed from our consciousness. We are in desperate need of
unplugging and leading our children by example, opening a dialog and
enjoying time with them out in the world so as to reverse the seemingly
unfailing disinterest in nature.
Not only does this lack of
connection with nature have harming effects for the environment, it is
also harmful to our children. Researchers have found that children with
disabilities can gain many positive and health-altering benefits from
spending time immersed in nature. Studies of outdoor programs geared
towards sick and troubled youth show clear therapeutic value and that
just being exposed to views of green grass or trees can improve memory
and concentration. Environmental psychologists reported in 2003 that
nature in or around the home, or even simply a room with a view of a
natural landscape, helped maintain the psychological well being of
children. Surveys show children in
developed countries spend 95 percent of their free time watching TV or
on the computer, and only five percent outdoors. Another survey said 20
percent of American children had never climbed a tree."
Ahmed Djoghlaf, the United Nations executive secretary on biological diversity
INCREASED PROFICIENCY: In a brain-based workshop I attended,
the presenters had calculated in percentages the negative effects
on student success of every one of the factors you mentioned,
above. Just letting the kids get up and walk around the building
to oxygenate their brains, changing the seating and layout of
the classroom, or introducing humor and taking an interest in
kids' feelings count for huge differences in student achievement.
While the presenters observed that more foliage, fresh air and
light in classrooms would increase proficiency by 50-60%, they
recognized that these are not typically administrative priorities.
I actually tried charting the kids' feelings each day, and allowing
them to walk in the hallway before class. People acted as if
I had lost it, but the kids loved it.
(from C.J. Rich, 2006)
RESULTS FROM CONNECTION
I felt the natural
system connection the first time that I tried the activity and
it becomes easier each time that I try to reconnect. In 1998,
I was on a humanitarian medical mission to Haiti. I contracted
St Louis encephalitis during that mission and have suffered from
migraine Headaches since that time. Lately after starting my
Organic Psychology studies, when I get a headache, I just go
outside and connect with nature. I calm down, I get a feeling
of completeness and my headache resolves in minutes. (from David
At the American Heart Association 1999 convention, Karen Allen, a
research scientist at the State University of New York at Buffalo ,
reported on a study of 48 stockbrokers, half of whom were assigned a
dog or a cat and half of whom had none. All of them were being
treated for hypertension, and all had lived alone for more than five
years. The pets had a dramatic positive cardiovascular effect
over a six-month period. Allen's other research projects found
that couples with pets are closer and interact more than couples
without pets. In some cases, a pet may be more helpful at
relieving stress than a spouse or close friend. (ABC News, 2008)
HONEST NATURAL SYSTEM RELATIONSHIPS. In 1959, Dr. Michael J. Cohen founded
a program and
school based on the Organic Psychology of reconnecting with
nature. The National Audubon Society and many others called it
the most revolutionary school in America saying, 'It is on the
side of the angels.' School participants traveled and thrived
in 83 different natural habitats by keeping their commitments
to having open, honest relationships with natural systems within
and about them. The process reduced or eliminated disorders that
involved chemical dependencies, eating, violence, prejudice,
academics, loneliness, depression, stress and safety. It became
the pilot program of the National Audubon Society Expedition
HEALING PROPERTIES. Due to brain injury in a cycling accident, Bart,
a writer, could no longer write due to head pain. For years he
suffered constant pain that that did not respond to repeated
surgical, chemical and psychological and meditation treatment.
He sought alternatives from the Internet, discovered Organic
Psychology and took an eight week online class in it. He did
the course's nature connecting activities with an attractive
group of trees in the center of his town. His heightened sensory
relationship with them and his online classmates enabled him
to overcome his pain so that he could write again. He said it
had transformed into pleasure. When the trees were later to be
removed for development, Bart passionately rallied the town to
protest their demise. The town saved the trees and became more
involved with Organic Psychology.
