Greenwood’s Outdoor Education program encourages students to find new depths of perseverance, take risks and adapt to their changing environment. But did you know that being in nature also reduces stress?
Water droplets on a leaf. Spirals on a pinecone. Ripples on a pond. Crisscrossing tree branches. These are just a few examples of the amazing patterns you’ll find when you venture outside. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but they’re great for your mental health.
Fractals are patterns that repeat themselves in increasingly fine magnification. For example, take a look at a tree branch when you go outside. You’ll see big branches growing out of the trunk, and then slightly smaller versions of those branches growing from the big branches. This pattern continues down to the most microscopic twig.
As Dr. Greg Wells mentioned during his last visit to the school, a growing body of research indicates that looking at fractals can have an immediate and profound relaxing effect. The results of many studies show that exposure to fractal patterns in nature reduces people’s levels of stress up to 60% (Psychology Today). These same studies indicate that humans are hard-wired to respond well to fractals.
It’s possible to artificially create fractal patterns; however, they’re not nearly as prevalent indoors, where straight lines prevail. That’s why it’s critical for our mental health to spend time in nature. It only takes a short exposure to fractals to bring down stress levels almost instantly.
Our Outdoor Education program gives students the opportunity to reconnect with the natural world. Cell phones, iPods and similar devices are left at home, leaving students free to appreciate their natural surroundings and their relationship to those surroundings. Students also explore nature in many different ways as they move through the school, from building community at camp, to canoeing through Algonquin park, to hiking through the woods of British Columbia.
Our hope is that we inspire in students a lifelong love of getting outside, and a lifelong enjoyment of the health benefits being in nature brings.