For me, this year will mainly revolve around lots of family adventures and focusing on those opportunities closer to home to get outside. While I do have some bigger adventures in the pipeline, I know that making the most of the everyday moments of exploration is important too.
Supporting the next generation to GetOutside
Did you know that for the first time, lifestyles today could mean that our children have a lower life expectancy than us? It can be tough as a parent/step-parent/guardian hearing the shocking statistics in the media highlighting the rising levels of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and mental health amongst children. Whilst we can’t solve all of that overnight, it’s been shown that a youngster’s physical and mental wellbeing is directly related to the amount of time they spend outside.
Being in a relationship with someone who has a daughter, I spend a fair amount of time as an inadvertent role model and trying to support E in becoming a happy, active, young woman. I’d love to give her as many chances as possible to get outside and experience a wide range of outdoor activities. I often feel like we’re battling against an ever-increasing list of digital distractions though! Phones with social media apps, endless YouTube videos, TV programmes, games consoles… It can be hard to pry them away and inevitably you’re the annoying, boring one for putting a stop to their fun!
We are lucky in that E does enjoy camping, family bike rides, dog walks and outdoor adventures at the moment (wait for the teenage years!) so we’re going to make the most of that. I loved that we all took part in the MK Rocket 5k together last weekend, and I hope we can somehow maintain and encourage that interest going forward – the benefits of getting outside are endless. We smile more, create amazing memories with friends and family and improve our physical and mental wellbeing, as much a bonus for us as for E!
GetOutside to look after our mental health
James and I both have pretty busy lives – as many other people do – but at times it can feel like it’s just one thing after another! This leads to a sense of overwhelm looking at the sea of deadlines, never-ending to-do lists, and bigger life pressures. It can be hard for both of us to talk about our worries, so I feel lucky that we have each other to open up to, but particularly for men, it can be more common to try and hide their struggles with mental health. Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK, and even James will pretend that he’s fine when I can tell he’s got something on his mind.
One of the things that always helps, if only for a short while, is making sure we both take time to get outside. Did you know that nature sounds alone are associated with an increase in parasympathetic response – the one that helps the body to relax? Even for those not diagnosed with mental health issues, taking the time to get outside is key for our wellbeing. Time outdoors has also been proven to lower blood pressure, reduce levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), give us vital Vitamin D and boost our immune system.
I’ve noticed that once pushed to get out the door and go for a walk (or a run or a bike ride) my mind clears. I can then either focus on the problems which require attention rather than trivial worries, or just put everything out of my mind for a while and return with an increased focus and energy. Often the stresses that James and I face are things we’re both going through so it can help to share the load, and a ‘walk and talk’ never fails to lift the spirits and make problems seem less impossible to solve!
How do you think we should encourage the next generation to get outside? Do you find time outdoors helps with your stress levels?