Wednesday, June 15, 2016

How Spending Time in Nature Changes You for the Better

You might wonder why, if this is a blog dedicated to upcycling and living with less, I don't talk a lot about all that's going wrong in the environmental world. 

The truth is that the statistics make me feel anxious, the articles about how we're ruining the earth leave me feeling apathetic (what can I do in the face of all that?) and our lives of consumerism make me break out in hives. Don't get me wrong: I try not to shop big box stores, but I certainly don't always buy organic/local/eco-friendly either. 

Studies show that we're staying indoors more than ever before. An eye-opening article by NPR Americans Spending Less Time in Nature, is educating, albeit depressing. 

Maybe if we all got out in nature more often, we'd take better care of the planet.

I remember spending hours outside when I was a kid. My mother had four children, so sometimes she would kick us out of the house to get the cleaning done. I created imaginary houses within the thick tree trunks, boats out of fallen logs, and magical kingdoms on the little stream that would freeze over in winter. 

I learned a lot about the woods just by being in them. 

I learned that old, wet wood peels apart exactly like turkey in flakes and chunks, the smell and taste of clover, the way the leaves turned "inside out" before it rains.

As a parent, I feel particularly concerned that my son isn't getting enough time outside. Sometimes it feels like an uphill battle, but I believe that all kids (and many adults, if they'll let themselves) are naturally curious about nature. Why does that plant make seeds there? What's inside this shell? How old is that tree? Why is the butterfly that color? 

It's not easy to get access to outdoor places, especially if you live in an urban environment. Still, nearly every place on earth has a park, a small patch of grass or some other natural setting to explore. 

If you're fortunate enough to live in a rural setting or have easy access to one, try one of these fun outdoor activities and see how you and your family feels after spending time in nature.  

1) Go geocaching. This is a sort of nature treasure hunt--geocachers "plant" caches in different locations. Seekers must find the cache using only a GPS.
2) Go for a hike. It doesn't have to be long and arduous. Listings of quickie hikes and easy trails should be listed on your state's forest parks and recreation website.
3) Have a picnic. So what if it's cold? Bundle up and build a campfire in your backyard. Spread some blankets around the fire and enjoy a yummy meal together.
4) Garden.
5) Explore your local state or local wildlife refuges. These have some great walking/snowshoeing trails and normally lake or river access for canoeing.
6) Buy a used telescope and explore the stars and galaxies together.
7) Walk the dog.
8) Go on a family walk and clean litter off the roadside as you do it (don't forget gloves!).
9) Go Letterboxing. Similar to geocaching, only you stamp a small log book instead of finding a cache. Requires no GPS.

These are just a few ideas, I'm sure you can come up with a lot more of your own. The important thing is just to try to get out there--even if it's once a week. My bet is that the fresh air, movement, and connection to nature will have you wanting more in no time.

What do you think? What's your favorite way to spend time outdoors? 

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