Studies suggest that living in a city increases the risk of depression
and anxiety, and that schizophrenia rates are higher in people born and
brought up in cities. But until now, there hasn't been research into
how human brain structures might be affected by urban living.
that end, researchers at McGill's Douglas Mental Health University
Institute in Montreal and the University of Heidelberg in Germany used
MRIs to study brain responses of healthy German students who were
taking a math test under stressful conditions.
Study participants faced time pressure and in some cases they had investigators scolding them through headphones.
exposed to those stressful conditions, two areas of the students'
brains that are known to be involved in processing emotions became more
active, the researchers reported in Wednesday's online issue of the
Specifically, the brain's amygdala was more
active in those who lived in cities, and the perigenual anterior
cingulate cortex, or pACC, was more active in those who had been
brought up in cities, the researchers found.
identify distinct neural mechanisms for an established environmental
risk factor, link the urban environment for the first time to social
stress processing, suggest that brain regions differ in vulnerability
to this risk factor across the lifespan," Jens Pruessner of McGill and
his co-authors concluded.
According to a study done at the University of Illinois, "children with
ADHD demonstrate greater attention after a 20-minute walk in a park
than after a similar walk in a downtown area or a residential
CONFLICT RESOLUTION AND SELF-ESTEEM
A study, conducted on at-risk children by The American Institutes for
Research for the California Department of Education, found that
week-long outdoor education programs produced a 27 percent increase in
"measured mastery of science concepts; enhanced cooperation and conflict resolution skills;
gains in self-esteem; gains in positive environmental behavior; and
gains in problem-solving, motivation to learn, and classroom
therapy is a complementary medicine often used as a distraction
technique in chemotherapy to help patients manage pain and anxiety.
It consists of showing of peaceful, relaxing landscapes to patients,
scenes that evoke calm and tranquility. They may be shown as a
slide show, video screen or artwork on paper. - Chemocare.com
AUTHENTIC NATURE SURPASSES TECHNOLOGY
In the April issue of the Journal of Current Directions in Psychological
Science, Kahn and two of his UW graduate students, Rachel Severson and
Jolina Ruckert, look at the psychological effects of interacting with
various forms of technological nature and explore humanity's growing
estrangement from nature.
UW researchers cite earlier experiments conducted by Kahn's laboratory,
one with a plasma display "window" and several with AIBO, a robotic dog.
plasma window study showed that people recovered better from low-level
stress by looking at an actual view of nature rather than seeing the
same real-time high-definition television scene displayed on a plasma
SELF-CONFIDENCE AND INIATIVE A
1998 study by Dr. Stephen R. Kellert at Yale University looked at the
positive effects of wilderness trips on teens, studying youth enrolled
in programs with the Student Conservation Association (SCA), National
Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), and Outward Bound. Kellert found that
the teens´experiences inspired lasting growth on personal,
intellectual, and even spiritual levels. Participants left with greater
self-esteem, self-confidence, independence, autonomy, and initiative.
people feel closer to their community, are willing to give more money
to a charitable cause, and care more about social outcomes than they
are after looking at man-made scenes. The reason, the University of
Rochester researchers state, it communing with nature helps people also
commune with their basic values. From experiments including 370
participants, the results show that after viewing urban settings or
natural settings, people exposed to natural settings rated close
relationships and community higher than they had before seeing the
scenes, whereas after viewing urban settings, people placed more value
on wealth and fame. Additionally, those who viewed nature scenes were
more likely to give higher amounts of money to a good cause. "Nature
helps to connect people to their authentic selves. For example, study
participants who focused on landscapes and plants reported a greater
sense of personal autonomy ("Right now, I feel like I can be myself").
