The weather is FINALLY cooperating where I live, so we were able to spend some time outside. Even when we aren’t in quarantine, I stay home with the kids. I’m embarrassed to say that even with daily opportunities, I’m really bad about getting outdoors. Don’t get me wrong, we totally do big things like the beach, park, hiking, walking/jogging for fitness, swimming, etc., but we definitely don’t spend enough time casually walking or relaxing in the yard.
The pandemic has really changed my outlook. We can no longer meet friends at the canal for a long walk, or spend time at the playground. At first I had the mentality that we were stuck literally within the confines of the house. This week I’ve started to realize all of the opportunities we have outside that are still following the social distancing rules. It opened our little world, and eased our cabin fever.
On the rainy days, I cracked the windows and opened the french doors. It was good for my anxiety to listen to the rain and breathe in some fresh air. When we woke up this morning it was starting to look like another gloomy day, so I set up an obstacle course indoors. Anna was less than pleased, longing to get out of the house and go somewhere.
Awesome, stuck in the house and Anna has an attitude. Should be a fun day.
A few hours later Lucy started to get cranky in her swing. I looked over and realized the sun was in her eyes. Wait, the sun?! I didn’t even bother to change Anna out of her Christmas pajamas. I just grabbed the kids and the bubbles and ran out the door. I didn’t want to miss our opportunity.
It’s common knowledge that the sun can help lift depression. People who suffer with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) feel worse in the winter months when the sun is less available. The depression lifts in good weather. Sunlight provides a good dose of Vitamin D, which is crucial in bone health, cardiovascular function, and inflammation control. Sunlight also energizes the t-cells that increase our immunity- and who couldn’t use a little bit of that right now?
I could write pages and pages about how outdoor play benefits child development, but I’ll try to keep it short. Playing in an outdoor environment is less stimulating than an indoor play center. It gives children a chance to slow down and appreciate their senses without being overwhelmed. It has been shown that kids who are used to outdoor smells and naturally occurring colors have less food aversions, especially to vegetables. The outdoors present unpredictable challenges, which increases imagination and problem solving. Spinning, jumping and playing on naturally diverse terrain increases inner ear function, resulting in better balance. Overall, spending time outdoors decreases stress, releases serotonin, and encourages a healthy lifestyle in people of all ages.
I grew up an only child, and I never wanted to play outside because I didn’t want to play alone. (This is one of the reasons I wanted to have a big family!) I wish I could tell my younger self that outdoor play does not need to be a sport or game that requires multiple people. If I really thought about it, I probably would have realized that I could have been reading in the fresh air, eating a picnic lunch on the deck, or doing a DIY art project in the open air.
We are busy people. When the pandemic is over, people will go back to running around again. Even staying home right now, it’s hard to find time for yourself. Homeschooling is time consuming, probably more than anticipated. Keeping the younger kids entertained is hard enough, but now we also have to stop them from distracting the older kids during class time. Most people are still working from home, facing their own distraction challenges. We are busy, but please, make time.
To benefit from time outside you really only need to dedicate 15 minutes. (It could be 15 minutes on the phone checking on a family member you can’t see right now!) Start doing it today, and continue when the pandemic passes. You might think it will be difficult to fit into your day, or hard to remember to participate in. (I know, our to-do lists are forever getting longer.) Making a lifestyle change doesn’t have to be difficult, especially one that only takes 15 minutes.
- Planning Stage: Decide on a goal – spend 15 minutes outside daily.
- Uncomfortable Stage: It will be hard to remember or prioritize because it is a new behavior. Block off the time in your planner or set an alarm. Most importantly, just do it.
- Leveling out stage: You find yourself heading outside at your regular time, even without a reminder. You may even start to look forward to it.
- Picking up Speed stage: You’re excited about your new habit, and start to feel the benefits.
- Feeling Normal/ Regular stage: Congratulations, you have formed a positive habit!
It’s been said that it only takes about 21 days to make an action a habit. It only takes 90 days to make it a lifestyle change. Seriously, you could be a healthier you before the pandemic is even over- all from dedicating just 15 minutes a day.
You can totally do it.
Getting outside today wasn’t exactly a day at the beach. I wish it was 75 degrees instead of cold and raw. The ground was wet, so we couldn’t really sit down and relax. Nonetheless, 15 minutes passed quickly. Anna chased bubbles, we waved to the neighbors from a safe social distance, and we watched a squirrel run across the roof and powerlines (we pretended it was playing ‘the floor is lava’ and Anna thought it was quite hilarious.)
Anna didn’t want to come back inside, but it was a bit cold to have Lucy out there for too long. When we settled in, I realized Anna was more calm than usual, sitting on the floor and nicely playing with blocks. I felt happier, and my motivation to blog and workout returned. It only took 15 minutes.
Get outside today, but keep your 6 foot social distance.
Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Stay home.
I mean it, STAY HOME.
Kate and the Kids.