Going Against the Culture For The Greater Good
I don't know about you but life pulls me in a million directions. Driving kids to games, planning meals, blogging, checking email, trying to keep a healthy lifestyle, laundry, helping with youth group, a never-ending to-do list .....it is chaotic and noisy. Sometimes the noise is literal (picture 3 teenagers living under one roof ;-)) and sometimes it is just the chatter in my head thinking about so many things at once. Most of these activities are good things but they don't always refresh me, restore me or recharge me. I find that the best antidote for the noise is to remove myself from the crazy and go to a quiet place in nature. For you, maybe it is going to the water or maybe it is the woods that invites the calm. For me, the woods are particularly therapeutic. As I get into the woods, I can almost physically feel the release. There is that freeing moment when I can no longer even hear the buzz of cars on the nearby road - a relaxation washes over me. My brain slows down and I can focus on the important. When I try to take a break at home, it usually goes like this: I sit down on the couch to read or knit I remember there are a few dishes on the sink that need washing so I hop up to wash those, thinking I can relax once that is done. Then, I realize I better empty the dishwasher and "Oh yeah" I have to do laundry so my daughter can have a clean shirt for the game that afternoon...Hmmm, I better get something out for dinner........You get my drift.
I never quite get free from the tyranny of the seemingly urgent. But when I go to the woods, I am able to fully detach. Fully de-stress. Fully let go any expectations. And usually what happens is that instead of being "wasted" time, it restores me to a much more productive state in the long run. I come up with solutions to problems I am facing and come to a better understanding of where I am personally and how I want to grow. I become filled with gratitude, rather than worry. Nature provides so many opportunities for attitude-shift - for restoration and inspiration .
As a mother, I know I need this time for myself and I know that I want that for my kids, as well. Today's kids face increasing pressures to be successful and be well-educated and well-rounded, while often what they need most to thrive is time to slow down and just be kids. Often when they need a break they reach for electronics games or the television to fill the silence. While that can be a break from some daily tasks, it does not free their brains for creativity and depth of thinking. Nicolas Carr, author of The Shallows, explains how neuroscience supports the findings that frequent technology use lowers our brain's capacity for contemplative thought. I personally want to be a critical thinker and I want that for my children. As I shared in an
What barriers keep us from being quiet?
What would I do in the quiet? Isn't that boring? I need to get things done. These are some of the thoughts that I'm sure crossed your mind when I mentioned that we need silence in our lives. Unconsciously, you may not want to be quiet with yourself. Often it is scary to be alone with our thoughts. John Ortberg puts it this way, "The truth is, as much as we complain about it, we are drawn to hurry. It makes us feel important...It means we don't have to look too closely at the heart or life." Even turning on the radio in the car the minute we get in is a way of "making sure something is happening around us," according to Dallas Willard. On the contrary, experiencing nature has been shown to be calming and reduce anxiety. It allows us to gain perspective and find our own identity away from others.
2. Addiction to Technology
Addiction is a strong word - I don't take it lightly but I think it is something we all need to consider. Can we walk away from our phones, tablets or computers for a time without a feeling of withdrawal? The existence of smart phones is a blessing and a curse. How great is it that we can have our kids text us when they arrive safely at their destination but how easy it is to get sucked in to checking email Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram at the expense of other activities and relationships. I know I am guilty of that! For our kids, electronics are a quick fix for boredom. By limiting the use of technology, we are encouraging thought and creativity. While there may be audible silence while scanning screens , there is no mental silence.
3. Being "Too Busy"
"I don't have time for that." That's our gut response. Our days are filled with activities and responsibilities. Our calendars are booked. How could we ever find time for silence? I challenge you to make time. To schedule it. Just like any other important activity. Times of quiet need to be put on the calendar or they definitely won't happen. Get up before your kids wake up. Take a walk at lunch or perhaps just sit on your deck to look at the moon. Right now, the autumn splendor is a perfect excuse to get outside. You won't be disappointed. Have you ever noticed that you come up with great ideas in the shower? or when you are running or taking a walk? Studies show that by giving our mind a break from a challenging problem, it allows our unconscious mind to process it more effectively. We make better decisions when we take a break (read more in The Shallows). Also, studies show that multitasking is overrated. When we do too many things at once, we just end up doing a lot of things poorly! So, by taking a break you are actually becoming a better thinker!
Take down the barriers
Hopefully, I have debunked some of the excuses that keep us from seeking quiet in our lives. I love the fact that as I have experienced this personally, I have found research to support the benefits of unplugging and taking time to be quiet. Finding quiet takes discipline and planning. Start this week to introduce quiet into your life. Sometimes a few simple changes can be the beginning of healthier patterns.
Find a place that works for you. As you make it a priority, you will be setting an example for your kids and opening yourself up to restoration. Bathing ourselves in times of quiet, especially in nature, nurtures every aspect of our lives - cognitive, spiritual, mental and physical. Turn off the noise, grow as a person. Get some quiet for the greater good.
Challenge: Take 15 minutes/ day to enjoy some quiet time. No phone. No radio.
This post is very personal to me. I have lived it. I have seen the difference a walk in the woods can make. If you have a child diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or know someones who does, you should read on. The National Institute of Mental Health provides a good description of symptoms and behaviors of ADHD. Supportive evidence of the benefits of exposure to nature is not only personal, but scientifically evidence-based.
As both a parent and a professional Occupational Therapist, I can attest to the fact that children with ADHD can be challenging to parent. Traditional behavioral methods often don't work as quickly as we would like. School is a challenge, Homework is a challenge. Social situations can be a challenge. Let's face it - it can be exhausting as parents. But, I have an opportunity for both you and your child to have fun, grow as individuals and reap benefits immediately and into the future.......Take your child for a walk in the woods!
Here is what it can do for both you and your child:
You can see from this chart that exercise during school and before homework is an important consideration.
In addition to the benefits to the brain, physical activity in the woods is important for the sensory system to develop and grow. Often children with ADHD have sensory processing challenges, as well. As a child climbs trees, jumps over rocks, swings from vines and squats down low,etc., important input is being given to the vestibular (spatial awareness) and proprioceptive (body positioning and movement) systems. (For more information about sensory processing checkout The Inspired Treehouse and especially their great new resource, Sensory Processing 101.) These are essential skills needed for balance, movement and core strength- all of which impact classroom performance.
Autumn is a great time to get out and enjoy the woods. There is so much to see, smell, feel and experience among the trees. I encourage you to find some woods near you and take your child on a walk and see what a difference it can make for both you and your child. I recommend that you to do it one-on-one with your child but you can bring the rest of the family, too. I know you won't be disappointed!
enjoy the benefits of a walk in the woods!
Hi! I'm Ann - mother of seven, grandmother of two and occupational therapist. My mission is to provide the support families need to raise thriving children and to help you build a family environment that supports healthy development and a pathway to success.
Great blogs to check out:
Rain or Shine Mamma
Children & Nature Network
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