Many of the benefits mentioned in other areas of this blog, apply just as much to older children, teenagers, and young people as they do to the small. But teenagers have pressures in their lives which young kids generally do not, and so their need for the positive benefits of Nature is truly a necessity.
Much has been written about the benefits of being outdoors and connecting with Nature for teenagers and I have set out below some key areas to remember for the young people in your life:
Build Emotional Wellbeing
At a time when our children are going through the spin cycle of development, their emotions can take a battering in all manner of ways. A Stanford University study (Hamilton. P, Hahn K; 2011) has shown that even as little as 90 minutes in a natural environment can increase feelings of emotional wellbeing. In another study, students were found to have more feelings of positivity and peace leading to a better state of mind.
Many studies have found there to be a significant positive relationship between accessibility and engagement with Nature and the stress levels in children and teenagers. Loss of free time and hurried lifestyles can contribute to stress and worry levels in teens so spending free time at leisure outdoors can help alleviate some of this emotional upset.
Nature Inspires Awe and Gratitude
Nature can produce feelings of awe and wonder which researchers found can encourage more generous, positive social behaviours. Nature also requires a type of effortless attention that just comes naturally, and so teens get a chance to rest tired brains when they unplug and get outdoors.
Nature helps us feel connected to the world
The vastness of Nature can help young people feel connected to something much bigger than themselves, enhance their sense of belonging in the world and give a general sense of contentment with their place in the world. It can also help their own troubles seem smaller in comparison to the size of the world and the universe. In this way, a positive shift in mindset occurs, mood lightens, and they tap into their deep knowledge that they have a role to play in it all.
Nature teaches responsibility
Nature teaches children about responsibility, as living things die if they are not taken care of properly. As we teach teenagers about looking after the Nature within our care, we also start to show them the big picture that we much learn to care for our planet. Young people will become adults all too soon and they need empathy and awareness to take on their share of responsibility when it comes to having positive behaviours for our planet in future.
Nature can be part of a positive coping strategy
Being outdoors causes us to take slower, deeper, breaths and demands that we take more in visually. In this way, we can start to forget about ourselves and the problems which seemed big before, can suddenly seem a lot less.
Additionally, adventure programmes were shown to lead to an increase in self-sufficiency and coping skills in teens, improve their ability to interact with others and enable the young people to better manage their emotions when upset.
Even going outdoors for a short walk, or sitting on the doorstep, can promote more positive feelings when upset. With fresh air entering their bodies, the wider world opens before them and allows space for other more positive thoughts to rise in their minds.
Nature can restore feelings of fatigue and burn out when teens have spent too much time on screens. The physical exertion that being outdoors naturally commands enables the release of tension and provides a natural antidote to the always on and over stimulating modern world our teens inhabit.
Nature Builds Resilience & Confidence
As they experience real life challenge in Nature based activities in places like Adventure Centers or Survival/Bushcraft Camps, teens get to test their limits, experience mastery of new skills and rely on themselves. This in turn builds their confidence in overcoming challenges. Exposing them to safe and calculated risks in outdoor pursuits challenges them to find inner resources to overcome obstacles and problem solve, alone or within a group. As they succeed in these activities, they apply critical thinking and dig into their own resources to resolve issues as they arise, which is highly valuable for their real lives.
Create new stories
Engaging in challenging adventure activities enables teens to succeed and overcome obstacles which enables them to create new stories about themselves. Applying themselves to a challenge, sticking with it and overcoming, lends itself to the teen seeing themselves in a new, more positive, light. This newfound success and confidence can be beneficial to them in going out into the world with a sense of belief in themselves and their self-worth.