Restorative Effects of Nature
Being out in the fresh open air is known to be beneficial for the mind, body, and soul. After being inside all day or even for a few hours, stepping out when the weather is warm can be a magical feeling.
Sometimes you need to take that run or sit in the park to recharge your brain before completing an assignment or continuing on the day. Research studies and anecdotal tales have time and again proven the powerful effect nature and greenery can have on attention and mental well being.
ADHD and Nature
These effects of increased attention are only magnified in children with ADHD: who are constantly experiencing inattention and struggling to focus on school work. Children who experience ADHD symptoms should spend time outside after school and play in the park or playground. Instead of just throwing your child the Ipad or having them play with toys inside, take the extra step to get them outside.
Children with ADHD between the ages of 5-18 are said to experience a significant reduction of ADHD symptoms when they spend time in nature settings after school. It is not just spending time outside that produce these positive effects. Spending time in green open spaces or fields increase attention and so, taking a walk around a busy area of Manhattan will not leave your child feeling attentive.
Children with ADHD who take walks in parks were found to have an increase in concentration after the walks. However, children with ADHD who took walks in the city or suburbs did not experience an increase in concentrative ability.
Green outdoor surroundings can help people (regardless of if they have ADHD) sustain their attention, concentration and restore their cognitive resources. The Attentional Restoration Theory describes two types of attention: direct attention and soft fascination. Direct attention is what we use at work and at the school where we must focus and ignore all else. Direct attention gets depleted in general when we focus too hard for too long with no breaks. Now imagine this in children with ADHD who are struggling with a brain-based disorder where they have shorter attentional spans than the average child.
Soft fascination is the free flow of attention which requires no effort and is our mind with no inhibitions. According to the Attentional Restoration Theory, nature is able to restore our direct attention after we exert mental energy and experience attentional fatigue. When we are in nature, we do not need the direct attention and we are using the “soft fascination” part of our mind. When you are outside you are able to restore your mind so you can have the ability to directly focus on a task later on.
Nature vs Medication.
Nature is a natural treatment which is accessible and inexpensive. Not all children respond to medication and medication also produces side effects. Especially for children with mild symptoms, nature can really produce profound effects in their functioning at school and at home.
As we experience greater strides in technology, the temptations to only spend time on our screens increase. Spending time outside is good for mental health and for physical health for all children (especially those who struggle with disorders).
Nature Therapy for ADHD 🙂
For children with ADHD, nature can help their mood, their ability to succeed at school and to follow the rules at home. Outside, they can get their energy out, and experience the freeness of the outdoors. Spending too much time on the T.V or computer does not allow a child’s mind to relax and can actually increase attentional problems.
It can be effortful after a long day of work to ensure your child plays outside but in the long run, it will be worth it. Early intervention is key for children in helping them mitigate symptoms and succeed in academic environments. A daily dose of nature has the ability to go a long way.