How much time do you and your family spend outdoors? Gone are the days that children run around alone, finding things to mess with and coming home after dark. Children are over-scheduled with camps and appointments; events and travel; as well as many hours on screen time because they are “too bored” to find something to do.
Well meaning parents with multiple responsibilities and two income households don’t have the time or patience to force children outdoors, let alone, many families now live in suburban and urban areas that have little to no greenspace away from everything.
But maybe if we truly understood how important green trees and outdoor time away from everything was for our mental health & brain health, we would be more apt to initiate more nature time.
Below are several research studies that demonstrate how nature heals our mental health and builds neural networks in the brain –> so important for our children with special needs.
Calmer Mind and Body
Being in nature provides a feeling of relaxation that reduces anxiety and stress. In fact, just seeing pictures of nature can help reduce stress and brings a sense of calm. Additionally, the scents of many plants such as lavender, jasmine, lilacs and roses are proven to calm and relax the mind and body. The scent of fresh pine has even been shown to lower depression and anxiety.
Less Depression; More Happiness
Doing activities in nature naturally lifts the mood, decreases depression and anxiety, and brings a sense of peace. A 2010 Harvard study links nature walks to better overall mental health and positivity, fewer feelings of depression and stress, and a reduction in anti-depression and anxiety medications. The study also showed that people who exercised outdoors had a lower risk of poor mental health than those who exercises indoors.
Restored Brain Function
Walking and interacting with nature gives your brain a break from everyday overstimulation, which translates into a restorative effect. Outside, the brains energy can recover and replenish, much like recharging a battery. The simple act of a casual stroll or hike up a mountain can yield amazing results, without much thought required.
Increased Focus, Concentration and Creativity
A study published by the Wilderness Society revealed that spending time outdoors increases attention spans and creative problem-solving skills by as much as 50 percent. The National Institutes of Health reports people who take “outdoor breaks” throughout the day are more focused and have better concentration skills than those who remain indoors for long periods of time.
Stronger Muscles; Better Mobility
Hiking increases endurance and bone density, in addition to building stronger muscles. Core muscles are strengthened, which means relief from lower back pain and more stability that increases balance and decreases falls.
Stronger Immune System
Getting enough Vitamin D, which naturally comes from the sun, is essential to maintaining a healthy immune system. And breathing fresh air, especially when exerting yourself, helps stimulate the body to produce illness-fighting white blood cells and prevent sickness.
Want your child to fall asleep like a baby? Get outside when its light. Sleep patterns that are regulated by the body’s internal clock, called circadian rhythms, are naturally tied to the sun’s schedule. Spending too much time inside away from natural light can alter our circadian rhythms, resulting in poor sleep patterns.
So its time to take your summer activities outdoors. Schedule a visit to a pine forest or greenspace nearby and take a casual stroll with your children. Use your weekends for longer endurance hikes and enjoy the fresh air, relaxation, better mood, and improved sleep!