My wife and I have noticed something interesting recently, and it’s one of the more visible—and positive—side effects of the coronavirus lockdown we’ve observed.
There’s a nature park just outside our town that I’ve been visiting for virtually my entire life. It boasts nearly 700 acres of woods, meadows, creeks, ponds, and trails. I spent countless hours there as a child and teen hiking, biking, and enjoying cookouts with my family.
I introduced my wife to the park even before we were married (she was from out of town), and now that we’re parents, we’ve introduced our children to it as well. Hiking the trails and playing in the creek have become two of their favorite things to do.
I say all of that to say this: I’ve been going to this park long enough to have a pretty good idea of the types of folks that usually hang out there. Typically it’s groups of young men using the disc golf course that occupies a portion of the park, solitary hikers and dog walkers, and occasionally a group of horseback riders from the stables on the edge of the park. It’s rare to see a family together.
Since we’ve all been in the coronavirus lockdown, my wife and I have seen a marked increase in the number of families out together at this particular park. I recently took my three oldest kids on a hike along one of the trails and saw three or four other families along the way.
That never used to happen.
And the best part? They actually looked like they were enjoying themselves.
They weren’t grumbling, griping, and fussing. Parents and children were actually out together in the middle of a nature park on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and enjoying themselves.
That might seem like a small thing, but again, I’ve visited this park long enough and often enough to know that this isn’t normal. Maybe it should be, but it’s not.
But for now it is. And I’m glad to see it.
The coronavirus lockdown has been controversial. The longer it stretches on, I’m sure the more controversial it will become. And don’t get me wrong—there are some legitimate issues that need to be discussed and worked out. Whether right now is the proper time to open things up or not, one thing is certain: we can’t continue this way indefinitely.
But while it lasts, I’m glad to see that some families are making good use of the time. They’re together. They’re getting out of the house in healthy ways. They’re doing things they may have rarely done together in times past—if they’ve ever done them at all. They’re not just glued to their screens in separate rooms of their homes.
I’m looking forward to the end of this. I think we all are. But while it lasts, let me encourage you to use the opportunity to do positive things together. If you already have been, congratulations! If not, it’s not too late to start.
With the weather improving, it’s a perfect opportunity to enjoy nature together as a family. Take a hike and don’t worry if your kids get dirty. Let them play in a creek and get soaked if they want to. Throw rocks. Watch the current carry sticks downstream.
According to an article posted last year on the Psychology Today website, time spent in nature is linked to reduced heart rate, blood pressure, and stress cortisol, and “improves psychological well-being.”
Who among us wouldn’t benefit from reduced stress and improved well-being at a time like this? And if your kids or teens are feeling the stress of the moment, you’ll be doing them a favor as well to plan some family time out in nature. Two hours a week is great, but shorter amounts are still bound to do you good.
God gave us a beautiful world, and it’s an extra blessing that time spent in His creation can be therapeutic to our frayed nerves and stressed minds. Whether it’s something as simple as sitting on a park bench, or a more involved expedition to the woods, time spent in more natural environments can be a boon to your health, both physical and mental.
So grab your kids and head out. You’ll all feel better for it.
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