By Kristen Cowles, L.I.C.S.W., Behavioral Health Clinician
Since I was a little girl I was taught when upset, sad or just not feeling well to go outside. In the winter we were told to bundle up in all our winter gear and play in the snow or take the dog for a walk. In the summer I was lucky enough to grow up in Rhode Island so we often went to the beach. My favorite childhood memories are of my meme and pepe picking up my family in their camper and driving to Narragansett Beach where we would eat chowder and clam cakes, walk the beach and swim. My meme had a hobby of collecting shells so we would walk great stretches of beach barefoot looking for shells of unique colors, shapes and sizes. I loved doing this. As an adult when I reminisce about these days I feel peace and calm. I can smell the ocean air, hear the waves, see miles of ocean and feel the love of my meme holding my hand.
As a mom I have tried to pass this “beach healing” on to my own children. When my son Andrew made the B team not the A team for summer baseball and he felt like the world had ended we went to the beach. He spent the day boogie boarding, making sand sculptures, and swimming and by the end of the day things were better.
For those who are “outdoorsy” people the therapeutic properties of nature are no surprise. Today there is growing research on how spending time in nature is beneficial to one’s overall health. John Muir knew this long ago. He battled depression in his life and when feeling down he found the best medicine was going to the National Parks and spending time hiking and being in the wilderness.
Anne Frank wrote,”the best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God.”
Often when practicing calming visualization techniques with children in a therapy session the place they choose for peace, comfort and joy is outside. A mountain, a playground, a garden, a beach are all common choices. Children can easily describe the details of the scene– how it smells, what it feels like, the sounds they hear and how it makes them feel.
In the summer children come in and talk about their fun adventures camping, hiking, and vacationing and you can see the excitement and joy in their faces. Their love for their outdoor adventures and all they have learned through their experiences is evident in their stories and reactions. Their time outside is one of fun, play, learning, nurturing and is healthy to their growth. So my advice to all is to go outside! Enjoy this beautiful summer weather and have fun outside biking, kayaking, running, walking or anyway you desire in this beautiful place we call home!