Outdoor play for the mental well-being of children

By Wasim Kakrou

YesOU are not alone if you and your children are feeling frantic, isolated, anxious or depressed after the pandemic.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported in March 2022 that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a 25% increase in depression and anxiety around the world and that adults are not the only ones affected. follow this trend.

According to another survey by a US-based research team, mental health-related ER visits increased by 24% for children aged 5-11 and 31% for those aged 12-17. years from March to October 2020.

This, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), is a mental health crisis for children.

While this can be a difficult reality to face as a parent, there are steps you can take to help your children deal with the effects of the last few years of turmoil.

Getting out into nature is an option.

For some people, this may seem too simple to be true. Others, like city dwellers, may struggle to get hold of it. Still, the data shows that getting your family out can really benefit their mental health.

Here are some facts about the spirit-nature connection, along with some suggestions for getting out, whatever your situation.

The physical and mental health benefits of going outside:

It’s no secret that mind and body are inextricably linked. According to a study, spending time outdoors has a significant positive impact on physical well-being. It can help children and adults have better mental health outcomes.

Here are the benefits of taking your children into nature:

  1. Reduced cortisol:

Cortisol, the stress hormone, is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands to deal with stress. It’s best for the body to create just enough – not too much – when it comes to mental well-being.

In a 2019 research that lasted 8 weeks, participants from 36 city dwellers spent time in any outdoor location that brought them closer to nature. Participants showed a significant drop in cortisol levels after doing it three times a week for 10 minutes or more, regardless of what activities they did outside.

Since stress in our daily lives can cause adrenal overstimulation and possibly fatigue, by spending time in nature parents and children can lower cortisol levels, reduce stress and improve overall health.

  1. Lowers blood pressure and heart rate

Blood pressure and heart rate aren’t just indicators of your heart health. They are also key indicators of the body’s stress levels.

Several studies from the year 2020 found that sitting or walking outside significantly lowered blood pressure and heart rate.

The sympathetic nervous system, often known as the body-leak-freeze response system, was found to be less active when people were out. Although this nervous system response is essential in the short term, it can get stuck in overload, leading to long-term tension and fatigue.

  1. Increase in vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of mental illness.

Here are some of them:

Anxiety, depression and behavior problems

Reduced immune reactivity

So spending time outdoors in the sun can help adults and children get more of this important nutrient, which can help support mental health.

  1. More restful sleep

If you or your child have trouble sleeping, you know how disturbing it can be for the rest of your family.

You may feel more anxious, depressed, irritated, or nervous if you have trouble sleeping. It also has an effect on your tolerance for distress and frustration. Sleep deprivation makes things more insurmountable.

There is, however, a solution to this. A few minutes in the yard or in the park could help you relax and keep your emotional health in check.

According to research conducted in 2021 across 14 countries on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children aged 3 to 5, children who spent time outdoors were more likely to have better sleep.

  1. Increase in general well-being

Being outdoors can be beneficial for children suffering from anxiety and depression due to trauma, especially in the wake of everything we’ve been through over the past few years with the pandemic.

According to a study, spending time outdoors in nature increases life expectancy, improves well-being, reduces symptoms of depression and improves a child’s ability to function in school.

According to a 2016 study, the more time children spend in green spaces, the more likely they are to be emotionally well-adjusted.

According to a 2019 scientific study, spending time in nature improves various aspects of mental well-being. These included the following:

Pleasant mood, ability to feel positive emotions, meaning and meaning of life, positive social relationships, reduced mental suffering.

When children are more active and spend more time outdoors throughout the day, teachers report increased concentration, a better ability to concentrate and learn, increased productivity, better behavior and the creation of more positive interactions between adults and children, as well as between peer groups. .

With fewer limits, kids find something exciting and uplifting in the outdoors.

This feeling of freedom in open space is difficult to match in terms of happiness and well-being.

  1. Improved cognition and creativity

Outdoor activities can also help your children’s brain development in surprising ways.

Greater daily exposure to woods and green spaces was linked to higher cognitive development scores in adolescents in a 2021 study.

After spending time in nature, people of all ages can experience an increase in their creativity.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children have one hour of unstructured outdoor play a day.

Here are some of the benefits of outdoor play, according to her:

better concentration

improved cognitive performance

enhanced inventiveness

improved motor skills

  1. Improved relationship between parents and children

It can be difficult for parents to connect with their children in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven environment.

One way to develop more lasting relationships is to spend time outdoors.

Unplugging from devices to play in the garden, go to the park or take a walk can minimize indoor distractions, allowing parents to be emotionally present and to form safe and healthy bonds with their children.

Children with a strong and stable attachment to their primary caregiver(s) feel more comfortable exploring their surroundings and surroundings. So when things are tight at home, moving outside can help clear the air.

What can you do as a family to spend more time outdoors?

Spending time with your family outdoors definitely sounds like a good idea. Of course, the difficulty is to realize it. Outside preparations can be thwarted by busy schedules and differing viewpoints among family members.

Try these simple activities to develop the habit of spending more time in nature:

After dinner, go for a walk

Choose a simple hiking trail suitable for the whole family

Allow everyone to choose their favorite outdoor activity, then plan ahead

Take a weekly trip to the park with your family.

Play sports with the children.

Organize a picnic in your garden or in a nearby park.

Buy outdoor sports equipment as a gift for birthdays or holidays.

  • The author is a licensed Clinical Psychologist (Alumni of Govt. Medical College Srinagar) and works as a Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Rambagh Srinagar Mental Health Services Center. He can be reached at 8825067196.

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