In the lead up to World Mental Health Day on 10th October I’ve asked Jenni Donato for her views on why nature and fresh air is good for the mental health of the whole family.
Jenni Donato Life and Family Coach and the founder of Chance Coaching
Motherhood can be tough and the 4 walls of the family home can sometimes feel like a prison. There are moody children to dress, food to prepare, cleaning and tidying to do and everyone else to keep happy. There is one way to put everything in perspective however, and that is simply to get out of the house.
Go anywhere, do anything, stand up straight, take a big breath in and smile at a stranger.
This is the single reason the UK has so many mother and baby/toddler clubs. Groups encourage us to get out of the house and do something ‘easy’; to meet people and realise you are not alone in your daily struggles. While simply getting out of the house is a start, the only thing better is to get out into nature and find new experiences – the local woods, a park, a bike ride, the beach – anywhere that has plants, wildlife and fresh air. Just make sure you take the people that you love to explore alongside you.
Why get outside in nature?
Getting out of the house in the fresh air leaves most people feeling calmer, happier and more energised. Remember those science lessons at school about plants taking in carbon dioxide and producing oxygen through photosynthesis? Well, what you may not know is they also filter out chemicals and toxins and
when we are surrounded by plants the air will revitalise our bodies, rejuvenate our senses and boost our energy.
Have you ever heard the saying “Just take a moment to stop and smell the roses?” You may think this is about stopping for a minute to enjoy the moment, rather than focussing on the next thing that has to be done with our heads down and the blinkers on. While this is a great piece of advice it also has another meaning. Science tells us the smell of flowers can actually promote relaxation. Scents like Jasmine and Lavender can lower anxiety and up your mood, while smells like pine trees and cut grass remind us of the colour green, which symbolizes growth, harmony, freshness, and fertility. Green also has strong emotional correspondence with safety.
What’s more, out in a neutral natural environment any tension and arguments between family members are often temporarily forgotten, as there are other things to focus on – birds in the air, activities to do, places to explore and fun to be had. Spending time out in nature, setting challenges and planning adventures can also strengthen family bonds and increase connections between parents and children or among siblings.
Giving kids freedom in a natural environment not only gives them valuable exercise, but can boost their confidence, give them new experiences and increase their problem solving skills.
As mothers, we often forget our own wellbeing and focus on the daily routine of home life, work, school drop off and other daily tasks. Rushing from one thing to the next with little quality time for ourselves or with our families. In my job as a Life and Family Coach, I often work with mothers who struggle with depression, stress and tiredness with the daily slog. But a simple shift in mental focus, along with a big slice of planning ahead, can mean scheduling either alone time or family time out in nature is not only possible but can become a valuable part of a families weekly routine.
Ever felt like the grass is greener? Well, in my experience – even if it isn’t – there is no harm in going to have a look, taking the ones you love and seeing what adventure awaits!
Jenni Donato is a Life and Family Coach and the founder of Chance Coaching.
Chance Coaching is a not-for-profit company providing Life and Family Coaching to mothers going through a range of different life challenges such as building confidence for returning to work, creating better daily routines to create more family time or fostering better relationships with those closest to them. The company profits are put back into the community by providing coaching for mothers with children with additional needs and/or disabilities within certain eligibility criteria.