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Being outdoors has been proven to have a positive effect on our mental health, and just by taking one walk, your brain will experience immediate positive effects. By choosing to walk for 90 minutes in a natural environment, you can experience low levels of rumination or ‘brooding,’ and more than one study showed that the subgenual prefrontal cortex had less blood flow and reduced neural activity; this is the area of the brain that relates to mental illness.

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Psychologists have also found that creative problem solving can be drastically improved by both disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature. Living in big cities exposes people to urban noises and when you couple that with technology, it is disruptive to our daily thinking and is constantly demanding our attention and preventing us from focusing, all of which can be taxing to our cognitive functions. A nice long hike, sans technology, can reduce mental fatigue, soothe the mind, and boost creative thinking.

Being outdoors in general presents enormous benefits to our physical and psychological well-being. One practice in particular, known as “Earthing,” or “grounding,” even encourages you to go barefoot in the grass. The logic behind grounding is based on the intense negative charge carried by the Earth. This charge is electron-rich, theoretically serving as a good supply of antioxidants and free-radical destroying electrons. Walking barefoot on the ground enhances our health and promotes feelings of well-being — a concept that can be found in the literature and practices of various cultures throughout the world.

There is a tremendous amount of science behind this, and a lot of published research, so for more information on that, the studies, and how you can get grounded, please refer to our article, How To Absorb Earth’s Free Flowing Electrons Through The Soles of Your Feet.

Hiking is not only beneficial for adults, but also for children who experience ADHD. A study conducted by Frances E. Kup, PhD, and Andrea Faber Taylor, PhD, found that exposing children with ADHD to “green outdoor activities” reduces symptoms significantly. The results of this study suggest nature exposure can benefit anyone who has a difficult time paying attention and/or exhibits impulsive behaviour.

A child of any behaviour can also increase their immunity significantly by being outdoors and playing in the dirt. When a child is exposed to germs, you are increasing their chances of building a strong immune system. You can read more about that in our article, ‘Dirt is Good’: Why Children Need More Exposure To Germs.

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Technology undoubtedly has its benefits, and while I do think it’s important and valuable that children today are learning their ways around technology as it can help them with future endeavours, its natural functions exposes children and adults to a number of physical health risks. In addition to these findings, other shocking statistics have shown that children are outside less than prison inmates.

Through a campaign titled “Dirt Is Good,” UK based laundry detergent marketer Persil is letting us know just how dismal things have gotten. A survey of 12,000 parents worldwide revealed a number of shocking results, including, but not limited to:

  • 74% of youngsters are not allowed to spend an hour outdoors
  • 62% of parents believe their children have less opportunities to be outdoors than they did
  • 77% of parents admitted that their children often refuse to play games not featuring some form of technology
  • 75% report that their children prefer to play sports on a screen than the actual sport itself
  • 54% could not identify an oak tree, while 80% could identify Justin Bieber

Really, we don’t need more research to prove that being outside has heaps of benefits but new research has emerged that explains one surprising physical benefit that a child can receive by being exposed to the outdoors.

Nearsightedness (Myopia) Is On The Rise

The National Eye Institute (NEI) conducted a study to display how prevalent myopia has become in the U.S.. People were studied in 1971-1972 between the ages of 12-54 and found that only 25% of people were affected, and then again in 1999-2004 to find that myopia increased to 41.6%.

We can naturally assume that the reason more children are experiencing poor vision is because of the influx of technology, causing children to view objects much closer than they should. Our parents constantly preached to us that we needed to watch TV at a distance, but was there any true merit to this fear? Apparently not, but the habit of choosing indoor activity is a common theme.

There is a hereditary factor: if a child has two nearsighted parents the likeliness of them developing myopia is about 60% – if activity time outside is low. So when you couple genetic disposition with long periods of time spent indoors, it’s likely your child will develop myopia. It’s becoming clear to me that a healthy balance is required in order for a child to truly have an advantageous life in regard to sight.

The Research

Karla Zadnik, dean of the College of Optometry at The Ohio State University, and Don Mutti, professor of optometry at The Ohio State University, wrote a piece highlighting their belief, supported by their research on The Conversation that children who play outside will be less likely to develop mytopia.

If a child spends approximately 14 hours per week outdoors, they can practically neutralize the genetic risk of needing glasses by about 20 percent, bringing them to the fair chance of a child who has no nearsighted parents.

Theories

  • Children may exercise more when they are outdoors and that exercise is somehow protective
  • More ultraviolet B radiation from the sun makes for more circulating vitamin D, which somehow prevents abnormal childhood eye growth and myopia onset
  • Light itself slows abnormal myopic eye growth and that outdoors, light is simply brighter
“The dominant theory is that the brighter light outside stimulates a release of dopamine from specialized cells in the retina. Dopamine then initiates a molecular signaling cascade that ends with slower, normal growth of the eye, which means no myopia. Evidence from our work and from animal models of myopia indicate it’s the actual light exposure, not just a decrease in the time spent reading because children are outdoors, that may work the magic.”
Children naturally thrive when they are exposed to the outdoors. They exercise their creativity and their physical bodies. When we rule from the backseat of their lives, other factors will come in and parent for you. Play an active role in your child’s life, limit their screen time and promote outdoor activities. It’s the responsibility of a parent to truly know what’s best to ensure optimal development and awareness of your child who lives and breathes in your home.

 

 


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