By The Nature Conservancy
ACCORDING TO THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, THE AVERAGE AMERICAN SPENDS 93% OF THEIR LIFE INDOORS. THIS MAY SHOCK YOU AS AN OUTDOOR ADVENTURER, BUT THIS ‘NATURE DEFICIT DISORDER’ IS A GROWING PROBLEM AMONGST AMERICANS OF ALL AGES.
In addition to spending too much time inside, teens spend an average of nine hours a day using media, according to Common Sense Media. That same report reveals children ages 8-12 spend about six hours a day on their smartphones, tablets, and video games! This can be detrimental to children as time spent in nature is downright crucial to their development.
Children exposed to nature have better focus, increased concentration, and better grades. Simply learning in the wild can even help. One study compared how children learned in forests versus a standard playground. The results reveal a child’s motor skills were stronger when learning in the woods. (Fjortoft, 2001)
For kids, this is excellent news as outdoors is the most fun place to be. It’s where birds sing, clouds move across the sky, water ripples, critters crawl, and our senses come to life. Nature fills our lives with discovery, meaning, amusement, and lessons.
And studies have found that being outside lowers the hormone cortisol, reducing stress levels (Qing Li, Jan 2010). A report by The Nature Conservancy revealed that nature can inspire emotions of awe which enhance our immune function, helping people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
“Nature is our biggest teacher because everything is connected to our environment,” says Andrea Nelson, TNC’s Utah Community Engagement Manager. “The more time we spend outside, the more we learn about the seasons, different trees, plants, trees, birds and wildlife.”
In Utah, the solution to “nature deficit disorder” is literally all around us. We enjoy unparalleled access to a diverse and beautiful natural world. One of the most awe-inspiring natural wonders in Utah is the Great Salt Lake—a globally important habitat and gathering place for millions of migratory shorebirds and waterfowl.
Here, TNC hosts Salt Lake City fourth graders each spring and fall as part of its Wings & Water Wetlands education program. Touching woolly bear caterpillars and tasting saltgrass are two of the many unforgettable educational experiences for the student participants.
Over the past 13 years, the program has reached more than 21,000 students, providing a hands-on nature experience while teaching children about the importance of wetlands.“The woolly bear caterpillars are really woolly,” remembers James from Emerson Elementary School. Clara adds: “I loved being outdoors. I felt happy.” Another Emerson student likes that it took place outdoors because he spends most of his time on video games.
At TNC’s Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve, just 30 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City, you can explore a prime bird habitat from a one-mile long boardwalk or a 30-foot-high observation tower.
TNC offers opportunities throughout the year to encourage people of all backgrounds to experience nature’s wonder. From a wide range of volunteer opportunities to Fiesta for Nature and Preserve After Dark events, there is something for everyone. The Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve also offers an audio tour in Spanish and English to provide visitors with in-depth information on the preserve’s features and history.
“We know people are happier and healthier when they spend time outside,” adds Dave Livermore, The Nature Conservancy in Utah’s state director. “When they connect with nature, they also care more what happens to our environment. We can foster the next generation of conservationists by exposing them to beautiful places like the preserve, a nearby forest or your neighborhood park.”
The benefits of being outside outweigh any excuse to stay inside. Make it a priority and spend more time in nature to feed your soul and improve your health.
This article is written and provided by The Nature Conservancy.