The great outdoors: promoting healthy minds in kids
A bit of fresh air can make a world of difference in people’s sense of mental wellbeing. Developing a good relationship with the great outdoors is important for people of all ages, but at a young age, this can prove to be crucial to achieve great mental health in later years.
With some help from Winston’s Wish, an organisation which specialises in supporting young people through bereavement, let’s explore exactly how spending time in nature can help to promote healthy minds in our children.
The value of adventure
While learning certainly happens in the classroom, it can be built upon by experiences in the wider world. By allowing children to explore the outdoors, they can become more aware of new habitats and the life which thrives there. Their understanding of nature is enhanced in this way, encountering a whole host of new sources of imagination and creativity in doing so. Children can build dens and enact their favourite stories outdoors — they might even find a hungry caterpillar along the way! Even on a rainy day, you could get your kids wellies out of the cupboard and encourage them to go on an outdoor adventure — a lot of fun can be had while jumping through puddles!
Skills in resilience
When a child first experiences any form of loss or grief, it can be a difficult process to navigate and often parents might struggle to help their kids verbalize their feelings in relation to their bereavement. The characteristics of nature can be useful tools for explaining life cycles, discussing how new growth happens and how natural elements assist. These practical examples can alleviate the challenges involved in guiding a child through loss, developing a healthy understanding of life.
Nature can also feel therapeutic in these times of sadness, and some time away exploring the outdoors can provide a new perspective on the future. Winston’s Wish offers nature walks, where families can take some time away from their normal routines and spend time walking and talking through their feelings, or they simply embrace the tranquility of nature while grieving.
In adulthood, grief can feel far more constant, but for children, it can be more like a reoccurring feeling. Winston’s Wish offer nature walks, that can provide a safe, open environment in which young people can discuss their feelings in a calm setting. This allows them to process their emotions and develop strong coping mechanisms which will guide them through life.
Developing strong relationships
Connecting with others is a basic human necessity, and these relationships can feel a lot more natural in an outdoor setting. Many people experience a stronger sense of relief when they walk while discussing an issue that they’re experiencing, as it can feel like a more suitable environment to truly clear their thoughts. In children, listening and being listened to promotes a healthy sense of self-esteem, and connecting with other youngsters provides the base for solid future connections.
The natural boost
The release of feel-good endorphins is what makes us feel so good after any kind of exercise, even a gentle 15-minute stroll can make a world of difference on how positive we feel. Making a conscious effort to take some time to go for a walk can help to keep both our mind and body feeling happy and healthy, and it is one of the only ‘free’ ways to feel excellent.
Move at their own pace
Children can learn more about how their body moves by exploring outdoors, whether they are running, jumping or climbing (safely, of course) they are constantly developing their perception of their town pace and how they function. In doing so, character development happens, and they learn to enjoy certain activities. Pace is also an important aspect of grief, a feeling for which there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, so children can determine what works best for them and their own unique feelings in these difficult scenarios.
From weight control to providing energy and benefitting our respiratory systems, spending time outdoors can have a whole host of positive effects on our general sense of wellbeing. Feeling calm, inspired and safe is all possible in nature, and children should be encouraged to spend time immersed in natural surroundings from an early age to promote positivity even in the most challenging of times.