Maybe you don’t consider yourself an outdoorsy person. Maybe you have a kid who isn’t into nature. I totally get that. The truth is that nature can be uncomfortable. It’s often:

  • Too bright. 
  • Too hot.
  • Too cold. 
  • Too windy. 
  • Too loud.

But we are all nature people, in fact—we need to spend time outdoors for our health and wellbeing. If you don’t think you are an outdoors person, let’s talk about why. And how we can start to shift that perspective and get outside of our comfort zones. For our own good and the good of our families. 

Maybe you don't consider yourself to be an outdoorsy person. Maybe you have a kid who isn't into nature and is hard to get outside. I totally get that. The truth is that nature can be uncomfortable. It's often too bright, too hot, too cold, too windy, too loud, too buggy. But we are all nature people, whether we know it or not. In fact, we need to spend time outdoors for our health and wellbeing. If you aren't an outdoors person, let's talk about why and how we can start to shift that perspective and get outside of our comfort zones for our own good and the good of our families.

Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of Simple Families. Simple Families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler and more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my PhD in child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us. The sponsor for today is Recess. I had a friend introduced me to Recess last summer. She said to, now you have to try this drink. You're going to love it. And lo and behold, I do. So I reached out to them

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All right, let's talk about getting outside. It is a winter here in New York. It's cold and it's snowy, rainy and icy. Not the easiest time to get outside, not the most comfortable time to get outside. It can feel really easy to classify our kids and even ourselves as either outdoorsy or not outdoorsy. But the truth is we are all nature. People in fact, humans were born to be outside. It was just over the past hundreds of years that we've moved to be more and more indoor creatures, especially in recent. And we are now indoors teachers that dare I say are kind of spoiled. Especially here in the us. We are spoiled by modern amenities like heat and air conditioning. It's easy to avoid getting uncomfortable. It's easy to avoid the discomfort that nature brings. Many of us move from the air conditioning and heat of our house, right to our car.

It's really only in recent decades that we as humans have become accustomed to this constant sensory moderation. And when I say sensory moderation, that means when we're inside, we get to avoid feeling a lot of things. We get to avoid overheating, sweating, getting cold and shivering. We get to avoid bugs and itching, rain, and wetness, sun and squinting, and the brightness. I think it's safe to say that staying inside is comfortable, physically comfortable for us and getting outside can be uncomfortable, especially for not used to it. I know that air conditioning in and of itself can be addicting. I didn't grow up with air conditioning, but in my adult life, pretty much since I graduated from college, I've always had air conditioning and it's very hard to imagine living without it. We had two AU pairs from Europe, one from Poland and one from Germany come to live with us for a year.

And neither of them were using to air conditioning at all, but they adapted quickly and returning home to the unmoderated heat likely was an adjustment period for them. I remember 10 years ago, actually 10 years ago in January, I traveled to China and we were in the North and then the South, and it was cold at this time. Um, I was living in Chicago, so I was used to the cold and I had a very warm down jacket that went all the way down to my knee. And Northern China was fine, but in Southern China or the South half of China, there is no central heat. That means being in Shanghai in January, I was wearing my down jacket all day long in restaurants and shopping malls in hotel lobbies, it was freezing and hard to imagine for me being an American and used to my air conditioning and my heat.

It was hard for me to imagine that millions of people across this very modern city, Shanghai we're cold all winter long. So because so many of us don't have these issues and challenges, we can start to be adverse to feeling all the feels that nature brings in the past several years, years, there has been growing awareness about sensory processing disorder and sensory challenges. And I'm not going to proclaim that our lack of getting outside and lack of sensory stimulation in nature is the reason that sensory processing disorder is growing. I don't think anyone knows the reason that sensory processing disorder has been growing, or if in fact, we're just recognizing it more or often, but I also don't think we can rule out that this movement towards being indoor creatures may in fact play a part of it. Not only are our senses, under-stimulated when we're inside, but we also move differently indoors versus outdoors.