For humans, our authentic selves are inherently communal because humans
evolved in hunter and gatherer societies that depended on mutuality for
BACTERIAL EXPOSURE: Exposure
to specific bacteria in the environment, already believed to have
antidepressant qualities, could increase learning behavior according to
research presented today at the 110th General Meeting of the American
Society for Microbiology in San Diego. http://www.physorg.com/news193928997.html
suspect this research will be ignored by the media and medical community
because nobody can make big money from this natural
bacteria...So they developed an injectable extract to test that could
be used as a money making medication. The real kicker is that the
beneficial effect was temporary and thus validates that we need
constant daily interactions with this natural bacteria, and that it may
help explain some of the anxiety reducing effects of a walk in woods
- Kevin Bethel MD CM FAARM
NATURE WALKERS BENEFIT
Berman, a researcher in cognitive psychology and industrial engineering
at the University of Michigan, assigned 38 students to take a nearly
three-mile walk — half in the Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor and half
along a busy street to study the difference between natural and urban
settings to improve cognition. The nature-walkers showed a dramatic
improvement while the city-walkers did not, demonstrating nature’s
significant restorative effects on cognition.
HEART RATE STRESS
an experiment reported in The Journal of Environmental Psychology, 90
adults were subjected to mild stress and monitored their heart rates
while they were exposed to one of three views: a glass window
overlooking an expanse of grass and a stand of trees; a 50-inch plasma
television screen showing the same scene in real time; and a blank
wall. The heart rates of those exposed to the sight of real nature
decreased more quickly than those of subjects looking at the TV image.
The subjects exposed to a TV screen fared just the same as those facing
ANXIOUS, DESPAIRING, DISTRESSED
Albrecht, quoted in The New York Times Magazine, 1/31/10 notes that
people have heart’s ease when they’re on their own country. If you
force them off that country, if you take them away from their land,
they feel the loss of heart’s ease as a kind of vertigo, a
disintegration of their whole life.” Australian aborigines, Navajos and
any number of indigenous peoples have reported this sense of mournful
disorientation after being displaced from their land. This condition is
not limited to natives. Similarly, with contemporary people, when
the natural environment becomes disturbed, its residents become
anxious, unsettled, despairing, depressed. They suffer
from“solastalgia,” the pain experienced when there is recognition that
the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate
assault, a homesickness one gets when one is still at ‘home.’
FINDING THEIR VOICE
In A Place for Wonder by
Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough teachers discuss how to
create "a landscape of wonder," a primary classroom where curiosity,
creativity, and exploration are encouraged. One of the points they made
in the book is that when children are allowed to observe, read and
write about nature, they are find their voice and become passionate
about their topics. In contrast, when students wrote about topics such
as careers or sports, they lost their momentum and the results were
much less impressive.
NUMBING SENSORY PERCEPTION
web of life model of experiential ecopsychology knowledge as elucidated
by Dr. Cohen matches the empirical and familial knowledge evolved by
Dr. Alan Greenspan, Dr. Rosemary White and Dr. Ed Tronick in their
research and practice of sensory affective development in infants and
children. The three practitioners mentioned above describe an infant's
need for a sensory nature-connected network of affective, perceptual
and family/kin interaction of reciprocal communication (Greenspan,
2001, White, 2007). This need is based in the infant's natural
attractions of thirst, tactile needs for touch, visual needs for
specific facial patterns and aural needs for human voices. If the
infant is cut off from this network they experience a numbing of their
own sensory reception and a deeply felt despair that creates actual
neurosynaptic blunting of their capacity for development and
intelligence (Tronick, 2007)."
TIME OUTSIDE IMPROVES RESILIENCY AND ACADEMICS
research by the Department of Pediatrics at the University of
California in San Francisco (UCSF) shows that children who spend some
time outside the classroom during the school day do better in class
academically, socially and emotionally. The research findings were
published in the August 2011 issue of the Journal of School Health.
“School-based playtime not only improves the physical health of
students, but leads to stronger emotional resiliency,” noted Dr.
Kristine Madsen, head researcher of the UCSF study. “After physical
activity, kids show greater concentration in class.” The UCSF study is
the first to compare physical and emotional health outcomes between
students in schools that participate in the program offered by the
Oakland-based non-profit, Playworks, and a control group.
