Check in with Nature to Connect with your Family and Yourself

Nature's Cure 🌱 ​ We all know that being outside, being in nature is good for us, but just how good is it for our health? A growing body of research is going towards exploring the benefits of nature in regards to health and wellness. While most of the research has gone towards the psychological benefits, more and more research is going to understand the physiological benefits as well. “It’s well-known that getting outdoors in nature can be good for people’s health and well-being, but until now we’ve not been able to say how much is enough,” White said. “Two hours a week is hopefully a realistic target for many people, especially given that it can be spread over an entire week to get the benefit.”- Mathew White of the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter. There has been a dramatic shift with the amount of hours an average person spends outdoors.   2 hours - just 2 hours a week spending in nature and they saw a difference! What are some of the specific benefits? Studies have found that exposure to nature is: immune boosting, could improve your ability to focus, lowers blood pressure, may help fight depression and anxiety, eliminates fatigue, and has demonstrated de-stressing effects - all especially helpful right now! Connecting with nature is not just good for us, it’s good for the earth itself. After understanding the impact of nature on our health, people start to care more about the environment and value this impact, in that wanting to protect it.  Now there are even programs giving prescriptions of the outdoors. In an interview speaking about outdoor prescriptions she gives to her patients, Oakland CA pediatrician, Doctor Nooshin Razani states; “If you take an urban adult into a forest, within 15 minutes, you see improvements in cortisol, blood pressure, heart rate.” Through the SHINE program (as shared through Ted Talks), a program promoting outdoor prescription programs in 34 states, Razani completed one of the first randomized trials and found that, “Every park visit resulted in improved stress for parents. And every park visit resulted in improved resilience for a child. But it didn't matter if they came with us or they went on their own.”  All in all, nature has a robust effect on one’s mental, physical, and emotional wellness. With that in mind, if you do have access to the great outdoors during this time, we highly suggest you go outside. Use our “Nature Check-in” activity and variations written below and add them into your nature walk with your families. Enjoy!

What is a "Nature Check-in"?  Nature check-ins involve looking at nature and turning pieces of nature into metaphors for how you and you child are feeling.   The check-in statement may change based on what you would like to talk through with your child, and changing the statement helps guide the check-in. For example:

  • On a morning walk, the statement may be, “Find something in nature that represents how you’re feeling this morning.”  

  • If you want to know how your child has been doing in general, the statement could change to, “Find something in nature that represents how you’re feeling about quarantine.”  

  • If your child has been feeling down, you could also add a directive twist by saying, “Find something in nature that represents something you’re thankful for since we started the quarantine.”  ​

Some other possibilities - perhaps your child finds a group of sticks that represent family members and then shares how they feel through the sticks. Perhaps, a budding leaf reminds them the love they feel for their new baby sibling, two birds singing together reminds them of how much they love singing with their family, or a line of ants working together reminds them they feel good helping out around the house. ​ ​ Nature’s offerings:

  • Find something in nature that represents how you feel…This may result in sticks, twigs, mushrooms, you never know what will catch their eye!

  • Find a stone that represents how you feel…Point out all the special features that stones have to bring them even more to life - look at the sparkle, the shine, the smoothness, the colors.

  • Find a flower that represents how you feel…Discuss how some flowers love to grow everywhere and are bright and spread their love whereas others may love to climb or create fruit. Again, the options are endless when you turn what you’re looking at into a metaphor!​

Tip: You never know what your child may find or create with your support. Go along with their ideas, join in their creativity,  and ask them questions to learn more and help them go deeper. After the excursion, you may want to learn how to dry the wildflowers they found, paint their rocks, or turn their findings into a piece of art that is added to each week. The opportunities are endless!

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