Getting Outdoors

As I become steadily more heavily pregnant, it becomes harder to get out and about and so much easier to make excuses to stay home and do nothing.  But this isn’t me at all.  I always regret the decision to ‘slow down’ and end up with major cabin fever.  I am a huge advocate of Getting Outdoors, even if it’s only for a short 30 mins a day.

After a rather disappointing weekend of extremely wet weather, I was starting to lose my mind come Monday and I was desperate to improve my mood.  When you are pregnant and you reach that much anticipated ‘due date’ only to find that you still haven’t had a baby it is rather disappointing and hard to stay positive ALL the time.  So we hadn’t done a lot with our weekend and I was most certainly starting to feel flat, to say the least.  I knew exactly what I needed…I needed to get outside, into the fresh air, and enjoy some much needed vitamin D.

When the weather improved on Tuesday and we were able to get out the house for a much needed walk, I felt better almost immediately.  Perhaps it was the fresh air, maybe it was all the extra Vitamin D? But just being outdoors and soaking up the countryside was enough to make me instantly feel more positive and happy.

Ivy just loves to be outdoors and exploring the world around her too. Another positive reason to get out and about.  The worst toddler days are always the ones where we haven’t ventured out at all.  I also find that when we have made the effort to get out and explore, her mood and engagement to play is much more positive- meaning I can then get more done around the house without worrying about the amount of TV she has watched or that she is up to no good.  It’s a funny thing, toddler play.  Sometimes an activity will engage her for 5 mins max, and other times it will entertain her and keep her busy for a good 30 mins.  I definitely believe that these periods are longer on the days when we’ve been out and exposed her to the outdoors.

Recently I have found myself walking to town, and just aimlessly wandering around the shops- yes this is getting out the house. But this is not the ‘good for your mood’ kind of getting out.  I don’t necessarily feel any better for these trips.  However, a quick loop around the park, being exposed to some trees and beautiful countryside makes the world of difference to my mood.

There are lots of studies to back up the benefits of getting outdoors and walking.  One study carried out by researchers at the University of Michigan showed that getting outdoors and walking through nature can improve mental health and reduce the effects of stressful life events. This is most certainly true for me and I always feel the benefits of being surrounded by nature.  I grew up on a farm, and spent the majority of my childhood outside.  Even when we moved to a town, we (my siblings and I) still spent as much of our free time outside as we possibly could.  We loved it and it’s probably why I find it so cathartic now as an adult.

One big  worry  I have though, is the lack of children you see out enjoying the countryside these days.  I believe that the way society has changed over the years since I was a child, has damaged the free spirited ways of children.  There is far too much worry and concern over children’s safety.  And i’m not saying that it’s not for good reason…it just means that we are now highly reliant on parents/familiar adults to make a conscious effort to get children out and about to enjoy and explore the great outdoors.  Unfortunately with busy lives and work schedules, this isn’t always possible.  I am a teacher, when not on maternity leave, and you would be amazed to discover the amount of children that spend ALL their time indoors and actually when given the choice at school to be outside and enjoying the fresh air with friends, they would rather stay indoors if they could! At my school, there is a huge emphasis on trying to battle this problem and encourage children to get more active and enjoy the outdoors.

How much do you get outside? Do you find it beneficial for your mood?

Are you a parent? If you are, consider how much exposure to nature your child/children get each day.  Not just each week.  Even just by walking to and from school, instead of jumping in the car, can make a world of difference to yours/their mental health.

I always try to make a conscious effort to get outdoors at least once a day- sometimes this is just a walk to a toddler group, or a trip to the local park for a quick play on the slide and swings.  Other times this will be an entire morning/day/afternoon out and about visiting an outdoor attraction.  But whatever we do, it is always great to remember that outdoor spaces are more often than not completely free and they do wonders for your mood.  I fully intend to try and up our outdoor activities once this baby hurries up and makes it’s arrival.  Hopefully then I will be a little quicker on my feet, to go exploring with Ivy.  Perhaps I’ll even be able to follow her on her adventures into small spaces too!!

I know that right now, I am lucky enough to be on maternity leave- meaning I have the time to make these trips happen.  When I return to work, I will certainly be looking into childcare that has huge emphasis on outdoor play, making sure that the outdoors is always accessible for my children, even when I cannot provide it myself.

What do you do to ensure your stay positive and upbeat? Are you, like me, someone who NEEDS nature to feel good? Perhaps you have a different opinion? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.


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