ACCESS TO NATURE IS ESSENTIAL TO HUMAN HEALTH
adults tend to live longer if their homes are near a park or other
green space, regardless of their social or economic status. College
students do better on cognitive tests when their dorm windows view
natural settings. Children with ADHD have fewer symptoms after outdoor
activities in lush environments. Residents of public housing complexes
report better family interactions when they live near trees.
These are only a few of the findings from recent studies that
support the idea that nature is essential to the physical,
psychological and social well-being of the human animal, said Frances
Kuo, a professor of natural resources and environmental science and
psychology at the University of Illinois."
HOUSEPLANTS MAKE YOU SMARTER
In a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology entitled Benefits of indoor plants on attention capacity in an office setting
researchers show that the mere presence of plants in an office boosts
one’s ability to maintain attention due to the value of undirected
attention to natural attractions of the plant as a renewing relief from
directed attention on screens and spreadsheets.
SOIL BACTERIA WORK IN SIMILAR WAY TO ANTIDEPRESSANTS
In the early online edition of the journal Neuroscience.UK
scientists suggest that a type of friendly bacteria found in soil may
affect the brain in a similar way to antidepressants. Researchers from
Bristol University and University College London discovered using
laboratory mice, that a "friendly" bacteria commonly found in soil
activated brain cells to produce the brain chemical serotonin and
altered the mice's behaviour in a similar way to antidepressants. They
are suggesting this could explain why immune system imbalance could
make some people vulnerable to mood disorders like depression.
"Identification of an immune-responsive mesolimbocortical serotonergic
system: Potential role in regulation of emotional behavior."
Neuroscience Available online doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2007.01.067
NATURE BENEFITS FOR CHILDREN
symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are
better able to concentrate after contact with nature (Taylor
et al. 2001).
views of and contact with nature score higher on tests of concentration
and self-discipline. The greener, the better the scores (Wells
2000, Taylor et al. 2002).
play regularly in natural environments show more advanced motor
fitness, including coordination, balance and agility, and they
are sick less often (Grahn, et al. 1997, Fjortoft & Sageie
play in natural environments, their play is more diverse with
imaginative and creative play that fosters language and collaborative
skills (Moore & Wong 1997, Taylor, et al. 1998, Fjortoft
natural environments improves children's cognitive development
by improving their awareness, reasoning and observational skills
the impact of life's stresses on children and helps them deal
with adversity. The greater the amount of nature exposure, the
greater the benefits (Wells & Evans 2003).
Play in a diverse
natural environment reduces or eliminates bullying (Malone &
children develop powers of observation and creativity and instills
a sense of peace and being at one with the world (Crain 2001).
with the natural world have been positively linked with the development
of imagination and the sense of wonder (Cobb 1977, Louv
Wonder is an
important motivator for life long learning (Wilson 1997).
play in nature have more positive feelings about each other (Moore
stimulate social interaction between children (Moore 1986, Bixler
et al. 2002).
are important to children's development of independence and autonomy
Play in outdoor
environments stimulates all aspects of children development more
readily than indoor environments (Moore & Wong 1997).
to and love of nature, along with a positive environmental ethic,
grow out of regular contact with and play in the natural world
during early childhood. Children's loss of regular contact with
the natural world can result in a biophobic future generation
not interested in preserving nature and its diversity (Bunting
& Cousins 1985; Chawla 1988; Wilson 1993; Pyle 1993; Chipeniuk
1994; Sobel 1996, 2002 & 2004; Hart 1997; Wilson 1997, Kals
et al. 1999; Moore & Cosco 2000; Fisman 2001; Kellert 2002;
Bixler et al. 2002; Kals & Ittner 2003; Schultz et al. 2004).
MANY BENEFITS THAT CHILDREN EXPERIENCE from regular interactions with nature (collected by Tamberly Mott, MFT)
Children with symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
(ADHD) experience improved concentrate after contact with nature
(Taylor et al., 2001).
