Nature Deficit Disorder

Are you aware of the term Nature Deficit Disorder?

Whether you are or not it is most definitely worth reading this report by the National Trust that very eloquently talks about this problem.

Here at The Rugged Outdoors we have always been concerned that kids are just not getting enough quality time in arms of Mother Nature. We also extend this concern to the adult population and have seen at first hand the difference that immersing yourself in nature can achieve.

We spend lots of time with our two boys Luke and Josh in the woodlands of the UK. Both are healthy fit young boys but moreover they (we feel) are well rounded individuals who are just as comfortable cooking themselves Bannock over an open fire that they themselves have just started as they are surfing the web.

Ok sometimes its difficult to get them away from a TV screen or computer but we as parents persevere and once they are out there their whole attitude changes.

For us the most important part of being in the woods is the chill factor because once this takes over their minds take a journey of discovery, “Dad there’s a deer track over here” “Mam are these mushrooms edible?”. They are both comfortable using a knife to process wood and we are happy to let them use a knife because we have drilled the safe use of such to the point that to them its automatic, its muscle memory.

They will climb tree’s and they will wade through streams all the time checking that the tree limb that they are about to step on is safe or the depth of the stream is such that they are not going to get into difficulties while crossing from one bank to the other.

They know their limits and will sometimes stretch those limits, they will explore the woods and we will let them because we know that they have their whistles strapped to them and they will give a good blast on it if there is a problem.

All of the above provides for a child that will use their imagination throughout their life, they can make decisions, they can work as part of a team but just as importantly can manage as an individual.

In his seminal book Last Child in the Woods, published in 2005, California based author Richard Louv coined the phrase that has come to define the problem we are now trying to solve:

Nature Deficit Disorder describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.

Its never to late to start so get out there and let mother nature embrace you, if you need help just get in touch with us here at The Rugged Outdoors we have something for everyone.

Forest Bathing a myth or fact

The Power of Phytoncides

Phytoncide is a substance emmitted by plants & trees and generally means the aroma of the forest and  are produced to help plants & trees protect themselves from harmful insects and germs. 

Phytoncides do not only exist in forests. They can be found in vegetables and fruit as well. After the constituents of phytoncides were identified, experiments were conducted to see how they benefit human health.

The therapeutic benefits of forest bathing may be difficult to fully explain with only phytoncides, but most likely, the green scenery, soothing sounds of streams and waterfalls, and natural aromas of wood, plants and flowers in these complex ecosystems all play a part. Forest therapy is a good example of how our own health is dependent on the health of our natural environment.

Reduced Stress

A recent review of field experiments across Japan compared physical markers of stress in natural environments to those in city settings. 280 adults spent time in forest and urban areas on alternate days. Compared to city environments, forest settings were associated with lower levels of cortisol, slower heart rates, lower blood pressure, greater activity of parasympathetic nerves that promote relaxation, and reduced activity of sympathetic nerves associated with “fight or flight” reactions to stress.

Another study of forest bathing measured fluctuations in salivary amylase, an indicator of changes in sympathetic nervous activity, and also concluded that forests were associated with less environmental stress.

Researchers have studied the psychological effects of forest bathing as well. Almost 500 Japanese adults were surveyed on days they spent time in a forest and also in their normal environment. Statistical analyzes revealed that, compared to their normal environments, inside a forest the participants reported significantly less depression and hostility, and felt significantly more lively. And the greater the level of stress individuals experienced, the greater the positive effects of forest bathing. Researchers concluded that forests are “therapeutic landscapes” and that forest bathing may decrease the risk of stress-related diseases.

Lower Blood Sugar

Forest therapy may also help control blood sugar. A Japanese study followed 87 adults diagnosed with type-two diabetes for six years. During this time, participants walked in a forest for 3 or 6 kilometers (1.9 or 3.7 miles), depending on their physical ability, on nine different occasions. At the end of the study, researchers found that the forest walkers had lower blood glucose (synonymous with blood sugar), improved insulin sensitivity, and decreased levels of hemoglobin A1c, an indicator of how well blood glucose has been controlled over the past 3 months. 

This wasn’t a controlled study and, in general, any form of exercise practiced regularly can help improve blood sugar regulation in people with diabetes. But given the frequency of the walks (only nine times in six years) and the fact that blood sugar levels were significantly decreased but not significantly different between those who walked the long distance and those who walked the short distance, researchers concluded that factors other than exercise also contributed to the positive long-term results, including changes in hormonal secretion and nervous system function associated with blood sugar metabolism.

Better Concentration

Research in the United States has investigated the effects of outdoor green spaces on symptoms of attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. In a randomized controlled study, doctors specializing in environmental psychology at the University of Illinois studied 17 children diagnosed with ADHD who were exposed to three different environments.

After 20-minute walks in a city park, children experienced substantially improved concentration compared to 20-minute walks in downtown and residential settings. Researchers concluded that the positive results were comparable to the effects of Ritalin.

Diminished Pain

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine studied the effects of nature scenery and sounds on pain perception. The randomized controlled clinical trial included 120 adults undergoing bone marrow aspiration and biopsy performed with only local anesthetic, a painful procedure, in one of three settings.

One group experienced nature scenery and sounds during the biopsy, the second group city scenery and sounds, and the third group a standard medical setting. Overall, the procedure was poorly tolerated, but researchers concluded that viewing a nature scene and listening to nature sounds is a safe and inexpensive way to reduce pain during bone marrow biopsy.

Improved Immunity

Studies in Japan have examined markers of immunity in both men and women after three-day trips to the forest. Healthy volunteers participated in three two-hour sessions of walking in a forest. Before, during and after the experiences researchers measured the number and activity of natural killer cells, immune cells that destroy cancerous cells in the body; anti-cancer proteins including perforin, granulysin and granzymes A/B; and levels of stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline. They also measured levels of phytonicides in the forest air. (Phytonicides are essential oils released by trees and plants to defend against insects, animals and decomposition.)

Compared to control measurements taken on normal working days, forest walking significantly decreased levels of stress hormones, increased anti-cancer proteins, and increased the number and activity of natural killer cells. 30 days after the experience, natural killer cells were still more active, suggesting that monthly forest walks could be an important lifestyle factor in the prevention of cancer as well as helpful adjunctive therapy for people diagnosed with cancer. 

Researchers believed that the wood essential oils were at least partially responsible for the positive effects of forest air. Separate studies have further investigated phytonicides in laboratory settings and confirmed that they can increase anti-cancer proteins and enhance natural killer cell activity.

The therapeutic benefits of forest bathing may be difficult to fully explain with only phytoncides, but most likely, the green scenery, soothing sounds of streams and waterfalls, and natural aromas of wood, plants and flowers in these complex ecosystems all play a part. Forest therapy is a good example of how our own health is dependent on the health of our natural environment.

"The Forest Therapy Association of the Americas"

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