Phrases such as ‘getting back to nature’ and ‘exploring nature’ underline how disconnected we have become as a society from our surroundings. Nature is now something we have to go and look for, rather than something we see ourselves as being part of. I believe that feeling a part of the natural world that surrounds us is crucial for both our mental and physical wellbeing. After all, this is the environment we evolved to live in, not shut ourselves away from.
Recent research from Ordnance Survey found that only a third of children in Britain spend more than an hour a day outdoors. Combined with Public Health England’s findings that our kids are spending an average of six hours a day in front of screens, it is clear we need to be doing more to encourage our kids outside.
Children love spending time in wild settings. It encourages exploration and imaginative play, and nature really does provide everything needed to keep them entertained. Playing in a natural environment allows kids to discover and learn, test themselves and take risks – all things that are crucial for their development and well-being.
There’s a growing body of evidence that demonstrates that spending time outdoors strengthens both physical and mental health. Try spending an extra 15 minutes outside every day by going for a walk at lunch or taking the long route home. For those living in an urban area search out a nearby green space to get your nature fix. Studies show that walking outside is linked to lower stress and depression levels as well as boosting concentration and short-term memory.
As well as the obvious benefits of exercise, fresh air and increased vitamin D production, spending time in natural settings also reduces allergies, boosts the immune system and improves sleep patterns and self-esteem. It is even healthy on the bank balance. Hard as they try even my kids can’t find much for me to spend my money on in the middle of woodland. Pack a picnic, and you are all set for a wild adventure.
In today’s busy world we sometimes need that extra reminder to stop and appreciate the natural world around us. Pledge to spend a few more minutes outside every day – it’s healthy, and it’s free!
Sarah Whiting is passionate about both children and adults spending more time outside exploring, learning and getting creative. You can find lots more Get Outside inspiration on her blog Craft Invaders.