Getting outside is good for our physical, emotional, and mental health. Due to the current COVID-19 restrictions, many of us have been listening to all of the recommended safety precautions and keeping to our homes. But social distancing doesn’t mean that you have to completely confine yourself—let’s talk about nature and how you can still get outside safely! The time has come for a family walk, a tree-climbing adventure, and an imaginary dragon fight in the backyard/front sidewalk (optional of course). Getting outside will make you and your Girl Scout feel better—trust us!
Studies show that when we step outside and take that deep breath of fresh air, our brains become…happier. Why is that? In How Nature Can Make You Kinder, Happier, and More Creative, Jill Suttie from the Great Good Magazine lists five ways nature has been proven to help us. Let’s explore!
Being in Nature Decreases Stress
When outside, scientists have found that people’s blood pressure reduces and less cortisol (the chemical released in our brains when we are stressed) is released. Pretty amazing!
Nature Makes You Happier and Less Brooding
Nature can influence our mood, for the better. With a simple walk around the block, you and your family can take a break from the constant news cycle and increased screen time. Who knows? You may even come up with a genius way to design the epic tree house you’ve always dreamed of!
Nature Relieves Attention Fatigue and Increases Creativity
We have so many distractions in our daily lives (text messages, phone calls, emails, social media notifications, etc.). Our brains were not meant for such a stimulus overload. Going outside gives our brains a break, so we can be more focused and get our creative juices flowing.
Nature May Help You to be Kind and Generous
When we are in a naturally beautiful place, we tend to feel a sense of awe and wonderment. Think about the most miraculous sunset you’ve ever seen, the first flowers blooming in the spring, or a nest of baby birds sitting in the crook of a tree. When we feel grateful for the things around us, we tend to be kinder and more generous to the world and people around us.
Nature Makes You Feel More Alive
When we spend time outside, we experience so many positive benefits. We tend to take a break from technology, relax and reflect on what is important, spend quality time with the people around us, and use our imagination. What a feeling!
Getting outside as a family unit is one of the greatest gifts you can give. So how can you get outside safely, while still having a blast? Here are a few Girl Scout ideas:
- Walk, bike, skip, or run around the block. Come up with a challenge course to complete each day—maybe you skip the first block, do lunges for the second block, and silly dance your way down the third block!
- Use your backyard, if you have one! You could play catch with a frisbee, football, or baseball. Try building a fort with materials such as sticks, a yard rake, a tarp, rope, and a hula-hoop.
- Take your meal outside for a family picnic.
- Go on a walk with your dog (or cat 😊).
- As the snow melts, use sidewalk chalk to create art and a game of hopscotch–write a message that will make your neighbors smile as they walk by.
- Take your usual inside activities outside—sit outside and read a book or journal, even if you have to bundle up.
- Change up the scenery by finding a local park and going for a walk (reference these links for park updates: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources). Outdoor time is great, but for now, keep away from playgrounds as it’s best practice to avoid high-touch places.
- Have a family stretch session outside in the sun.
- Spend the night in a tent, in your backyard, and earn your Every Girl in a Tent patch. If you want to try tenting out in your living room first, this is a fun way to get started!
Be sure to stay tuned to Girl Scout River Valleys’ In the Loop blog posts. We are here to help our Girl Scout community stay strong, healthy, creative, and happy!
- Why Kids Need to Spend Time in Nature by Danielle Cohen
- Outdoor Play Benefits (PDF) by Head Start Body Start
- Last Child in the Woods, Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv (book preview)
Annie Johnson– Annie is a Program Assistant at Girl Scouts River Valleys. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict with a BA in Environmental Studies and Psychology, with a concentration in Wilderness Therapy. She loves going on adventures outside, especially if it involves a canoe. Annie was a Girl Scout all the way from kindergarten through high school. She is grateful for the opportunity to work for Girl Scouts and give back in any way she can.