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With the summer holidays in full swing, many parents will be encouraging their children to get outside and play. Getting active outdoors has obvious benefits for physical health, but how can the mental health of the nation’s youth be improved by time in nature?

 

Time in the sun

Vitamin D from sunshine is associated with decreasing depression and hyperactivity in children*. The lack of Vitamin D available in winter is thought to contribute to Seasonal Affective Disorder, which affects up to 3% of the UK population. Sunlight also stimulates the brain to produce serotonin, known as the happy chemical. Higher levels of serotonin are linked to better sleep and improved memory**.

 

Access to fresh air

Air outdoors commonly contains more oxygen than the stale air inside. Since 20% of the oxygen that is breathed in is used for brain function, taking in fresh air ensures that we function at our best***. Children can experience better focus and concentration while breathing in outdoor air.

 

Being away from screens

Despite concerns from the World Health Organisation, children in the UK spend an average of 6.3 hours watching screens****. Screen time is a contributing factor in a variety of problems for children, such as obesity, attention problems, sleep disorders, and issues at school. Outdoor play can also promote creativity and independence.

 

Parents can encourage outdoor play by providing basic equipment, such as skipping ropes, balls or chalk. You can go to https://www.gov.uk/find-your-local-park to find a safe green space in your area. Gardening is also a great activity to get children outside and engaging with nature.

Time outside can be brilliant for children’s mental health but if your child requires more support, our professionals at The Eaves work with those aged 6 and up. Our qualified therapists see young children, teenagers, adults, families, and couples – from Monday to Saturday between 9 am and 9 pm. Please call 01483 917000 to speak to a member of the referrals team. You can also send us an enquiry via our website. Click here to find out more.

 

References

* https://www.kumon.co.uk/blog/why-fresh-air-is-important-for-children/

** https://roof-maker.co.uk/inspiration/blog/health-benefits-of-natural-light-and-fresh-air-for-children/

*** https://physiofalmouthplus.co.uk/health-benefits-fresh-air/

**** https://www.nhsggc.org.uk/about-us/professional-support-sites/screen-time/#