Time in Nature Important for Kids’ Mental Health

stress free zone

Happy Dancing Turtle has long been an advocate of all people, especially children, getting outside. The mental, physical, and emotional health benefits of time spent outdoors are particularly important to children as they develop, as the impacts are long-lasting and far-reaching. With May being Mental Health Awareness month, it made sense to write about the many benefits to be found by spending time in nature. Then we realized, we’ve already done that. More than once! So, we have compiled links to our past blogs as well as those to other organizations that have written on the topic to make it a one stop shop for all things related to the benefits of the outdoors!

A New Year in Nature – This blog provides a nice, simple overview of the myriad of physical, mental, and emotional health benefits of spending time outdoors. For Mental Health Awareness month, we’d like to highlight that spending time in nature can have a positive impact on energy levels, mood and self esteem, overall feelings of positivity, impulse control, feelings of happiness and social skills/relationships. Simultaneously, time in nature can decrease stress, anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD symptoms, and disruptive behaviors.

Screen-Free Week 2018 – Did you know the average teenager spends 11 hours on a screen every day? Even 8-10 year-olds spend nearly 8 hours on screens! Our Screen-Free Week 2018 blog highlights statistics regarding screen use in kids and adults, research showing screen time is linked to declining social skills in youth, and recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics for healthy screen time limits.

Screen-Free Week 2019 – Happy Dancing Turtle staff share their experiences with screen-free week in this blog. In addition, we share new research that suggests screens can induce stress and addiction in children, drain cognitive resources, and reduce divergent thinking, which is linked to creativity, adaptability, and sense of self-identity! Time in nature can allow kids a crucial “restoration period”, plus, kids who spend more time in nature during their youth are more likely to protect nature as adults!

Mental Health Problems Rise Significantly Among Young Americans – This article shows some alarming statistics about the rise of depression, psychological distress, and suicidal thoughts/actions in our youth, largely due to screen time and social media habits. The negative impacts of screen time are resulting in children being less resilient to high stress situations. Not only does time in nature provide benefits to youth, but it minimizes the harmful effects of screen time.

Greener Childhood Associated with Happier Adulthood – If you’re going to read one article for Mental Health Awareness Month, read this one! Danish researchers found kids growing up in nature had up to 55% reduction in risk of mental health disorders in their adulthood!

Your Child’s Greatest Classroom: Nature’s Role in the Development of Character and Spirituality in Children – Nature helps develop a child’s spirituality through a direct, personal relationship with nature. Studies suggest a direct link between spirituality and increased happiness, which leads to positive character traits like grit and persistence.

Five Reasons Going Outdoors Improves Children’s Mental Health & Wellbeing – This article summarizes numerous studies that find outdoor time can give children a break from busy schedules, increase physical activity, positively impact mental health, help kids get required Vitamin D, and reduce stress and anxiety.

Nature Prescriptions – Doctors all over the world are switching from prescribing medications to prescribing walks in nature. This article describes how Nature Prescriptions were noted as one of the top 8 Wellness Trends of 2019. “Put down the Prozac and pick up your walking shoes.” In fact, the article claims walking outside for 25 minutes a day could add three years to your life!

But you don’t need a doctor’s prescription to go outside. Dedicate some time to getting kids outside in nature! If you don’t have kids or grandkids, then get yourself outside in nature, as nature is beneficial to adults as well. Happy Dancing Turtle is promoting mental health awareness and spending time outdoors in June by doing our second 30 x 30 challenge. The goal is to spend at least 30 minutes outside everyday for 30 days in a row. For your own mental health, we challenge you to do the same!

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