1.Explore The Wild
Time spent in nature offers things you’ll never find on your couch, in front of the television, on a treadmill, or (note to parents) behind a cocktail. Mounting research shows that activities in the great outdoors offer deep, restorative, immune-system-boosting, stress-reducing relaxation. Something as simple as a long walk in the woods can lift your mood, cause you to think more positively, and feel more internal calm and greater harmony with the world around you, reports Tina Vinum, expert in exercise physiology.
In the classroom or home-school environment, this can translate to greater confidence and belief in one’s self and one’s abilities. The restorative experience of a lifestyle that includes outdoor activities can also aid in reducing stress about school, homework and test anxiety.
2. Be Positive
And this isn’t just woo-woo, nature-freak speak. The science behind behavior patterns show that levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate our moods, rises when we are outside. Exposure to nature also reduces pain and illness and speeds recovery time. You also breathe better outside, as outdoor air is 75% less polluted than indoor air, according to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Positive mood produces broader attention, more creative thinking, and more holistic thinking,” according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. Students overall experience of school can shift to a very positive force, instead of what many children rank as “just slightly above going to the dentist.”
3. Get Moving
Even at the cellular level, “exercise encourages your brain to work at optimum capacity by causing nerve cells to multiply, strengthening their interconnections and protecting them from damage,” reports Dr. Joseph Mercola, M.D., NY Times best-selling author, and the Huffington Post’s 2009 “Ultimate Wellness Game Changer.”
Just as a healthy body functions at a more efficient rate, a mind working at full power – or even at a vibrant, engaged pace – will absorb, process and retain information better than a tired, sluggish and apathetic brain.
4. The Power of Light
Outdoor light (direct Vitamin D you can’t get by drinking milk) is vital to the immune system, makes us “feel better,” and increases academic learning and productivity, according to Rae Pica, a children’s physical actecialist and the author of 18 books for teachers and parents. Pica also reports that physical activity optimizes the brain’s performance by increasing the capacity of blood vessels, allowing for the delivery of oxygen, water, and glucose (brain food) to the brain.
Indoor activities, and particularly mind-numbing digital media, while touted as ‘relaxing’ are actually counterproductive to a child’s health, education and overall well-being.
See our resource list below to find specific, tangible things you can do now to help shape your children’s mental, physical and emotional well-being long into the future. Clearly the benefits of engaging your children in outdoor activities goes much deeper than getting good grades!
Resources for Parents
• The National Institutes of Health website offers advice, news, and other resources
• “Reduce Stress in the Great Outdoors,” Athleta Chi
• ”7 Reasons Why Kids Need Recess,” by Rae Pica
In Part 1 of the “New Roadmap for Smarter, Happier, Healthier Kids,” we discovered the truly damaging effects that television and video games can have on young minds (link).
Stay tuned for Part 3 of “The New Roadmap for Smarter, Happier, Healthier Kids,” where we’ll reveal 5 things you can do now to boost your children’s grades, confidence and well-being.