As I watch him bounce from puddle to puddle, water splashes in every direction, I can hear giggles that represent pure joy. His pants, shoes and socks are now soaking wet, but he does not care. The big smile on his face supports the notion that he does not care. I look around and see several people who stop and watch him, he has no idea that people are watching him because he is so entrenched in the joy of the now. The people who are watching him all have big smiles on their faces, later I watch those same people walk through the parking lot and step over the very same puddles that he chose to run and hop through. I can’t help but wonder, at what point in time do we choose to step over those puddles and ignore the joy and carefree attitude.
It seems that as adults we are so hung-up on what is happening in our heads, what we need to do, or what other people will think, that we miss the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding nature. Having a child in my life has brought me back to the wondrous beauty of the outdoors and living in the now, or just being present in what is happening.
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike”- John Muir 1.
In our family we use nature as a healing tool. If my son is experiencing behavioral problems, we go outdoors and start exploring; hiking, puddle jumping, snowman building, walks, runs, and insect hunting. If we feel negative thoughts starting, nature brings us back to a joyous state. In fact, we have identified two favorite places that we frequent for mental health.
It seems that in today’s society we tend to ignore the importance of nature. In a 2010 study2, it was realized that being outdoors and in nature has vitalizing effects. Participants experienced a sense of physical and mental energy, a sense of enthusiasm, and aliveness. Watching the joy in my son’s eyes while he jumps in muddy puddles shows a positive correlation between being outdoors and his mental vitality.
The Muddy Puddles Project is a fundraising platform for the Ty Louis Campbell (TLC) Foundation.
An article on the Mental Health Benefits of the Outdoors.
Pit Stops for Kids is a great website for information on activities with kids.
- John Muir (1912). Retrieved from http://vault.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/writings/favorite_quotations.aspx
- Ryan, R., Weinstein, N., Bernstein, J., Brown, K. W., Mistretta, L., & Gagne, M. (2010). Vitalizing effects of being outdoors and in nature. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 30, 159-168. Retrieved from https://selfdeterminationtheory.org/SDT/documents/2010_RyanWeinstenEtAl_JEVP.pdf