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  • How to Raise Mentally Strong Kids: Kate Middleton Has a Fantastic Suggestion

    Nature is one of the best playgrounds for kids!
    by Kate Borbon .
  • You may have seen the adorable photographs and clips of Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis, the children of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, playing in a garden co-designed by the Duchess herself with two other landscape architects.

    In one of videos posted on the royal family’s official Instagram account, the Duchess says, “I really feel that nature and being interactive outdoors has huge benefits on our physical and mental well-being, particularly for young kiddies.”

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    The Duchess of Cambridge is absolutely right about how nature benefits children’s mental well-being. A new study, which was published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research, has found that nature has a positive impact on kids’ mental health, especially later on in life.

    The researchers, who are affiliated with the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), looked into nearly 3,600 adults between the ages 18 and 75 from four European countries (the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Lithuania, and Spain).

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    Each person was given a questionnaire where they were asked how often they visited natural spaces during their childhood, how often they visit natural spaces as adults, and how much importance do they place on such spaces.

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    Aside from this questionnaire, the respondents were also given a psychological test to determine their mental health within the past four weeks. Factors pertaining to nervousness, feelings of depression, and vitality (energy and fatigue levels) were assessed.

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    The findings of the study suggested that adults who were not as exposed to natural spaces when they were children demonstrated lower scores in mental health tests, compared to those who regularly spent time in natural spaces as kids.

    “What we found is that the childhood exposure of green space can actually predict mental health in later life,” Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, Ph.D., director of ISGlobal’s Urban Planning, Environment and Health Initiative and co-author of the study, told Inverse. “The people that reported more exposure to nature actually have better mental health than those that don’t even after we adjust for exposure at the time of the interview, when they are adults.”

    The researchers shared two ways to understand the rationale behind the study’s findings in the same article for Inverse. Previous studies have associated spending time in nature with an increase in self-esteem, quality of life, and physical activity, and even lower body mass index, according to Wilma Zijlema, Ph.D., first author of the ISGlobal study. Other researchers have also claimed that nature has the ability to calm our brain when it is overthinking or busy with negative thoughts.

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    A second way to interpret the results of the ISGlobal study is to look at the disadvantages of being away from nature, instead of at the benefits of being exposed to it, says Nieuwenhuijsen.

    He points out that the negative aspects of city living — such as air pollution, which has been associated with a delay in children’s cognitive development and in adult psychosis — can help shed more light on the disadvantages of being away from natural spaces.

    Zijlema says, “There are also indirect benefits for cognitive development of children, including the mitigation of traffic-related air pollution, reduction of noise, and increased levels of physical activity.”

    “We think that through these pathways nature exposure during childhood could lead to benefits that prolong into adulthood,” she adds.

    Our takeaway: we all know kids have a lot to gain from spending time in the great outdoors so we need to make an effort to put it on our family schedule. Nature is one of the best playgrounds for learning.

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