Children who have views of and contact with nature score higher on
tests of concentration and self-discipline; the greener the view, the
better the scores (Wells, 2000; Taylor et al., 2002).
Children who play in natural environments demonstrate advanced motor
fitness, coordination, balance and agility, and become ill less often
Children who play in natural environments, demonstrate increased
diversity with imaginative and creative play (Moore & Wong, 1997;
Taylor, et al., 1998; Fjortoft 2001).
Exposure to natural settings can improve children's cognitive
development in their awareness, reasoning and observational skills
Children deal with adversity more skillfully, showing greater
resiliency with greater amounts of nature exposure (Wells & Evans,
o Play in natural environments can reduce or eliminate bullying (Malone & Tranter, 2003).
Nature helps children develop greater powers of observation and
creativity, and can instill a sense of peace with the world (Crain,
Early experiences with the natural world have been positively linked
with the development of imagination and the sense of wonder (Cobb,
1977; Louv, 2005).
o Children who play in nature have more positive feelings about other children (Moore, 1996).
Natural environment stimulates increased social interaction between
children (Moore, 1996; Bixler et al., 2002).
Outdoor environments help children in the development of independence
and autonomy (Spencer & Blades, 2006).
Outdoor play stimulates all aspects of children development more
readily than indoor environments (Moore, 1996).
Bixler, R. D., Floyd, M.E. & Hammutt, W.E. (2002).
Environmental socialization: Qualitative tests of the childhood play
hypothesis. Environment and Behavior, 34(6), 795-818.
- Cobb, E. (1977). The ecology of imagination in childhood. New York, Columbia: University Press.
Cohen, M. (2007). Reconnecting with nature: Finding wellness
through restoring your bond with the earth. 3rd Ed. Lakeville,
- Crain, William (2001). Now nature helps children develop. Montessori Life, Summer, 2001.
Damasio, A. (1999). The feeling of what happens: Body and emotion
in the making of consciousness. New York: Harcourt Brace.
Fjortoft, I. (2001). The natural environment as a playground for
children: The impact of outdoor play activities in pre-primary school
children. Early Childhood Education Journal 29(2), 111-117.
- Kahn, P.H. (1999). The human relationship with nature. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Louv, R. (1991). Childhood's future. New York, Doubleday.
Louv, R. (2005). Last child in the woods: Saving our children
from nature-deficit disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books.
Moore, R. (1996). Compact nature: The role of playing and
learning gardens on children's lives. Journal of Therapeutic
Horticulture, 8, 72-82.
- Pyle, R. (1993). The thunder trees: Lessons from an urban wildland. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
- Reed, E.S. (1996). The necessity of experience. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Sobel, D. (1996). Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart of
Nature Education. Great Barrington, MA: The Orion Society.
- Solomita, A. (2005). Research in brief. Retrieved on March 10, 2009, from http://www.harvardscience.harvard.edu/animal-vegetable-mineral/articles/research-brief.
REFERENCES to recent quantitative research on the benefits of connecting with nature.
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framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology (Special issue: Green
psychology), 15(3), 169-182.
Shibata, S., & Suzuki, N.
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task performance and mood. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 45(5),
Van den Berg, A. E., Hartig, T., Staats, H. (2007).
Preference for nature in urbanized societies: Stress, restoration, and
the pursuit of sustainability. Journal of Social Issues, 63(1), 79-96.
R. and Popham, F. Effect of exposure to natural environment on health
inequalities: an observational population study. The Lancet, Volume
372, Issue 9650, Pages 1655 - 1660, 8 November 2008
Hartig, T. Green space, psychological restoration, and health inequality. The Lancet. Volume 372, Issue 9650, 8 November 2008-14
November 2008, Pages 1614-1615
A LETTER RECEIVED:
I am 42, a single parent and a surviver from my past. I have had many
battles and sought all kinds of therapy but found that my band-aids
kept coming off. I realized , when my son had begun his difficult
journey, that I could no longer seek those who gave me these band-aids.
