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Parents may think of stress as being an adult concern, yet statistics obtained from the American Psychological Association show that stress affects children as well. Around one-fifth of children say they worry a lot about issues such as doing well in school, getting into good colleges and their family’s finances. It is therefore vital for children to learn stress-busting techniques from the time they are young. Spending time at an outdoor camp can help kids hone a skill they can use to calm themselves down naturally: mindfulness.
Mindfulness is often associated with meditation yet there are many other ways to achieve it. Mindfulness simply involves trying to keep the mind ‘in the present moment’. Sometimes, children can try to fight against tough emotions like fear or worry, yet doing so only results in further anxiety. Mindfulness invites them to accept difficult thoughts and emotions while realizing that everything is impermanent, and the worries they have now will no longer be relevant another day. Mindfulness can be experienced in many ways: through cognitive behavioral therapy, controlled breathing, and yoga. For kids though, a great introduction to mindfulness is time spent in nature.
Kids carry out a host of fun activities while at camp but one activity that will give them a taste of mindfulness is ‘forest bathing’. This practice is all the rage in Japan, where it is called ‘shinrin yoku’. It is as simple as walking through a lush forest or green area and trying to open as many senses as possible to the beauty of the surroundings. Thus, kids can be encouraged to listen to the sound of leaves rustling beneath their feet, or to touch the bark of a tree. They can open their minds to the sounds of birds and insects, and simply sit and enjoy looking at ancient trees and starry skies. In this state, it is easy to experience greater mental clarity and to put worries and stresses into perspective.
If you ever doubted the extent to which nature can help reduce stress, research into recent studies that prove its power. Field studies carried out at the Human Environment Research Lab have found that time spends outdoors connects human beings to each other and the world at large. It enables kids to talk to others. Other studies have shown that it promotes a more positive mood, as well as psychological wellbeing, meaningfulness, and vitality. Nature reduces the heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension, but it also significantly reduces levels of stress.
If your child is stressed because of school or sporting expectations, nature can be a godsend in terms of helping them see their problems in greater perspective. Nature lowers stress, increases our attention span, and helps us communicate with friends. It is an excellent setting to perform outdoor beginners’ yoga, to breathe, or simply to take in the majesty of Mother Nature.