Are your kids struggling? If so, they are certainly not alone.
Even before the pandemic, kids and teens were experiencing higher rates of stress, anxiety, and depression than in prior generations. Many are super stressed in this 24/7 pressure-cooker culture.
From too much screen time, to navigating social media, to obsessing over grades and extracurricular activity overload, kids face a number of challenges that can trigger emotional issues. Then add Covid-19, racial tensions, and shootings, and our kids are constantly on edge as their sense of safety and security is challenged on a daily basis.
We know that all these stressors are taking a toll on our children. In fact, child and adolescent mental health disorders are the most common illnesses that children will experience under the age of eighteen. Each year one in five American children ages three through seventeen (over fifteen million children) are diagnosed with a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over 17 million young people in the US will have a mental health disorder by age 18. That’s more than the number with AIDS, asthma, diabetes, and cancer combined, Child Mind Institute notes.
And, of course, this continues to get worse with Covid. According to a recent study by Child Mind Institute, more than two-thirds of parents who sought help since the start of the pandemic said they had witnessed a decline in their child’s emotional well-being (72%), behavior (68%), and physical health due to decreased activities and exercise (68%). Anxiety (40%) and depression (37%) are the most common mental health challenges leading parents to seeking help for their child.
How Nature Can Help
Have you ever gone on a walk just to clear your mind or taken a “mental health day” from your job to visit the beach, woods, or local park? Or maybe you enjoyed closing your eyes and listening to a recording of ocean waves or birds chirping?
Spending time connecting to nature is a safe, effective tool to help minimize the effects of stress and to boost mood. Tons of scientific research over the past few decades show the importance of nature in improving our health and happiness. These studies cover a wide range of topics that we also cover here: green exercise, gardening, nature-related mindfulness and meditation, volunteering outdoors, nature art, contact with animals, and more.
Nature is one piece of the puzzle. There are a number of ways to address stress and anxiety in children including therapy, medication, and natural remedies. If your child is suffering from a serious anxiety or depression disorder, I recommend that you seek help from a trained medical professional. While nature can have a profound positive effect on our mood and stress level, it is not a substitute for professional guidance and medication if needed.
On the other hand, nature can help manage stress before it gets too serious. It can also be very effective in addition to therapy and other approaches to ease mental health challenges. Indeed, nature is a powerful tool to keep in our toolbox.
A New Project
After experiencing how nature helps me better manage my stress and anxiety, I decided I wanted to share this special tool with others. I especially want children to have nature tools in mind when they are feeling anxious or down.
Nearly six years ago, I launched my blog Happy Science Mom to help parents raise happy, balanced children by using a science-backed toolkit based on positive psychology. During those years, I researched and wrote extensively about broad topics like mindfulness, kindness, and gratitude.
But I kept coming back to my roots–a strong passion for the environment. Now, I am focusing on many of those same positive psychology tools through a nature lens. Hence, the Ecohappiness Project is born!
What is ecohappiness? It is about connecting to nature to feel happier and calmer. On a deeper level, it involves realizing how important nature is to our well-being so we do what we can to protect it.
This transition is so exciting, and I am thrilled to share it all with you! I have a new logo, and some really cool gear to showcase it.
Check out my new 100% certified organic cotton Ecohappiness Project t-shirt gifted to me by Rush Order Tees. This is a wonderful way to spread the critical message of how nature can help children’s mental health. I hope you’ll join me by sharing the valuable information you find here with your friends and joining in the conversation in my special Facebook group Stress Relief with Nature.
You can also start building your nature habit right now by taking the Ecohappiness Challenge.