Must Reads for Safari Parents: The Nature Fix by Florence Williams

So it’s getting dark earlier, the sun rises after you’re out the door and you want to curl up into a ball and hibernate. But what if we (and our kids) could cure ADHD, depression, anxiety, PTSD, heal faster, and increase our mental focus? What if the key to all that was right outside your door?

The Background:

The story goes something like this: Williams was living in Colorado where there were plentiful hiking trails, nature walks, trees and jaw-dropping landscapes. Then her husband gets a job that moves the family to Washington, D.C., a bustling metropolis of government buildings that routinely lands in the top 5 for worst traffic cities in the USA every year.  She grew antsy and depressed, and smart woman that she is, she figured out that she felt better when she went to a park or was outside in a place with more nature than just a dandelion growing out of the asphalt.

The Evidence:

Thus begins her journey researching nature and the effects it (and lack of it) have on the human brain, body, and emotions. She delves into the new Asian trend of ‘Forest Bathing’ (which we call hiking, but in Asia, things apparently need to have a purpose to pull you away from the office) to reduce blood pressure to the revolutionary evidence that just giving a patient a window overlooking greenery in a hospital room makes them heal faster.

Why Should Parents Read It?

The average teenager has so many stresses on them, it’s no wonder they develop anxiety and depression. Their health isn’t great, and between the amount of schoolwork they have and social media, I worry that lots of modern kids develop mild forms of ADHD just to survive.

In The Nature Fix, you meet Frances Kuo, who is doing studies that suggest exposure to nature can reduce symptoms of ADHD in children three times as much as staying indoors. Her studies also suggest focus and memorization are improved after time in nature.

Adults aren’t immune either- studies on workers show that even having a window in their office points to less work stress and increased productivity. Inner city residents with exposure to greenery indicate less aggression and higher test scores and academic grades.

In Korea, there are ‘forest programs’ for kids who have become obsessive with screen time, leading them and their mothers to admit time in nature is good for their family as well as their focus.

The studies are fascinating, but what it boils down to is this – put down the device, go outside. My oldest has already noticed the correlation: when she’s stressed out, sitting outside helps, even if she has to do homework while she’s there. My youngest and I have found that taking our runs outside in a place with as much greenery as possible makes us happier and inclined to run a bit farther.

There aren’t many free ways to make everyone in your family happier and healthier, so this one is definitely worth a try. Suggest homework outside, walking to school (if possible) or even an after dinner walk to watch the bats in the neighborhood or hunting for Orion’s belt in the night sky. Just get out, breathe deeply, and remember there is more to life than what’s on your phone or computer.  

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