“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein
Summer is here. Lush green days lie ahead, simple pleasures, wildflowers, picnics, a walk in the park. Are these the things that make us happy? Yes. According to a growing body of scientific research, nature makes us happy.
Our brains and bodies are hardwired for the great outdoors. Nature strengthens the immune system, lifts depression, increases anti-cancer white blood cells, and contributes to better mental health. Connection with nature is a crucial part of healthy childhood development. It enhances creativity, confidence, social skills, physical competence and problem-solving.
In short, being in nature makes us happier, healthier and smarter. What’s not to like? In our over-booked, often stressed lives, we all know how good it feels to step outside and take a deep breath. Yet most of us rarely find the time to get out in nature. But it’s not as hard as we might think. Whether you live in an urban setting, the suburbs or a rural area, summer is the perfect time for your family to go green.
Seven Tips for a Happy Summer
- Get outdoors. Whether you have an hour or 15 minutes, connect to nature wherever you are. Go for a walk around the block. Take a green lunch break. Look at the trees, listen to the birds, smell the flowers. You don’t have to trek to the High Sierras to get your nature fix. Beauty is everywhere.
- Skip the gym and take a forest bath. The Japanese call walking in deep nature “forest bathing” because of the health benefits. Microbes and bacteria found in forests strengthen the immune system, lower stress, and act as anti-depressants. People who go for walks in nature have higher energy levels than those who do the same amount of exercise on an indoor treadmill.
- Go to a park or botanical gardens. Take a picnic and a blanket. Stretch out. Spend quality family time lying back and watching the clouds go by.
- Hang out near water. Go to the beach, a pool, fountains, streams, rivers, lakes. Ever wonder why it feels so good to be near water? Water gives off negative ions that increase oxygen and blood flow to the brain, enhancing our sense of well-being.
- Make your own garden of delights. Add a bird bath or bird feeders to your garden so your children can observe wildlife close-up. Plant some flowers, or a simple veggie or herb garden. Children who have positive interactions with nature tend to grow up to be more environmentally conscious.
- Get a pair of kiddie binoculars. My children’s favorite toy both indoors and out. Great for bird watching, bug watching, examining distant peaks or staring into your sister’s ear on a long drive. It makes things fun wherever we go.
- Camp in your own backyard. Don’t forget to bring marshmallows, flashlights, and your favorite ghost story. You don’t even have to know what you’re doing. You can still have fun—maybe more. Everyone feels a sense of accomplishment putting up the tent, even if it does fall down in the middle of the night.