Consider the following story as it relates to this week’s topic.
When the stay-at-home order was first put in place, my family and I made the best of it. We were lucky enough to have our jobs switch to work-from-home, and my husband has taken responsibility for helping our kids with their online schoolwork. As the weeks went by, though, we all became incredibly lethargic from being inside all day. One day, we decided to spend an afternoon in the backyard away from our laptops, phones, and tablets. It felt great! I did some gardening, my husband did some yard work, and the kids tossed the ball around and made up some “only the kids will understand” games. On Sunday, we took a long walk to get out of the house. At the end of both days, we were physically exhausted, but felt mentally refreshed!
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us are spending more time than ever indoors and in front of screens. This means that both out-of-work parents and those working from home have taken on the additional responsibility of being their children’s on-site teacher, or at least a teacher’s assistant.
This can be a lot to bear for you and your kids. To keep boredom, irritability, and stagnation from taking over completely, it’s important to find ways to get them outside every day, or at least more days than not.
Of course, we aren’t suggesting taking them to grocery stores or discarding social distancing, but there are countless ways to get outside safely. Private, or relatively people-free outdoor spaces, are available to all of us, although we realize that, depending on where you live, they may be easier or harder to access.
The quickest and easiest to access are most likely your backyard, terrace/balcony, driveway, and walking around your neighborhood. Just getting out to any of these locations to sit and enjoy the fresh air or take a walk around the neighborhood (I know this will sound super boring to your kids) can actually do a lot of good. Our licensed psychologists and therapists in Tampa would like to go over some benefits of getting your kids outside during this unusual time.
Exposure to nature is one of the most effective options for relaxation and calmness, and its positive effects are backed up by research. According to the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, people with less exposure to nature in childhood scored lower in mental health examinations compared to those who experienced more of nature.
In a previous blog, we shared a quote by Dr. Jason Strauss, Director of Geriatric Psychiatry at Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance, that supports the findings of the Barcelona study. “Having something pleasant to focus on, like trees and greenery, helps distract your mind from negative thinking. So, your thoughts become less filled with worry.” This means that focusing on something other than an office and computer screen for a little bit actually has an impact on us, and that focusing on things in our natural environment is key.
As of now, it’s in the public’s best interest to remain home, and it’s something we fully support. Know that there are still ways for you and your child (or children) to safely enjoy a few moments outside to reap some wonderful benefits, including:
Mental and emotional benefits:
- Cognition and thinking
- Increased focus
- Decreased anxiety and depression
- Resilience against stress
- Confidence boost
- Short-term memory boost
- Decreased anger and irritability
Character development benefits:
- Increased creativity
- Increased imagination
- Increased inquisitiveness
- Healthy risk-taking boost
- Improved social skills
- Improved empathy
- Decreased blood pressure
- Sensory stimulation
- Increased energy levels
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Improved nutrition
- Improved muscle development
- Improved immune system
Enjoy the Outdoors!
At Rice Psychology Group, we can’t recommend the great outdoors enough! Even with social distancing in effect, we’re certain that you can find safe ways to head outside and benefit from Tampa’s beautiful weather and nature, or the spring weather where you live. If you need help finding ways to ease your mind due to quarantining, or for help getting your tween or teen out of their cave of a bedroom, get in touch with us.
We’re currently offering online sessions to accommodate you. We’re even available if you aren’t looking for therapy but would just like a “one-off” consultation. We’re using these hour-long meetings to provide you with a fresh set of eyes to help you and your kids brainstorm on some ways to cope with quarantining as it extends longer than any of us expected.
Kids will be more willing to leave their screens if they believe that they’ll have fun or be successful at doing something else, such as going outside. But we know that half the battle is “selling it” to them so that they want to “buy” your ideas. We can help you with that sometimes-challenging piece of the puzzle.