Children’s Mental Health and Nature
Today it’s more important than ever to take care of our own, and others, mental health. In young people especially, it’s vital to encourage and nurture mental health, so they can develop and grow emotionally.
According to data published by NHS Digital, 1 in 6 children or young adults suffer from a diagnosable mental health issue, with many more dealing with issues from bullying to bereavement and to neglect. There can be a variety of causes, but there are also solutions. To try and move forward and overcome these issues, we believe encouraging children and young people to leave their comfort zones and try new things is an important way to grow emotionally and improve their mental health.
At Bluestone we think a great way to do this is to get out into the natural world. Fresh air in your lungs, sun on your skin, a good splash in a puddle and enjoying everything else the natural world has to offer isn’t just a great way of getting exercise but is also of great benefit to your mental health and wellbeing. Here are some of the ways reconnecting to nature can improve mental health and encourage emotional growth.
One of the simplest ways to enjoy nature and its benefits is to get out for a walk. We’re lucky in Pembrokeshire to enjoy over 180 miles of coastal paths for our walks, but anywhere you can go where the air is fresh with some greenery surrounding you will be of great benefit. Studies have shown that a walk out in nature has a multitude of beneficial properties. Cognitive issues such as memory, emotional regulation, focus and attention are all proven to be improved by walking in nature and can reduce the chances of development of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in children. Positive effects on those suffering from mild to major depressive orders have also been observed, with not just noticeable uplifts in mood but also new motivation to recover.
If you’re lucky enough to live near the sea, making the most of the ocean waters in another proven way to improve mental health and wellbeing. A dip in the ocean releases endorphins which are our brains feelgood chemicals. Alongside this, it’s also been shown that a reduction in cortisol, which is a chemical that causes stress and anxiety, occurs whilst sea swimming. Finding and improving upon this chemical balance is crucial in improving mood and mental health. Swimming also changes the way we breathe. Swimming for an extended period of time alters the pattern and rhythm of your breathing, as you take deeper and longer breaths. Doing so has shown to leave people feeling relaxed and calmer after swimming, as taking in more oxygen and breathing steadily is known to reduce stress and anxiety.
Another key aspect of improving mental health is getting your daily dose of sunlight. Sunlight and darkness both invoke different chemical reactions in our brain. Being in sunlight releases serotonin, which boosts our mood and calms us down. Being in darkness on the other hand releases melatonin. This hormone’s purpose is to help us sleep, but an overabundance plus a lack of serotonin can cause drowsiness, fatigue and ultimately depression. This is also the cause for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) when people’s mental health suffers as we move from brighter seasons to darker ones
So, whilst it can be tempting for children and young people to spend a lot of time indoors, especially with today’s technology, it’s vitally important for children to get out into nature and enjoy and receive the benefits from the sun, sea, grass and green!