Inattentive ADHD and Green Space Treatment

When I was a child I found the indoors, and particularly being inside a classroom, suffocating. It was only when I was outdoors that I felt as though I could really take a deep breath. Recently a reader with a Grand daughter with Inattentive ADHD observed that when this seven year old was in the forest or in the woods, her attention improved considerably as did her mood.

Attention and mood are connected. Depression and anxiety have been shown in studies to make us more inattentive and also affect our ability to learn and our memory. Studies have shown that people with Inattentive ADHD are more likely to have mood disorders such as anxiety and depression and that treatments that improve mood, also improve inattention.

Researchers at the University of Ilinois, Human-Environment Research Lab, have been looking at the effect that nature and green spaces have on the symptoms of ADHD. What they have found  is encouraging.

Andrea Taylor and Frances Kuo from the Human-Environment Research Lab have found that children experienced a reduction in ADHD symptoms after activities conducted in nature. These researchers have found that trees and greenspace make life better in some very important and measurable ways with regards to attention.

One interesting research study found that girls who had tree views from their windows at home had better abilities of concentration, less acts of impulsive behavior and were better able to delay gratification. The researchers were not able to explain why, interestingly, these benefits (of a tree window view) did not extend to the boys in the study.

People have a positive mood responses to nature. Studies have shown that people report feeling emotionally and physiologically better after spending time in the outdoors. Researchers have tried to figure out why this is so and one hypothesis of this phenomena has been proposed by a  researcher by the name of Gordon Orians. Orians has speculated that some human responses are based on innate knowledge of productive human habitats. His hypothesis is called the "Savannah Hypthesis" and the basic idea is that humans inately know what environments are beneficial to their survival and objects or environments that represent those productive situations, such as a tree in full bloom, will bring about a positive brain response such as happiness.

The "Savannah Hypothesis has actually been tested. Dr. Lohr of the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Washington State University reported that studies performed to test this hypothesis found that because:

 "Trees with spreading forms existed on the African savanna and were associated with habitats that were good for early human habitation...subjects feel happier when looking at these trees than when looking at other trees or non-tree objects.  Color is another variable that might be associated with people's responses to nature. Bright green colors could be an important cue for healthy plants with good nutrient qualities. We measured subjects' physiological responses to tree canopies of various colors and found that all colors were calming, but bright green trees were more calming than other tree colors, including less bright greens and oranges. "

It appears that forest and trees can make the inattention of ADHD better.  It is no wonder that so many of us with ADHD-PI prefer the outdoors.

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J Physiol Anthropol. 2007 Mar;26(2):83-5.
Benefits of nature: what we are learning about why people respond to nature.
Lohr VI. Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Washington State University, Pullman,

A potential natural treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: evidence from a national study.
Kuo FE, Taylor AF.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL Abstract
CONCLUSIONS: Green outdoor settings appear to reduce ADHD symptoms in children across a wide range of individual, residential, and case characteristics.

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