Studies Indicate that Connecting with Nature is Effective in the Treatment of ADHD
Dr Shelley Hyman
Research has consistently suggested that exposure to natural views and settings is associated with a reduction in symptoms such as inattention and impulsivity.
Dr Stephen Kaplan, an environmental psychologist, has suggested that connecting with the natural environment assists in recovery from attention fatigue as the natural environment engages the mind effortlessly without the pressure of having to focus on a specific stimuli.
Studies have been conducted on the soothing and restorative effects of nature on directed attention, with “nature” being defined in a variety of ways including bush walking, gardening, having grass and trees outside one’s apartment building and simply viewing pictures of nature.
Results from these studies have indicated that connecting with and being exposed to various forms of nature improves attention and efficacy on a variety of tasks.
To date, limited studies have explored the link between connecting with nature and the management of ADHD in children. One study utilised a sample of 96 children diagnosed with ADHD, and involved parents observing their child’s behaviour during a range of leisure activities and rating whether their symptoms were better than, worse than, or the same as usual after engaging in each of those activities.
Parents rated the general severity of their child’s symptoms and provided a rating of the “greenness” of each activity, with higher green scores reflecting a greater connection with the natural environment.
An analysis of the results revealed that parents rated that ADHD symptoms were significantly better than usual after partaking in activities that involved a greater connection with nature.
Another study found that when controlling for various other factors, children were rated as calmer, more attentive and more relaxed after undertaking a guided walk through natural settings than they were after walking through urban settings.
Most recently, a study revealed that exposing children with ADHD to natural settings in after school and weekend activities was beneficial. Outdoor activities that involved a connection with nature were associated with a reduction in the observed symptoms of ADHD and had a more positive aftereffects than was evident after activities undertaken in other settings.
This study ultimately revealed that the advantages of connecting with nature in the management of ADHD in children was consistent across a wide range of factors.
The existing research indicates that connecting with nature is particularly beneficial to children with ADHD and may have a relaxing and soothing effect, ultimately decreasing the intensity of the symptoms associated with ADHD.
The research suggests that as part of a holistic approach to the management of ADHD, scheduling time to connect with the natural environment should be a priority for people with ADHD.
- Kuo, E. F. & Taylor, F. A. (2004). A potential natural treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence from a national study. Research and Practice, 94(9), 1580-1586.