Guest blog by Dylan Reid, for Forest Holidays


Children with ADHD often struggle with focusing and paying attention, as well as typically having episodes of hyper-activity which can make it difficult for them to concentrate. Spending time outside in nature can be incredibly advantageous for these children, with research showing a clear reduction of symptoms. 

Prescription medication is often not an ideal remedy, so many parents and carers are looking for a more natural way to treat ADHD symptoms. Given the long list of health boosts that everyone gains from a good dose of fresh air, it makes sense that these benefits would extend to helping those living with neurodiversity.

Let’s take a look at how being outdoors can help alleviate symptoms of ADHD.

Switching attention types

Attention can be categorised into two types, task-driven and fascination. When we are focusing, concentrating and problem solving, our brains are working in a task-driven state, whereas when we are freely observing our environment without expectation, our brains relax into a state of fascination. 

Spending too much time using our task-driven attention mode causes something called attention fatigue, where our brain’s neurotransmitters become lethargic and exhausted. A study conducted by the University of Illinois shows strong evidence that the natural environment is a great way for the brain’s neurotransmitters to replenish, allowing us to focus again. This is really important because attention fatigue is a major symptom of ADHD.

Therefore, spending plenty of time outside offers children a chance to switch their attention style and replenish their attention stores. The results of this study show strong improvements to focus and productivity for children with ADHD from spending an increased time in a natural environment.

Reduce undesirable behaviour

Spending time in green, open spaces such as fields or playgrounds is brilliant for all children, with as little as two hours per week being proven to benefit brain development and wellbeing. There are many activities that can help children with ADHD burn off their extra energy and feel the freedom of a wide open space. The most important thing is to find some that they enjoy doing, since this will encourage them to spend more time outdoors.

Even just running around with a football after school has been said by parents of children with neurodiverse conditions to massively improve behaviour and increase their ability to follow rules at home. With many children suffering side effects from medication, nature therapy is a great starting point to help kids with ADHD manage their symptoms.

Promote calmness

One of the most difficult symptoms for people with ADHD is the stress of having an overstimulated mind, which often brings anxiety and feelings of frustration. With the natural calmness that being outdoors brings, there is room to breathe and relax whilst connecting with the natural world and ourselves on a deeper level. Whether it’s playing sport, exploring woodlands or playing on the beach, making the effort to get children outside instead of cooped up inside as much as possible gives nothing but positive effects. 


This can dramatically reduce feelings of anxiety within all children, and the effects are only magnified for those with ADHD. Multiple studies have found nature therapy can help people with ADHD feel more grounded and in control of their condition, with one finding that children’s ability to pay attention increased by 13%, which is the equivalent to a dose of medication. 

Fresh air is good for everyone

Taking children outside to run free has benefits for caregivers and parents, too. As everyone feels mentally much better after some fresh air, we can find that we have more patience to cope with the sometimes challenging symptoms of ADHD. This helps everyone boost their wellbeing and mental clarity, so that life feels a little less intense all around.

See also:

Video: Why the GLAS garden is important

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