Does your child spend a lot of time in front of screen? I know mine does, either for school or for fun afterwards. Cartoons, Minecraft, Fortnight, YouTube…the list of entertaining reasons to enjoy a screen indoors is never-ending.
Here’s a huge bunch of reasons why it will benefit your loved ones to also spend more time outside in nature, and how it will help them build a better relationship to the planet at the same time.
We all know that fresh air and moving your body are good for you, and we can probably all remember being told by adults to “go play outside” as children, but why exactly is this such a good idea?
Being out in nature can be a natural antidote for stress.
You may think your child can’t possibly be stressed. With no responsibilities like bills, deadlines and mortgage payments, what could they possibly have to be worried and stressed about?
Well, actually, children are still learning so many things that we as adults take for granted. Concentration, and focus in school, how to navigate complex social relationships…These are just a few of them.
Being out in nature reduces blood pressure and stress hormone levels in your body, like cortisol. This is turn can enhance our immune system function, and improve mood. Who doesn’t want a better mood?
Speaking of mood, there’s research showing that being outside can reduce anxiety levels, build self-esteem and lower aggression. Also all things we wish for our children. And there’s even evidence to support that Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) lessens in natural environments.
A study done by Pieters, Ayala et al (2018,) found that being out in nature reduced people’s feelings of being isolated, made them feel much calmer, and even elevated their mood. Considering what many of us have just been through during the covid_19 pandemic when sheltering in place, feeling less isolated could be just what we need.
When we get sunlight exposure our body produces vitamin D, which has a whole host of health benefits. Vitamin D aids metabolism, keeps your bones and teeth strong and lifts your mood. It can even support a healthy pregnancy. It has also be found to ward off osteoporosis, boost your immune system, and support heart, lung, and brain health.
Now, some of the things I’ve just mentioned you may have heard of before. But this next reason might be a complete eye-opener.
When we spend time outdoors barefoot on the earth, we engage in “grounding.”
What on earth is grounding?
Well, “grounding” or “earthing” is when we have direct physical contact with the ground, which has been shown to have beneficial physiological effects. The idea behind this is that we connect to the earth’s subtle electric charge, and that this benefits us.
This is for several reasons.
One is that the earth has a negative charge, and is constantly generating electrons that can neutralise free radicals in our bodies, therefore acting like antioxidants. Antioxidants usually come from certain foods, but can also come directly from the earth in this way. An easy way to remember this is antioxidants are good for our health, free radicals are bad.
Another benefit is that is helps support our circadian rhythms and nervous system too. Our circadian rhythms keep us synchronised with the day/night cycle. This feeds into how we regulate things like hormone secretion, body temperature, digestion and blood pressure, amongst several other things. Desynchronisation of our internal clocks has been linked to health problems.
Grounding has been demonstrated to reduce inflammation, improve blood flow and reduce pain, and encourage better sleep. What’s not to like?
The reason we ground less nowadays, is because we not only spend much more time indoors in school or at work, but even when we are outside we are often wearing shoes. This leads us to be disconnected from the earth in ways we didn’t used to be.
You and your family can ground by walking barefoot on grass or the earth, swimming in natural bodies of water, or even sitting in or leaning against a tree.
The only thing I’ll just point out is that of course in modern day society we need to be aware of things like pollution and pesticides, so choose where you ground wisely – and if you have pets running around in your garden, maybe keep an eye out of poops!
So, as you can see there are many good reasons to spend time out doors, playing, grounding and having fun.
The other added bonus is that the more your children spend time in nature, the more they will start noticing the seasons, the creatures that live outdoors, and the plants – and how these things change. This will help them build better a relationship with nature, and help them understand why it’s so important that we take care of our planet by making good choices.
If they can learn how nature has an impact on us (for example through grounding) then they can also see how we have an impact on nature.