Five Reasons Why Outdoors Improves Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing
This week we’ve seen a strong focus on Mental Health and the importance of talking about our feelings. It’s been encouraging to see and hear schools taking an active interest in the subject and a general awareness for young people. I strongly believe that we need to have conversations around mental health and that young people (and adults alike) are made aware of the support that is available.
Children’s healthy development and happiness goes hand in hand with good physical and mental health. Evidence demonstrates that one of the best ways for children to stay mentally healthy is by going outdoors and getting plenty of fresh air. It’s been said that spending just 2 hours a week in green spaces such as parks, woodlands and fields has been linked with people feeling healthier and happier. Also doing things like growing food or flowers, exercising outdoors or being around animals can have positive effects on our well-being.
I came across the article below by Outdoor Classroom Day which further emphasis the fact that Green is Good and that we need to make sure our children enjoy sufficient outdoor play – Come Rain (more rain) and shine!
Here’s to the re-emergence of our raincoats and wellies!
Little Ellen’s Mama xx
Five reasons going outdoors improves children’s mental health and wellbeing
(Article by outdoorclassroomday.org.uk)
1. IT GIVES CHILDREN A BREAK FROM BUSY SCHEDULES
Spending time out in the fresh air is a great way of clearing the head, offering time to relax, reflect, and give our brains a break. Children need this as much as anyone. Time away from school work, homework, busy schedules and demanding routines. Time to have fun just playing and doing whatever the mood takes, enjoying life in the outdoors and doing something that makes them feel happy.
2. SPORT PARTICIPATION AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY LOWERS ANXIETY
Studies reveal a link between participation in outdoor sports and activities, and significant improvements in mental, psychological and emotional wellbeing in children. Research shows that life satisfaction and happiness are higher for people who are physically active, and their levels of anxiety are lower.
3. IT HAS A POSITIVE IMPACT ON MENTAL HEALTH
Recent studies have reported a significant increase in mental ill health in children in the UK. Among other things, a lack of regular connection to the outdoors and participation in outdoor activities are major contributing factors.
This could be for a number of reasons; lack of access to facilities, parents’ fears for children’s safety, too much reliance on screens and computer games as a form of entertainment. Thankfully modern society is recognising this, but we still have a way to go in getting all children outside.
4. IT HELPS KIDS TOP UP ON VITAMIN D
Often during the cold winter months, children suffer from a lack of direct natural sunlight. The sunlight is the best natural source for our bodies to produce Vitamin D, which releases serotonin (which helps regulate emotion and mood and is linked to happiness) in the brain. Children need healthy levels of Vitamin D and serotonin for their mental health and development. Lack of vitamin D has been linked to mental illnesses, including depression.
Allowing children daily outdoor playtime in natural light, ensures they soak up some nourishment for their brains!
5. THE OUTDOORS RELIEVES STRESS AND ANXIETY
Time spent playing outdoors is thought to help relieve stress and anxiety for children by reducing levels of the hormone cortisol in the brain. A recent study in the UK found that even just five minutes of exercise in a natural outdoor environment can rapidly improve self-esteem, mental health and wellbeing in young people.
Many schools are getting in on the act, with improved outdoor provision and after school clubs. In areas where there is limited access to open outdoor space, schools are often the main hub of sporting activity, and are increasingly offering their facilities to community groups for use outside of school hours.