There are a myriad of benefits to spending time outdoors for our mental health and physical well-being.
By Georgina Rogers
As the nights start to draw in and we have fewer hours of daylight, it is more important than ever to head to the outdoors, be it your garden, a park, or nearby woodland. Pull on your wellies and get your little ones kitted out and set off. Here are some ideas to enjoy with your children, so you both feel the benefits of being in the Great Outdoors.
In ancient times, our connection to Mother Nature used to be integral to the survival of the human race but today this link has waned and we have become less engaged with our surroundings. In Japan, ‘forest bathing’ is now recognised as a therapy for creating a loving connection with nature to enhance well-being and promote good mental health.
Go on a nature walk and think more mindfully about your surroundings. Think about the different things you can hear, see, or touch. Feel the rough bark on the trees, smell the flowers or leaves, or look for creatures that crawl, fly or walk. Encourage your child to engage their ‘super-senses’ to make it fun for both of you.
If you have access to a garden or outdoor space or even a window sill, consider growing fruit, vegetables, or herbs. If you do not have anywhere to grow, apply for an allotment, or find food-growing communities in your local area.
Gardening has been shown to improve mood and self-esteem. It is also a great way to focus on a single activity, so you can be more mindful. Gardening is also great for children and will help with sensory development, promote healthy eating and relaxation.
Time to kick off your shoes. Barefoot walking, also known as ‘earthing’ is a scientifically proven practice with several well-being benefits. Studies have shown that there are links between our bodies and the electrons in the earth, and by tapping into the earth’s natural charge we can regulate our stress response, improve sleep, and reduce inflammation. Even the youngest children will benefit from this practice, too.
Make sure the area is safe, peel off your socks and shoes, and hit the grass. There are other locations you walk barefoot, including the beach. The National Trust lists the best locations for barefoot walking, including a barefoot trail in Cornwall.
Turn to the night sky for therapy. As a form of escapism for adults and learning for older children, gazing at a galaxy of stars in the sky is a fun activity. it is now recognised as a form of mindful meditation and studies have shown that people who gaze at the stars are more connected with nature and feel calmer. Looking at the stars can also spark creativity and be a fun way to connect.
So look up – it will be worth it.
Georgina Rogers regularly writes for parenting and lifestyle titles. Her books include Peace of Mind: A Book of Calm for Busy Mums. She is also a mum of two daughters.