Our brains and bodies need this variety of sensory stimulation and movement that we really can only get outside. I see all these fancy Pinterest where the sensory bins that many parents take the time and energy to make. And what are sensory bins, other than a type of recreation of the different senses that we can get naturally outside, like digging in the mud, picking up rocks, feeling cold, feeling hot when our kids, and when we move outside, we move differently. Having a large open space. Kids can run until they're breathless. They can get a side cramp. I have seen many, many children think that they're dying when they get a cramp, because it's scary. It's a sensation. They've never felt before, along with getting sweaty gasping for breath from overexertion. If we don't get outside, we don't experience these things nearly as much, and they can seem scary as a result.

Now, if this sounds like your kid, that's okay. It's never too late to get started. You can start with baby steps. Even if you have a kid that is very avoidant to getting outside. Even if you have a kid with sensory processing disorder, you can start very, very small with very short amounts of time. If you have a kid who's sensory sensitive, I certainly wouldn't take them out in a hail storm. For me, spending time outdoors with my family is a big part of building grit and resilience. Because when we go outside, we do hard things. Or a couple years ago, my husband did a day day and we did this really hard hike. We hiked up a mountain and saw the view at the top. And I said to myself, Oh, this is way too hard for the kids. I'm glad we didn't bring the kids here.

And the next year I was like, you know what? Let's try it. Let's bring them. And we did. And it was amazing. They did so well. I mean, we definitely brought donuts and gave them donuts at the top, but we've since done that hike three or four times, the journey can feel hard. But when you get to the top, you have a sense of accomplishment that you take with you in everything that you do. You know, when that math assignment gets hard, you remember you climbed a mountain, you can do hard things. And when you do hard things, it feels good. Persevering feels good. So, yeah, I do think there are many opportunities to build grit and resilience and mental and physical strength through outdoor play and getting outside together. Not only is it good for our wellbeing and the wellbeing of our kids and our families and our relationships, but when we raise kids to love and appreciate and respect nature, they are going to be more likely to take care of it. They are going to be more likely to protect the earth for the next generation that comes after them. And in order for them to connect and build this relationship with the outdoors, we have to make sure that they're spending time out there.

I've talked about this topic in two other episodes on the podcast. I did an episode on hiking with kids and how it's not always easy, but it's always worth it. And episode 168. So if you go to simplefamilies.com/episode168, and I also did an interview with Linda amikacin, McGuirk the author of no such thing as bad weather. That's simplefamilies.com/episode90 definitely tune into those two. Getting started is often half the battle or maybe 90% of the battle understand that there will be whining. You will probably be whining internally in your head, but since your kids have less of a filter, their whines are probably going to be audible. Don't give up because of whining. You remember baby steps start small. You don't have to go into the woods. Just taking a walk in the city is also beneficial.

Now I know that many people across the world are still under lockdown and they're not allowed outside for more than an hour a day. I don't know the research on this. I'll be completely honest, but my gut tells me that short term nature deprivation is unlikely to have a long-term impact on our mental health and on our brain development, but it can absolutely have a short-term effect on how you feel right now. You might feel really antsy. You might feel really caged up if you can't get outside. But if your circumstances right now are that you can't get outside and you can't get your kids outside, drop the guilt, you are doing the best that you can in your current situation. You're going to be okay. Your kids are going to be okay. It's never too late to start and we should get our kids outside as often as possible.

But if you have a newborn or you have chronic illness, or you have some other factor that makes this extra hard right now, please give yourself grace when the time is right. You can absolutely pursue more outdoor time for your family. Little by little, I hope you've enjoyed this episode and you feel newly renewed and inspired to get outside with your family. I'm going to give you a heads up that we are going to be starting a new round of the mental unload on February 11th. So if you've been waiting for that, enrollment will open February 3rd, send me an email. If you have questions or comments. And if this episode spoke to you, take a screenshot of yourself, listening to it and post it up to your Instagram stories. Make sure you tag me because I'd love to hear from you all there. Thanks again, and have a good one.

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.