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Luca playing in nature

Can spending time in nature help kids heal?

Can spending time in nature help kids heal?

We asked Maren Lindheim, clinical psychologist, Oslo University Hospital.

There is a growing body of research that shows spending time in natural surroundings can benefit both our psychological and physiological health.

For kids undergoing medical treatment, nature can play an important role in healing – which is why the transformation of the Greenspace at PCH is such a vital project. In addition to being a space for kids to play, this game-changing nature playground has also been designed to improve wellbeing and provide much-needed respite for patients.

To learn more about the role of nature in healing, we caught up with Maren Lindheim, a child and adolescent clinical psychologist from Oslo University Hospital with a special interest in how nature, health and healing are intertwined.

“I collaborate with a lot of brilliant researchers her in Norway to study the effects of bringing patients out into nature. We even have an outdoor care retreat (a small cabin in the Norwegian forest) that we’ve been trialing in our studies with patients,” said Maren.

“My passion for incorporating nature into treatment comes from observing people gaining strength and feeling good from time spent outdoors. We observed that being outside in nature made people feel ‘stronger’, and they were then able to bring this strength mindset back with them into the hospital setting.

“When it comes to people in stressful situations, for example – people in a hospital setting – this may be even more important. When we measure physiologically how people’s bodies react to their environment, you can see a reduction in stress levels in nature surroundings when compared to built environments.

“Spending time in these natural environments is also really important because it can assist with overstimulation, and by addressing these stressors, some patients can reap greater benefits from their treatment.”

Maren added: “For many children, it can be difficult to feel safe and relaxed in a hospital setting. When you ask them if they would like to go outside, most of them will say yes, they would love to get outdoors. So that was kind of the starting point for my interest in this field of study, just having a curiosity of how the body reacts to being in nature.

“Investing in healing environments, like the Greenspace, can have other tangible benefits for patients too, such as potentially reducing the amount of pain medication needed or even helping to reduce the length of hospital stays.

“That’s where I think the Greenspace redevelopment at Perth Children’s Hospital will be really beneficial for both patients and their families or carers, because it is a space where patients can go to feel that sense of calm.

“For me, it makes sense that we bring more natural elements into treatment in general, both during mental health and psychological treatment, but also during physical treatment.”

Help kids heal through nature and play. 

Thanks to Rio Tinto for making the Greenspace upgrade project possible, as well as Hassell, BGIS, CDI Group, Soft Earth Noongar Cultural Partners and the QEII Medical Centre Trust.

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Lincoln and mum by the foreshore blowing bubbles together

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