Our family absolutely loves being outside. We can usually tell when our kids are needing some fresh air because they start getting moody, clingy, and overall difficult. We will go on short walks around the neighborhood, go on some close hikes or nature walks, or find a park to play at.
There have been more studies on mental health over the last couple decades as we have become aware of our battles with anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders. Spending time in nature or growing up in a more "green" environment has a huge impact.
A study was done looking at children in Denmark. "They found that children who lived in neighborhoods with more green space had a reduced risk of many psychiatric disorders later in life, including depression, mood disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and substance use disorder. For those with the lowest levels of green space exposure during childhood, the risk of developing mental illness was 55% higher than for those who grew up with abundant green space" (Engemann, K., et al., PNAS, Vol. 116, No. 11, 2019).
When we get outside with our kids, we breathe fresh air, get exposure to the positive effects of sunlight, and get away from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives. As we take our kids on hikes in the mountains or go play in streams, our kids have the opportunity to explore, touch, feel and experience different things. Think back through your memories as a kid. Do you remember the feelings and experience of playing in a river or stepping bare foot through a muddy puddle? Throwing rocks in a pond, making bigger and bigger splashes? How about walking through a forest and seeing all the vibrant colors from trees, bushes, and flowers, and hearing birds chirping, bugs buzzing around? I have so many fun memories playing outside, with siblings, friends, and even by myself. I know that those experiences made me happy and allowed me to explore and use my imagination. As I step away from the busy hustle of life and step into nature, I feel my anxiety go away with each deep breath I take. When I take my eyes away from screens and look out over a beautiful landscape, I find peace and gratitude flood into my heart.
If you want to dive more into the science behind it, the American Physiological Association has an incredible article about how nature helps us be healthier and happier. You can find that article at https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature