It was 81 degrees and 60% humidity and only 8 a.m. The day wasn’t going to get any more pleasant. Sweat refused to evaporate. Instead, a glisten formed over my son’s brow. Yet, here we were, determined to be outside. Gaining for ourselves that hour of sunshine, dirt, woodchips, faint breezes, and sounds of geese. We walked as slowly as a two-year-old sometimes can. Each ten feet purchased only after each stone had been examined.
At the end of a hike that was barely a mile, we were sweaty and dirty, happy and content. My son had played with his friend of the day. I’d talked with someone who was older than three. One hiker, whose kiddo was recovering from the flu, said it was her first adult conversation in four days. Another said that even though it was shorter and slower than she planned, she felt so much better.
This is why I hike; not just for the miles. Rather, I seek that tenuous connection that we create, a connection that combats the occasional isolation of parenting.
As part of Hike it Baby we talk a lot about how good it is for our children to get outside. Let’s take our own advice for ourselves. Getting outside and being social is good, not just for our little ones, but for ourselves, our sanity and our relationships with our children. If children’s stress responses decrease after only a few minutes in nature, wouldn’t you expect the same outcome on your brain? I know I can benefit from stress reduction. I know that I am a kinder me after fresh air, adult conversation and some slow walks.
Studies have shown over and over that being outside is good for us. It reduces stress, lowers heart rate, increases concentration and increases both productivity and creativity. Creating habits for ourselves and our children that encourage time spent outside, in nature, can do us nothing but good – both mentally and physically.
Lastly, did you know that spending time outside has boosted the brain’s centers for empathy, love, and emotional stability? Going on a hike is good for your relationships as well as your mental health. That’s pretty awesome.