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Anxiety… Exposure to nature can help that too!

A study conducted by Sage Winter Rian and Kenneth M. Coll showed that exposure to nature reduced anxiety in elementary school students. One extra class period spent outside each week significantly reduced anxiety in third graders during a time when other students were experiencing high anxiety levels.

In general, anxiety refers to worrying, feeling nervous, or experiencing unease that is often associated with impending events or uncertain outcomes. According to Dr. Tamar Chansky, a psychologist who wrote Freeing Your Child from Anxiety (2014), it is normal for children to experience fears that come and go throughout their lives. "Typically, what happens is a child encounters a new situation and they need some time to learn about it, to work with it and get used to it."

Anxiety can range from a little heart pounding to a full-blown panic attack. Adults frequently find themselves in uncomfortable situations in their daily lives. As Dr. Chansky said, anxiety is normal in children. Yet, it is troubling that our children experience anxiety every single day when youth is supposed to be a time of fun and "letting kids be kids." As many as one in ten children and adolescents suffer from anxiety disorders. Symptoms include avoidance of particular activities, situations, or people, worry about how things could turn out in any situation, difficulty sleeping at night, or insisting on sleeping with their parents, as well as physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach pain that are not due to other medical issues.

Research found that taking students outside for one lesson a day for six weeks reduced the amount of anxiety they felt. This research was conducted at a public school where students spend most of their time in traditional classroom settings. Consider, for a moment, the therapeutic influence on anxiety of a child who spends 75% of the instructional day outdoors. What kind of anxiety would that child experience? What kind of effects would that have? Would the exposure help them to learn skills to overcome their anxiety before it becomes a disorder?

I am not claiming that being outside all day would solve all the problems children face. To be able to take a breath, watch a butterfly, or dig in the dirt may be a good start!

Excerpts taken from:

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