Photo: Leon Ali - Kardinge Recreation area (Netherlands), place where the author grew up.
Do you ever wonder how your childhood environment has resulted in your current beliefs, habits and whether it has affected your health? I grew up in city of about 200,000 inhabitants in the North of the Netherlands. I feel very fortunate that I grew up in a safe environment. I could play outside without having to worry too much about traffic. I was able to cycle to school since day one. We had house with a garden, that we, at some point, shared with two chickens (the “Groninger Meeuw Zilverpel Hen”). My parents were very conscience about the environment and we did not own a car and we did not eat meat. We cycled or used public transport. And this was about 30 years ago, when it wasn’t so fashionable yet to care for these things. I might have been the only one in my class without a car and on a vegetarian diet, and back then, to be honest, I didn’t understand why we needed to be so different than everyone else.
I might have been the only one in my class without a car and on a vegetarian diet, and back then, to be honest, I didn’t understand why we needed to be so different than everyone else
The older I get, the more I think about how my childhood has shaped my current thinking, my habits and even my health. As a researcher, I study the effects of the environment on human health and in our latest study we looked at whether childhood nature exposure was associated with health benefits in adulthood. Exposure to natural spaces (i.e. green spaces such as gardens, forests, urban parks; and blue spaces such as canals, ponds, creeks, rivers, lakes, beaches, etc.) has been associated with several health benefits, including a better cognitive development and better mental and physical health.