Kids and the Healing Power of Nature

What if a walk in a green environment could rewire brains, calm anxiety, and stave off mental health problems? I don’t have to tell you that mental health concerns among children is at an all time high. From academic stress to social pressures and familial issues, the weight of these challenges can be overwhelming. Additionally, the prevalence of screen time and sedentary lifestyles has led to a disconnection from the natural world, creating feelings of anxiety, depression, and attention difficulties among children.

Evidence for the health benefits of exposure to green spaces, like parks, open spaces, gardens, outdoor gyms, and woodland trails, has been growing. Research indicates that as little as 20 minutes of nature per day can reduce stress, alleviate symptoms of ADHD, boost mood, and improve cognitive function in children.

As elementary school counselors, it is important to provide holistic support for  students’ emotional and mental well-being. While traditional therapeutic methods are valuable, integrating outdoor activities into our counseling sessions can offer profound benefits. Nature has a remarkable ability to heal, rejuvenate, and provide solace, making it a powerful tool for supporting children’s mental health.

Bringing children into natural environments can serve as a therapeutic intervention, offering a range of benefits for their emotional and psychological well-being. By engaging in outdoor activities, children can develop a sense of calm, self-awareness, and resilience.

Here are some specific therapeutic outdoor activities that you can incorporate into your lessons or therapy sessions:

  1. Mindful Nature Walks: Encourage children to observe their surroundings mindfully, focusing on the sights, sounds, and sensations of nature.
  2. Nature Art Therapy: Provide art materials and encourage children to express their emotions through nature-inspired art creations, such as leaf rubbings, rock paintings, or mandalas made from natural materials.
  3. Garden Therapy: Create a school garden where children can engage in gardening activities, nurturing plants and experiencing the satisfaction of watching them grow.
  4. Animal-Assisted Therapy: Incorporate interactions with therapy animals, such as dogs in outdoor settings to promote emotional regulation and social connection.

Incorporating outdoor therapy into elementary school counseling can be a transformative approach to supporting children’s mental health. By reconnecting children with the natural world and providing opportunities for exploration, reflection, and growth, children can develop a sense of calm, self-awareness, and resilience.




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