5 Ways Connecting to Nature Helps Youth
Connecting youth to nature is more important than ever.
Many children and young adults find themselves overscheduled between school, extracurriculars, volunteering, and their social lives – not to mention one or two part-time jobs to help save for post-secondary or a movie night with friends.
One in seven youth are grappling with a mental health issue. Anxiety is the most common. And part of this is how stretched thin youth are these days.
However, the lack of connection to the outdoors can also be a contributing factor. Youth spend approximately 7.5 hours a day with media, but pack in about 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of content engagement thanks to multitasking with multiple devices simultaneously.
These younger generations are more digitally connected than ever before while being separated from nature as over 80% of Canadians live in urban centers.
Today is International Youth Day. To celebrate, we’re highlighting five ways spending time outdoors helps youth.
Alleviates mental health challenges
Most of us have taken a walk when feeling overwhelmed with work or sat in a park when needing a mood boost. But did you know these mood benefits are backed by science?
Research shows time in nature can decrease feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety.
Safeguarded and accessible wilderness youth can connect with is crucial to help them manage their mental health and give them refuge to the challenges of everyday life and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Builds critical thinking and social skills
Time spent outside playing and exploring helps youth learn the difference between healthy and unhealthy risk-taking behaviors. For example, they can take calculated risks like climbing play structures, rolling down hills, or jumping from one rock to another to develop their critical thinking abilities.
A 2015 study discovered kids engaging in “risky outdoor play” and had opportunities to explore nature had improved social skills, creativity, and resilience.
Improves physical health
Connecting and playing in nature can be done in many ways. Hiking, running, biking, and swimming are just a few examples of the myriad of ways youth can engage with wilderness.
And as we’ve discussed, these activities have mood and skills boosting benefits, but youth are simultaneously getting exercise!
From improved flexibility to strong lungs, bones, and heart health, time moving in nature can contribute to healthy bodies.
Creates healthy habits for adulthood
Learning something in our childhood or young adult years makes it easier to carry that habit into adulthood in healthy ways.
Research shows that when youth spend time outside, they’re 20% more likely to participate in outdoor programs or explore nature independently in adulthood.
This means they’re able to form healthy and long-lasting relationships with nature and carry those mood, physical health, and social benefits into their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond.
Shape their leadership skills
Connecting with nature through conservation projects, such as volunteering to clean up parks or lead hikes, empowers youth to become ambassadors for wild spaces within their communities and builds their leadership abilities.
Our Canadian Stewardship Wilderness Program (CWSP) is an educational experience designed to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards by connecting youth to nature and their local communities. We do this through a wilderness expedition, a volunteer community service project, and a summit.
You can learn more about how the CWSP is impacting youth in our blog.