Why you don’t want to miss nature study

By Forhad Hasan

Why study nature?

We may go into nature for exercise or to get away from the hustle and bustle, but we almost always return renewed and rejuvenated in ways we didn't expect. Why is that? John Muir once said that “In every walk in nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”

I believe that somewhere deep down inside all of us, there’s a knowing that spending time in nature allows us to exhale, let go and just be. 

Simply put, our lives are stressful. We are filled with the pressures of keeping up with school, earning enough money, keeping the house tidy, feeding our families and caring for those who need us. We’re in a constant spin cycle adding to the list of what we “need to be doing”, and run around frantically trying to do these things in an attempt to relieve that pressure. But the relief is only fleeting until the next thing is added.

We are seeing growing numbers among adults and children of anxiety, depression, obesity, fatigue, attention disorders, immune deficiencies, and even brain fog. But what is the antidote? 

A 2016 study in the UK showed that spending time “doing something wild” in nature everyday for 30 days produced measurable improvements in both health and happiness. Children’s self esteem improved, symptoms of ADHD and anxiety reduced and adults experienced lower rates of hypertension and depression. 

It turns out when our brains settle into a state called Default Mode Network or DMN, that’s when we recharge in a waking state. We feel renewed after being in this state, but most of us don’t spend any time there at all there during the day. Nature however, helps to induce this state and the more frequently we can get into nature, the more renewed we feel and the more restored our bodies become! 

What To Do in Nature

One of the most exciting things about spending time with your children in nature is that nature provides children with nearly endless opportunities for amazement and awe as you discover and take it all in together.  You get to create opportunities to spark quality conversation and develop their desire to explore and cherish their environment.

Unstructured outdoor play in nature is a key component, meaning it’s not parent-directed. This unguided play has been repeatedly shown to improve mood, develop self confidence, manage depression, strengthen the immune system, improve motor skills and critical thinking skills and create opportunities to develop empathy. Letting kids follow their instincts to investigate, climb (safe!) rocks, role play or draw is a great way to lift spirits and boost health!

In addition to unstructured play, nature journaling is an activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family, even the parents! A nature journal is a collection of observations, drawings, recordings, thoughts and feelings as we connect with the world around us. It provides us with an opportunity to grow a deeper relationship with the Earth and develop a greater awareness and caring for the world in which we live. 

Nature journaling is also a tool to strengthen observation skills and fine tune the five senses. It means seeing and noticing nature—clouds, weather, ecosystems, life cycles, seasons. It means studying the uniqueness of birds, bugs, mammals and reptiles. It means getting in touch with the twigs, leaves, plants, flowers, tracks and even scat that we come across while exploring outdoors.  It’s an exercise in tuning in and really noticing what is happening in your environment.  And then recording what you observe—in words and pictures both. It can also mean recording data: numbers, temperatures, measurements, and so forth. 

Enriched at Home embraces nature studies because we know the benefits to the human mind, body and spirit. We provide guided and unguided activities in nature for the whole family at different levels of engagement for different age ranges.

Receive a monthly delivery which includes a spotlight on different elements of nature along with open-and-go activities for everyone to enjoy. Our enrichment program also includes inspiring books, activities, discussion topics, nutrition lessons and family-friendly recipes. 

Join us and connect with nature in fun, new ways!

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