It’s not just canine companions that encourage getting outside; most of us in the Unconditional Education family spend a lot of time with children at work. And children and youth tend to be experts at getting outside -- (and are cute too!). I guess what I’m getting at is that going outside is almost always an option and this can enhance our lives significantly. It's easy to get caught up in the stress of our responsibilities, tethered to screens and collapsing on the couch after work. Looking at the natural instincts of children to run and play is a gentle reminder that we, too, can be profoundly impacted by just getting out there and taking a walk.
Nourishing the Body and Mind: Embracing Active Play and Wonder: Children are naturally inclined to move their bodies and engage in active play. We even offer students “energy releases” to help them eventually focus better in the classroom. Spontaneous outdoor activities not only promote physical health but can also foster a sense of joy and tap into our inner freedom. As adults, we can take inspiration from children's playfulness and incorporate more imagination and movement into our outdoor experiences.
Likewise walking my puppies has forced me to get up earlier, splash in puddles, appreciate the thrill of finding the perfect chew-stick, and even notice more squirrels perching in the trees. We all know that exercise boosts mood and improves physical health. Add in the playfulness of seeing the world through the eyes of a child or pet, and suddenly we’ve got the potential for an energetic shift towards wonder. Sometimes I really don’t feel like going on a walk, but I ALWAYS feel better afterwards: more physically grounded, not to mention proud of the steps I’m adding to my exercise goals.
Cultivating Connection: Building Bonds Through Shared Experiences: Children routinely demonstrate how outdoor activities provide endless opportunities for social interaction and community building. Walk through an elementary school playground at recess and you’ll see children chasing each other, playing together and huddling to talk in little groups. Sometimes the play escalates and there’s drama, of course, but there’s no denying the buzz of community on a playground during the school day. It is a key part of a child’s day and where relationships often grow and are strengthened.
Now that I’m walking my dogs' multiple times a day, I’ve come to know my neighbors in an entirely new way. The morning crew at my nearby coffee shop now knows my coffee order and has it ready before I even get inside (it’s a small coffee, pretty easy one to remember but still-I feel seen and connected!). I hear about things that are going on in our community from the folks who are closely involved, and I notice when things change over time. I am more present in my own neighborhood, and this feels invaluable. I have my puppies to thank for this, 100%.
The Science Supports Getting Outside: I’ve written this as an opinion piece, but there’s science behind it. This Cultivating Health article from UC Davis clearly outlines the physical and mental health benefits of getting outside. I highly recommend it if you’d like some simple ideas and inspiration for your own journey into the outdoors. And as promised, please enjoy this photo of our furry friends Atticus (GusGus) and Penelope (Lopey).