Today more than ever, we spend our time glued to screens. And thanks to COVID-19, your time using devices has probably increased even more because of working from home, home-schooling children, and even boredom. Luckily, many organizations and state governments are encouraging people to get outdoors to promote health and well-being during the pandemic. Forbes magazine cites some interesting research about how humans as a species need nature now more than ever.
We know about the individual benefits of time spent in nature, such as increased attention span, mood improvement, stress reduction, and increased overall physical health. What about the benefits on a family systems level? Researchers, Izenstark and Ebata (2017), hypothesized that the individual benefits from time in nature would generalize to the whole family. After all, if you have increased concentration, less stress, and an overall good mood, then you may be less irritable and more emotionally attuned to your family, right? They put their hypothesis to the test in a study, “A Walk in the Mall or Park? For Moms and Daughters, a Stroll in the Park is Best.” The mother-daughter pairs were instructed to either walk around a mall or park and then complete a number of tasks. Results showed that after the pair walked in nature there was a significant increase in positive interactions and restored attention. Another finding showed greater cohesion, unity, closeness, and the ability to get along after walking in nature.
For military families, cohesion is incredibly important as they are under constant stress in situations that civilian families may never deal with. Spending some time outdoors – even if it’s just playing in the backyard – has positive benefits that can strengthen military families and help them deal with deployments, PCS, caregiving, and so much more. Strengthening military families requires a holistic approach (just like Total Force Fitness!) that can and should include nature-based recreation. Remember, a simple outdoor activity like walking around the block after dinner, is not selfish or indulgent. It’s crucial for physical and mental health that can have fantastic benefits for yourself and your family!
Izenstark, D. & Ebata, A. T. (2017) The effects of the natural environment on attention and family cohesion: An experimental study. Children, Youth, and Environments, 27(2). 93 – 109.