I prayed for help. I got sick. The doctors were baffled. I was
housebound. I lost my financial security, I lost some control over
my body, I was scared. I moved beyond myself. I looked out the
window. I saw peace, calmness, beauty, the wonders of mother nature. I
began to explore my awareness. I became peaceful, calm and for the
first time I felt beauty within, thus, over time, allowing others to
feel this. My life changed, my thoughts changed, my feelings and
perceptions changed. My son was in a difficult environment, I was
entering a new one, a truly divine one. It helped me with my son who
is now exiting his harsh mental environment, and now we both can
move into a magical one. I now realize that no one has taken anything
from me, I have me I always had me.
Mental Health Cultivated On The Farm
(Apr. 13, 2008) — Time down on the farm with animals could provide some
therapeutic benefit for people with mental illness, according to
use of farms in promoting human mental and physical health in
cooperation with health authorities is increasing in Europe and the
USA, particularly under the Green care banner. Historically, the
approach was associated with hospitals, psychiatric departments and
other health institutions but today, most Green care projects involve
community gardens, city farms, allotment gardens and farms.
assess the benefits of Green care, the researchers asked ninety
patients (59 women and 31 men) with schizophrenia, affective disorders,
anxiety, and personality disorders to complete self-assessment
questionnaires on quality of life, coping ability and self-efficacy,
before a 12-week period spending three hours twice a week working with
the farm animals.
The before and after results showed that AAT with
farm animals had some positive effect on self-efficacy, the ability to
cope, of patients with long-lasting psychiatric symptoms, their quality
of life. "During the six months follow-up period self-efficacy was
significantly better in the treatment group, but not in the control
group," the researchers say.
add that, "Further controlled studies are needed for confirmation and
to more accurately define the psychiatric population with the greatest
potential to benefit."
reference: Animal-assisted therapy with farm animals for persons with
psychiatric disorders, effects on self-efficacy, coping ability and
quality of life: a randomized controlled trial. Bente Berget, Řivind
Ekeberg and Bjarne O Braastad. Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in
Mental Health (in press).
Concrete Evidence for Benefits of Childhood Nature Play
Plenty Magazine (March 24, 2009) The No Child Left Inside Act was passed by the US House of Representatives. See:Green Kids, Healthy Living
Greening Our Minds: How Nature Nurtures The Brain
Berman, a researcher in cognitive psychology and industrial engineering
at the University of Michigan. “Our research shows interacting with nature is good for cognitive functioning,
and in growing your own food you might get some healthy produce out of
it. It’s hard to think of a downside. It’s vital, though, to get the
people actually living in a community involved in the developmental
stages. Berman ran an experiment in which a group of subjects
took a three-mile walk in the Ann Arbor Nichols Arboretum, a wooded
area with gardens and trails. He had another group walk along a busy
street. Subsequent testing showed that the group that took the walk in
the Arb performed better on tests of mental focus and memory than the
group that walked along the city street. Soft fascinations (rustling
leaves, babbling brooks) found in nature increase focus and memory (January 2010 issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, Kaplan and Berman).
Increasing Immune Function
NY Times report notes that spending more time in nature might have some
surprising health benefits. In a series of studies, scientists found
that when people swap their concrete confines for a few hours in more
natural surroundings - forests, parks and other places
with plenty of trees - they experience increased immune function.
Stress reduction is one factor. But scientists also chalk it up to
phytoncides, the airborne chemicals that plants emit to protect them from
rotting and insects and which also seem to benefit humans.
One study published in January included data on 280 healthy people in Japan,
where visiting nature parks for therapeutic effect has become a popular
practice called http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19585091>
"Shinrin-yoku," or "forest bathing." On one day, some people were instructed
to walk through a forest or wooded area for a few hours, while others walked
through a city area. On the second day, they traded places. The scientists
found that being http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19568835> among plants
produced "lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, and lower
blood pressure," among other things.
