I have a lot of “Mom Ideals” that I’m constantly trying to live up to:
– no screen time while Raven is awake!
– fresh produce at every meal!
– read books to her whenever she asks! (which is all. the. time.)
– have enrichment activities with her each day!
While I’m definitely not 100% on any of these, just having them as ideals helps to at least make it so that I keep trying to live up to them, even if I’m not always successful.
One BIG ideal that I’ve been working on implementing (with a fair amount of success) is making sure we go outside every day.
Some of you might be scratching your heads a bit—go outside? Should that even count as a goal? Is Torrie’s life so lame that she actually has to set goals to leave the house?!
So, to clarify:
I’m not talking about just leaving the house and having a brush with the outdoors while I load Raven in her car seat to go to the store or maybe the two seconds of fresh air I get when I go outside to check the mail.
I’m talking time actually interacting with the great outdoors in some way, whether that’s as planned out as a hike (as we did in these pictures) or as simple as going to say hi to the ducks (a daily ritual).
Again, for some people, this probably doesn’t seem like such a big deal. But I was the weird kid whose mom had to tell her to stop reading and go outside, and there were weeks upon weeks while I was teaching (especially in my first two years) where I would basically never see the sunlight because I arrived at the school before it had risen and I headed home after it had set. While I’ve always LIKED being outdoors well enough, I just never made it a priority.
But then over the past several months, I’ve started to read a whole slew of articles and blog posts and studies that have been done about the powerful effect of nature on health and happiness, especially in kids. And although my outward observation skills are sometimes lacking (since I live so much in my own head), even I could clearly see how much Raven thrived when we were outside, or even just somewhere other than in our apartment—she would come alive anytime she was allowed to explore something new, and she especially liked doing it if her chances of seeing a bird or a plane were high.
So we started going outside every day.
And I can honestly say that it’s truly incredible how visible the difference is on the days we spend more time outside vs. the days when we don’t. When we do make it out for a decent amount of time, Raven sleeps better, is far less fussy, and has an appetite to eat pretty much whatever I put in front of her. My own patience seems to be better on those days as well, and I’m far more likely to not feel anxious or lonely on days when we make it outside.
It’s a win-win all around, really.
And then, as if it all weren’t on my mind enough, this life-changing article came out in an issue of Time magazine a few weeks back, which I’ve since clipped out and have read through several times.
Here are some of the finer points:
– “When people walk through or stay overnight in forests, they often exhibit changes in the blood that are associated with protection against cancer, better immunity and lower blood pressure”
– “Recent studies have also linked nature to symptom relief for health issues like heart disease, depression, cancer, anxiety, and attention disorders”
– “People who spent 60 seconds looking up at towering trees were more likely to report feeling awe, after which they were more likely to help a stranger than people who looked at an equally tall–but far less awe-inspiring–building. Experiences of awe . . . cause individuals to feel less entitled, less selfish, and to behave in more generous and helping ways”
– “Women living in areas with a lot of vegetation had a 12% lower risk of death from all causes compared with people in the least green places”
– “When people walk through a forest, they inhale phytoncides that increase their number of natural killer (NK) cells–a type of white blood cell that supports the immune system and is associated with a lower risk of cancer . . . and thought to have a role in combating infections and autoimmune disorders and tamping down inflammation. In a 2010 study, researchers found that people who took two long walks through forests on consecutive days increased their NK cells by 50% and the activity of these cells by 56%. Those activity levels remained 23% higher than usual for the month following the walks”
– “Children (with ADHD) who regularly play in outdoor areas have milder ADHD symptoms . . . and [are] able to concentrate substantially better”
– “People who walked for 90 minutes in a natural setting, such as a forest or a national park, were less likely to ruminate–a hallmark of depression and anxiety–and had lower activity in an area of the brain linked to depression than people who walked in an urban area”
– Even ‘fake’ nature helps — “Listening to nature sounds . . . has been shown to help people recover faster from stress” and in one widely cited study, people in hospitals whose rooms had views of trees “were released faster from the hospital, experienced fewer complications and required less pain medication than people whose rooms faced a brick wall”
Some pretty compelling stuff.
Of course, now that we’re in a regular habit of going outside on a daily basis, all I have to worry about is what the heck we’re going to do when winter rolls around…
Oh, and for anyone who’s wondering, all these pictures are from the hike we took up Logan Canyon on Labor Day. I believe the exact trailhead name was Right Hand Fork Trail, which is about 9 or 10 miles up the canyon driving from Logan.)