Go Outdoors for Family Wellbeing

Many of the old school and traditional ways to promote good health and wellbeing are becoming more popular today. Often backed by science simple activities such as walking in nature, and visiting the seaside are now recognised ways of treating a range of ailments.

Wellbeing has become somewhat of a buzz word, especially amongst tired and stressed parents who try and juggle family life and work life. The good news is that you don't have to spend a fortune on family expensive days out or family yoga retreats to promote and improve your physical and mental health.

Being In Nature

30 Days of Wild was an intuitive carried out in the summer of 2016, encouraging people to enjoy nature during the summer months. Participants were asked to "do something wild" every day for 30 days. Before they began, subjects filled in a questionnaire answering a number of questions relating to health and happiness. They completed a similar questionnaire at the end of the 30 days. The study carried about by the University of Derby reported that people felt significantly more happiness and wellbeing at the end of the 30 days.

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In regards to children - they reported increased self esteem and creativity after spending time in nature. Children's development and acquisition of knowledge in regards to the natural environment, is an important benefit of rural and green locations. As playground areas in schools and cities are normally void of nature and vegetation and often surrounded by traffic, concrete and car parks.

A 'culture of fear' has parents afraid for children's safety, with a 2004 study concluded that parents of 3 to 12 year olds restricted (or stopped) children from playing outdoors due to safety concerns. Even if directly supervised and monitored, it remains important for children to spend time in nature, in order to develop an appreciation of its value, to learn and become knowledgeable about it and to improve self esteem and independence in the child. Unstructured play is important for both the children and the future of the natural environment.

Outdoor Exercise

Although it is often more comfortable and convenient to head indoors, to the nearest air-conditioned gym for a workout, doing so may mean you are missing out on some key physical and mental benefits associated with exercise in the great outdoors.

It has been established for well over a decade that exercising is one of the best ways to elevate mood and reduce stress. In fact, a study in 1999 that can still be found in the Archives of Internal Medicine, concluded that an exercise programme may be considered as an alternative treatment to anti-depressants.

A novel study conducted in 2005 at the University of Essex, looked to combine the benefits of 'being in nature' and exercising. They compared the physical and mental effects of exercising on a treadmill and exercising on a treadmill whilst looking at 'rural pleasant' images projected on a nearby wall. The study showed that the 'rural pleasant' images produced a more positive effect on self esteem than exercising with no images. In contrast, unpleasant rural images, such as images of burnt out cars in a field, reduced the positive self esteem benefits of exercise. This suggesting that 'unspoilt' green environments provide the key psychological benefits.

In 2010, researchers from the same university, collected and analysed information from 10 different 'outdoor exercise' studies carried out in the UK. They concluded that every environment improved both self-esteem and mood, but the presence of water generated greater effects. So exercising on the beach for example, would not only be more difficult due to the sand and the wind resistance, it would likely produce a great beneficial impact on mental wellbeing.

Be Besides the Seaside

If you lived in the UK, in the Victorian era - there's a good chance you may have fallen ill at some point; unfortunately. Healthcare and hygiene were not as advanced as it is today but interestingly, some of the old treatments such as going to the beach have gained scientific merit and backing in recent years.

IF you've ever considered buying a holiday home by the coast, it's interesting to know that living by the coast is associated with greater levels of wellbeing and physical activity for the whole family. Families often report that children are more willing to participate and engage in physical activity at the beach, better quality sleep than their urban counterparts and reduced stress. Living close enough to the coast, to actually see the ocean from your home is also associated with a multitude of health benefits:

"Increased views of blue space is significantly associated with lower levels of psychological distress. However, we did not find that with green space."

Professor Amber Pearson, of Michigan State University

If you don't live by the coast, then a family visit to the beach is still invaluable. The sea air contains something called negative ions. These ions can also be found in the mountains, by waterfalls and the beach. They are thought to increase levels of serotonin, which in turn elevates mood and relieves stress. If you can't make it to the beach, you can also get negative ions from high quality Himalayan salt lamps.

In addition, walking barefoot on the beach (something often referred to as "grounding"), has been scientifically proven to reduce stress. The mechanism behind the benefits of grounding are quite technical, but have something to the vast supply of electrons on the earth's surface, that we don't normally come into contact with.

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