A number of other studies have shown that visiting parks and forests seems
to raise levels of white blood cells, including one in 2007 in which men who
took two-hour walks in a forest over two days had
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17903349> a 50-percent spike in levels
of natural killer cells. And another found
<http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18394317> an increase in white blood
cells that lasted a week in women exposed to phytoncides in forest air.
In Future of Life by E.O. Wilson (139-140), he
cites a study where 120 volunteers were shown a stressful movie,
followed by videotapes of either natural or urban settings...they
recovered from the feeling of stress more quickly while experiencing
the natural settings...supported by four standard physiological
measures of stress: heartbeat, systolic blood pressure, facial muscle
tension, and electrical skin conductance...The same result was
obtained...[for] volunteers stressed by a difficult mathematical
examination...Studies of response prior to surgery and dental work have
consistently revealed a significant reduction of stress in the presence
of plants and aquaria.
(140) writes that “one Australian study, which factored out variation
in exercise levels, diet, and social class, pet ownership accounted for
a statistically significant reduction of cholesterol, triglycerides,
and systolic blood pressure” while in a similar US study “survivors of
heart attacks...who owned dogs had a survival rate six times higher
than those who did not”
nature-connecting purpose of quietly and attentively visiting a
woodland (Forest Therapy) is to provide preventive medical effects by
relieving stress and recovering the immune system [diminished] by
stress,” Yoshifumi Miyazaki of Chiba University explained. As Japan's
leading scholar on forest medicine, he's carried out studies across the
country. The results show forest bathing can significantly lower levels
of cortisol, a stress hormone, along with blood pressure and heart
rate. Other research points out that walking in the woods can boost the
body's immune system by increasing anti-cancer proteins and enhancing
the so-called natural killer activity of certain cells. In this case,
it's believed humans benefit from breathing in phytoncides, the
chemicals plants emit to protect themselves from rotting and insects.
concept is simple, according to the experts. Humans have spent 99.9 per
cent of their evolutionary history in natural environments. Getting
back to nature is actually like a physiological homecoming."
C. JAMES DALE
OKUTAMA, JAPAN— From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Oct. 08, 2010
Scotland: Rights of Children
Scottish Government is considering a rights of children and young
people bill that would consider access to nature as being included in
the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
can and should articulate a new right: that every child and young
person has the right to grow up and live in a high-quality,
wildlife-rich environment with ready access to the physical and mental
health benefits, developmental advantages, and play opportunities it
affords. There is a growing and compelling body of evidence that
regular and ready access to a wildlife-rich environment is essential
for children's health and wellbeing.
"Recognising ˜ and acting
on ˜ a right to that wildlife-rich world is essential for delivering
better health, better educational attainment, and better social
development. Research published in The Lancet shows that, even
after other factors are accounted for, living in a green environment
makes people healthier.
"One Scottish child in five is
overweight and one in ten is obese but we know that access to
attractive, nature-rich greenspace increases physical activity and
reduces obesity. Children who live in busy urban areas where
there are lots of trees have lower rates of asthma and lower rates of
behavioural problems such as ADHD, yet Scotland has no strategy to
green those streets that have high levels of air pollution.
Children who spend time playing outside suffer less from short sight
later in life than those who don't. Children who have ready
access to the natural environment have better self-esteem,
self-confidence, independence, autonomy, and initiative than those who
"Nature is good for people: let's recognise the right of every child to live and grow up in a wildlife-rich world."
Finding Hope Up a Creek
Thanks to John Beal, what was once a culvert dripping with waste
is now a beautifully restored stream brimming with beaver and
For a man broken by war, John
Beal found himself an unlikely place of refuge.
Told that he had less than
four months to live, the disabled Vietnam veteran wandered down
to the stream behind his house to contemplate his future. Hamm
Creek was an open sewer, plugged up with garbage. Beal was still
recovering from bullet wounds and haunted by flashbacks. Besides
suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, he had gone through
three heart attacks, followed by a serious motorcycle accident.
