Teens today are more stressed, anxious, and depressed than any other time. They are experiencing endless pressures and unrealistic expectations in addition to identity crisis, hormonal changes, mood swings, and stressors from the pandemic. Although spending time in nature has proven to have a positive impact on health and well-being, children spend only 4-7 minutes on free play outside as opposed to an average of 7.5 hours of screen time per day according to the National Recreation and Park Association. Helping teens practice self-care is one solution to this challenge.
What is self-care? Simply stated, it’s any activity that you initiate for the purpose of physical, mental, and emotional well-being. For some, it may mean eating healthy, exercising, or dancing. For others, it may be meditating, journaling, or sleeping. Self-care is important to minimize exhaustion, resentment, burnout, and many other negative consequences. Since humans are wired for relationships, self-care will help you to be fully present and better support the people you love. It is not a selfish act, but a necessity.
In honor of National Great Outdoors Month of June, let’s explore ways to cultivate self-care out in nature! Thanks to the pandemic, those who have not been outdoorsy in the past may have tried hiking a trail or at least hung out in their backyard within the past 15 months. When life felt uncertain, trailheads and campgrounds offered comfort, safety, and a sense of normalcy for many. It’s no wonder that most campgrounds in California are completely booked until winter!
Below are some ideas for self-care in the great outdoors with and for teens.
If you are not exactly a nature lover:
- Take a dog for a walk
- Bike around the neighborhood
- Do yoga outside
- Read a book/magazine at a park
- Take photos of flowers
- Paint your nails outside
- FaceTime your friend in the backyard
- Nap in a hammock under the trees
- Listen to nature sounds or look at nature photos
If you are an outdoor enthusiast:
- Hike a new trail every week
- Walk barefoot on grass/sand/mud
- Swim in a pool/lake/beach
- Watch the sunrise or the sunset
- Find a new beach/lake/river to go fishing
- Visit a new national or state park
- Camp off-the-grid (especially since campsites are hard to come by)
- Go off-roading in an ATV/UTV/dune buggy
- Go stargazing in the desert
Most activities don’t require a lot of planning. However, you may want to involve your teen in the decision making process to increase desire and commitment. You can also encourage them to invite their friends. Whatever it may be, your mental health will thank you after immersing yourself in nature even if it’s only for 15 minutes. Please be intentional and schedule time to be outdoors every day. Be sure to put on sunscreen and stay hydrated. Think about your favorite activity and take it to the great outdoors!