I was recently talking to someone who just moved from Texas and she made a comment about opportunities for an outdoor lifestyle in Utah. She said she saw people out walking, riding bikes, packing up for day trips in the canyons. She said, “I think I am going to be caught off guard with how beautiful this summer will be in Utah.” Utah catches us all off guard this time of year with how beautiful it is here in the spring.
Everything is green and lush right now and it reminds me of my early childhood and spending almost every weekend in the mountains with my parents and my brothers and sisters. Being outdoors is therapeutic andone of the biggest contributors to emotional/physical well-being. Even outdoor sports in the winter make such a difference in our emotional well-being through the long winter months. Snowshoeing, skiing, sledding, snowball fights, shoveling a neighbors walk. . . winter or summer, no matter where you live, these activities get us outside and away from our smart phones and computer screens.
Learning Through Movement
There is so much from being outside that can help us feel nurtured, especially when we are connected to mother earth. Nature can be a classroom, with opportunities for movement and experiential learning. Experiential learning is a process through which learning through movement constructs knowledge, skill, and value from direct experiences. Being outside offers so many opportunities for learning, self-reflection, and heightened awareness. Finding activities that can draw you and your families outside can help families bond as they spend time together. It can also help families heal. Quality time without being tied to technology opens up possibilities for conversation, interaction and critical thinking.
Nature nurtures the individual and the family. Having grown up in the mountains of Utah as a little girl, my most treasured memories are of my family gathered around a campfire, singing and telling stories, laughing and sometimes crying, as love was expressed in beautiful, simple heartfelt ways. We worked together as a family and we played together as a family. Being in nature helped make my family relationships strong.
Nature Is A Necessity
Spending time outside is more than a fun idea it is a necessary part of our children’s development as well as a key component to our own personal well-being. There is research that has helped us understand that looking at a fine art landscape picture or photo can help reduce stress up to 30% for the viewer. Being in a beautiful setting and actually experiencing nature can greatly reduce stress levels in the body. Families need nature. As we transition from winter to spring and soon spring to summer, make your plans for summer with the intention to include nature.
Plan on fun day outings, eat dinners on the deck or patio, or spread a blanket on the lawn and create a picnic in your back yard. Plan to swim, hike, and bike as families. For the more adventurous, plan a family camping trip, take your family vacation in nature, go white water rafting, or include boating or a simple paddle board where even the little ones with life jackets can enjoy paddling around on a lake or a pond.
There has been such an increase in pet owners with dogs. Animals can help reduce stress as well. When you think about it, the care that dogs need include going outside every couple of hours and includes walks and trips the dog park, having a dog is helping with depression and anxiety because of the bond of a loving animal but also because it gets the owners outside in nature . . . rain or shine.
Create A Nature Art Journal
Another way to include nature in your lifestyle is to have you and your children create a sketch pad, or journal of your summer. Again it’s not really about art as it is about having the experience be remembered and recorded. Drawing the experience helps imprint those happy, connected feelings in the mind and the heart. It helps develop eye-hand coordination and the ability to see what is really around you.
Have your children or grandchildren draw their experiences in nature and record them in a simple art journal. They can record their experiences, draw tress, plants, leaves and rocks. Have them sit and draw for 15 minutes while you are out in nature. They can draw in the car before or after the nature activity. Learn about birds and other wildlife and include that learning in the sketch book. Date your activities and keep your nature journal for years to come.
Drawing or writing in nature or about nature helps develop the gift of observation and critical thinking skills. The simple act of drawing in nature or about nature helps to quiet their minds, and helps them to connect and to find meaning in the world around them. When you spend time with a place and observe it, you build a relationship with nature, and you feel connected to self and others at the same time. You will preserve these memories as well as gain a sense of reverence for beauty in the world. Connecting to beauty refines us and puts us in a state of awe. This brings health and well-being.
Nature Is A Gift
Let’s work to make our world a more beautiful place, by truly appreciating the beauty around us. Nature is a gift and has power to nurture us in so many ways. With some intentional planning for your summer activities, nature could be the very resource that can bring you and your family together in creative, relationship building activities. Be sure to include hot dog roasts, long walks, trips to the park, star gazing, water fights, roasting marshmallows, sparklers and fireworks. You might just find yourself being caught off guard with how beautiful your summer could be by choosing to be in nature as much as possible. This summer let nature nurture you as you use intentional, even inspirational planning to include the beauty of nature in your daily routine.