"I went down to the stream
behind my house and just cried, wondering how I'd care for my
wife and four kids," says Beal. "Then the idea came
to me: if you're going to check out, so to speak, try to leave
this place better than when you found it. I looked at this wreck
of a stream, filled with refrigerators, old tires, torn garbage
bags, broken swings and stinking carpets and all I wanted to
do was clean it up."
Maybe it was a way of processing
his memories of the wreckage of war, he reflects. Or maybe it
was survivor's guilt. Instead of despairing, he started pulling
out the garbage. "When I yanked out this huge refrigerator,
I thought it would surely kill me. Instead I felt better."
Since that day 23 years ago,
Beal has directed all of his energies to restoring this polluted
Seattle, Washington. stream. During the last 10 years he has
moved on to restoring the entire watershed. Beal has recruited
hundreds of crews to clean up and replant around the streams
and has now established a network of volunteer groups living
in the area, as well as drawing the support and interest of the
local Duwamish tribe.
Through sheer persistence,
Beal eventually raised enough public awareness and pressure to
persuade the local utility to allow Hamm Creek, which had been
channelized and paved into a culvert, to be daylighted and rerouted
over its property. As a result, what was once a culvert dripping
with waste is now a beautifully recontoured and replanted stream
brimming with beaver, salmon, and other fish.
For Beal, the impulse to do
environmental restoration is itself restorative: "It has
empowered me and kept me alive." That same impulse has spurred
the energies of thousands of volunteers. "I've seen remarkable
things happen to people who connect with Mother Earth,"
he concludes, describing dozens of cases of people disabled physically
or psychologically who benefit from the exercise and feeling
"I remember watching a
young man who had been in a wheelchair for eight years come out
to help us weed and plant," he says. "After two years,
he's almost able to walk." At first, the young man would
fall out of his wheelchair, Beal recalls. But now, he says, he
is able to clamber down the slope of the shore, willing himself
through. "He was out there every single day. And lately
he's saying, 'Now I've got a mission in life.'"
No matter how stressed, angry,
depressed or troubled they are, whether it's a jail crew sent
to clean up litter for the day, or a class of students, they
seem to derive pleasure from the activity, says the riverkeeper.
The redemptive feelings Beal
describes are echoed by thousands of visitors and volunteers
who have come to his restored creeksite. They are also confirmed
by an emerging movement loosely called "ecopsychology,"
the study of nature's therapeutic benefits.
In the last decade, hundreds
of studies have begun documenting what many people know intuitively
about the healing power of nature. "Nature is in some fundamental
way important for the human psyche, and as such it is really
central to public health," says Roger Ulrich, director of
the Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A&M University.
Ulrich has tested these theories
on patients recovering from cardiac and abdominal surgery. He
found that patients whose hospital rooms overlooked trees required
less pain medication and recovered more quickly than those whose
rooms overlooked brick walls.
John Beal, like the ecopsychologists,
believes that the impulse toward environmental restoration is
about the need for connection and purpose in a world increasingly
dissociated from nature.
"It's the connection to
something larger than yourself," says Beal. "When you
are so overwhelmed by your depression, or anxiety or sense of
illness, it takes away that worry; it calms that fear."
Francesca Lyman is the author of 'Inside the Dzanga-Sangha
Rain Forest' and 'The Greenhouse Trap.'
"We are dysfunctional
socially and environmentally because we are cut off and isolated
from the world of nature and the natural."
Dear Vice President Gore,
Please be informed that Project
NatureConnect provides an alternative, holistic, sensory science
that helps our psyche genuinely connect with nature. Because
this sustainable tool enables our mind to thoughtfully tap into
nature's balance, grace and restorative powers our dysfunctions
wane and our personal and environmental well-being improves.
Michael J. Cohen, Ed. D.