Growing Up Indoors
Today, most Americans are far less connected to nature than our parents and grandparents were. One study from Hofstra University found that 70% of mothers recall playing outdoors every day when they were growing up. But only 30% of their children play outdoors every day. In fact, children today spend 90% of their time indoors and they spend an average of 50 hours every week using electronic devices, according to the Children and Nature Network. Adults are increasingly disconnected from nature too — and people, at all ages, need nature!
Benefits of Time in Nature
When people are connected with nature we live happier and healthier lives. Studies have demonstrated numerous benefits from spending time in nature. Stress reduction is a big one, for both children and adults. Time spent in nature helps to relieve depression, anger and anxiety, and it improves our ability to cope with stressful events.
Nature not only improves how we feel; it improves how we think, with benefits for attention, memory and creative thinking. A connection with nature can even improve how well we connect with other people. A study at the University of Rochester found that exposure to nature makes people more likely to nurture close relationships, value community and be generous with their money.
Increased outdoor activity can also improve physical fitness and prevent obesity-related health problems. And, nature helps people heal. A study in Pennsylvania found that hospital patients with a view of trees healed faster, with less pain medication and fewer complaints, compared to patients with a view of a brick wall.
Reconnecting People with Nature
Some of the barriers that are keeping people away from nature are cultural — such as busy schedules, concern for children’s safety, fear of unfamiliar environments and a preference for electronic entertainment. Another big issue is access, especially since 80% of Americans now live in urban and suburban communities. People need nature close to home, as well as great outdoor destinations.
Many land trusts are actively working to reconnect people with nature in their communities. Land trusts help create parks, preserves, trails, greenways and community gardens that expand people’s access to nature. Many land trusts also offer programs that strengthen the bonds between people and nature, such as outings, nature walks, camps, educational programs and volunteer activities. Reconnecting people and nature is essential to the work of land conservation — because people will only act to protect nature if they learn to love and value it.