The number of children (as well as adults) diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is on the rise. Is it any wonder?
We stick our kids (and our adult workforce) indoors at a desk for seven to eight hours a day and then call it a disorder when they can’t sit still and concentrate. Far too often doctors prescribe various pharmaceuticals that dull otherwise curious, exploratory minds and turn millions into drones that prefer vegging out in front of a screen to spending time in nature.
Perhaps it is not our attention that is lacking, so much as our interaction with the natural world around us.
The term Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD) was first coined by San Diegan Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods”, as a way to explain children’s growing alienation from nature. Although not a medical condition, NDD—new studies show—can be a contributing factor in attention issues as well as the dulling of our senses, obesity and higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses. The consequences are larger than we ever considered before.
A recent year-long study,published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that green spaces around or inside elementary schools have a positive effect on learning and memory skills.
A recent article in the Huffington Post explains:
The new study was conducted on more than 2,500 children in second, third and fourth grade at 36 primary schools in Barcelona, Spain. At the outset of the study and again 12 months later, the children were given computerized tests measuring cognitive functions, including working memory (a measurement of short-term memory) and attentiveness. The researchers also measured the green spaces within and surrounding each school.”
The study found that the students that attended schools with more green spaces showed a 5 percent improvement in short-term memory skills (governed by a part of the brain responsible for critical reasoning, learning and comprehension). Likewise, the study found that the same children increased their attentiveness somewhat.
Why? Louv (who wasn’t involved in this particular study) explains in the same Huffington Post article:
The evidence strongly suggests that the natural world increases physical competency linked to mental acuity, increases ability to see patterns where others see chaos, offers new disciplines to collect and perceive knowledge and apply it, and expands the palate of possibilities,"
This corroborates yet another six-year-long study which found a link to access to green spaces and increased standardized test scores in Math and English.
Apart from cognitive improvements, other benefits to getting outside include enjoying more good old-fashioned physical activity such as running, jumping, climbing, and tumbling.
As for adults, the numerous benefits of getting outdoors have been proven over and over. From providing Vitamin D, boosting our mood, self-esteem, creativity, focus and productivity...to healing our physical ailments such as obesity and beyond. It all makes you think twice before accepting a diagnosis such as ADD or even depression.
Instead, it's time we all ask ourselves if we and our children have been spending enough time in the healing gardens of nature.
- Nature Deficit Disorder via ChildrenandNature.org
- Green Spaces In Schools Improve Children's Memory And Attention via The Huffington Post
- A.D.H.D. Seen in 11% of U.S. Children as Diagnoses Rise via The New York Times
- Linking Student Performance in Massachusetts Elementary Schools with the "Greenness" of School Surroundings Using Remote Sensing via US National Library of Medicine
- Green spaces and cognitive development in primary schoolchildren via PNAS.org