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The Benefits of Outside Play For Depression

Posted by May Recreation Content Team on August 10, 2020

The normal routines kids enjoyed just a few months ago are almost nonexistent today. They often aren’t allowed to see their friends or go to each other's house to play. If they played sports or enjoyed being part of a group of any sort, that has likely ended. Everyone around them is distant and wearing a mask covering their faces. Only their closest family hug them as everyone on the outside is keeping their six foot distance.

This has led many kids to experience the very real effects of depression for the first time in their lives. It’s understandable. After all, we as humans are social beings, so denying that need would understandably lead to anxious or sad feelings. Thankfully, there are ways to help your child overcome the doldrums they are experiencing by embracing the great outdoors through play. 

Studies Prove it’s An Effective Way to Counteract Depression

There have been many studies that prove exposure to nature will reduce depression. According to psychologist Benjamin Miller, who is on the board of Mental Health Colorado, when we are outside and free of the constrictions of the indoors, “we are able to rest our minds and be present and focus on the moment.”

It Allows Your Child to Get The Sun They Need

For years, science has proven the effectiveness of light therapy in treating seasonal depression. The human body craves sunlight. The presence of sunlight triggers the release of specific hormones in the body, specifically serotonin. This hormone is closely linked to mood and feelings of wellbeing. Therefore, by encouraging your kids to play outside, you are in essence giving them light therapy and boosting their mood and spirit.

It Gets Them Moving

Another benefit of outside play when it comes to combating Smiling asian girl on a playground, horizontaldepression in your child is the fact that play by nature leads them to run around and exercise. Moving the body, which elevates the heart rate, has been proven to boost certain chemicals in the brain and to promote feelings of wellbeing.

It Allows Them to Use Their Imagination

Have you ever just watched your kid play for a bit? If you have, you would likely appreciate the immense scope and creativity of their imagination. They pretend they are in a racecar flying around a track, are a unicorn with a purple tail or they are superheroes rescuing a pet cat. This type of unplanned, unstructured play is healthy for kids. When you keep them inside, sitting in front of a screen, their own natural ability to entertain themselves through imaginative play takes a back seat.  

It's Safer

Experts have proven outdoors to be the safest environment presently, as we deal with an unprecedented virus. Therefore, if you want to allow your kids to see their friends in small groups, a playground or outdoor park is the best and safest location. While some parents are still not comfortable with this, if you allow any social interaction, outdoor spaces are best.

Bottom Line: Play is Good

Play has always been good for kids and now more than ever they need the release of a fun-filled day outdoors. Kids are understandably depressed and confused with all the changes thrust upon them. Why not get them outside to counteract these feelings of depression and discouragement? This is one way you can let your kid once again be a kid and simply enjoy being little by just embracing the simple joys of life once again.


Topics: Play & Fitness Childhood Unplugged Pediatric Health & Wellness

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