As a child, I was a dreamer, often lost in thought.

Which is a more polite way of saying I was absent-minded, impulsive and generally messy. I still am, by the way (just ask my girlfriend!).

I’ve found ways to manage my mindlessness. I make lists, sometimes even lists of lists. Everything I have to do is on my calendar: do a load of laundry, water my houseplants (and I’m not even talking about my work!), otherwise I forget.

Over the years, what’s helped me stay on track the most is spending time outdoors. So, every day, I set aside a moment for an outdoor activity, whether it’s a walk in a park, a bike ride, a bit of fishing, some gardening or just to sit on a bench and feel the warmth of the sun or the shock of a sudden rain on my skin, watching the movement of plants in the breeze. Whatever happens, it’s non-negotiable, I absolutely must have my dose of nature every day, otherwise I think I’d forget who I am, lost in the trials and tribulations of everyday life.

Photo: Susanna Marsiglia

October: ADHD Awareness Month

No, I’ve never been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder with or without Hyperactivity). Fortunately, we know a lot more about it today, thanks in part to activities like ADHD Awareness Month.

According to the Association des médecins psychiatres du Québec, « ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder (about 5-8% of children and 4% of adults) characterized by persistent difficulty in modulating attention (inattention errors, difficulty maintaining sustained attention, resisting distracting stimuli, organizing, starting and completing tasks, forgetfulness and a tendency to misplace or lose objects). The fidgeting associated with ADHD involves difficulty controlling movements (motor hyperactivity), behaviors (impulsivity) and sometimes emotions (emotional hyperreactivity). The impact of ADHD can be felt in many spheres of life, including daily, family, social, academic and professional life.”
The CADDAC (Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada) is a national charitable organization that improves the lives of Canadians affected by ADHD through awareness, education and advocacy. Visit their website to learn more.

Nature and ADHD

But why are we talking about ADHD in a blog about gardening? It’s quite simple, and many of you already know instinctively: contact with nature reduces ADHD symptoms.

A study conducted at the University of Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences in 2008 showed that children with ADHD had better concentration after a walk in a park. A 20-minute walk in a natural setting significantly improved participants’ attention compared to a walk in an urban or suburban area. The effect would even be similar to the use of methylphenidate, frequently used to treat attention deficits.

Photo: Allan Mas

Another study shows that the environment in which children with ADHD play can affect the severity of their symptoms. Children with ADHD who play in green spaces show less severe symptoms than those who play in built-up areas, either outdoors or indoors.

It’s also possible that simply seeing a green space, without even interacting with it, can bring benefits. An experiment was conducted with 169 children living in structurally identical buildings, but with a different proportion of green space surrounding them. On average, the more natural the view from the building, the greater the improvements in concentration, impulse inhibition and gratification delay in the children living there.

Benefits for All

In addition to children with ADHD, contact with nature is said to have positive effects on learning for all children. A survey was carried out among high school students. One group was taught mathematics indoors, the other outdoors. Those who studied outdoors performed better. Another study, involving outdoor activities both on and off school premises, revealed that learning in nature led to increased interest, engagement and achievement.

Photo: Lukáš Dlutko

Many of our readers are already aware of the benefits of outdoor activities, such as gardening, on health and well-being. Numerous studies have shown that the same symptoms, such as inattention and impulsivity, found in ADHD sufferers are also reduced in those who are not affected by this condition.

Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, environmental psychologists, believe that having to deliberately direct our attention causes “attention fatigue”. According to them, natural environments help us recover from this fatigue by giving our brains a break. They’re rich in stimuli and attract our attention without the need to concentrate.

So, what are you waiting for, gardeners? Grab your shovels! We need more gardens, more parks, more nature. And while you’re at it, bring the kids along too!

Mathieu manages the and websites. He is also a garden designer for a landscaping company in Montreal, Canada. Although he loves contributing to the blog, he prefers fishing.

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