Why more time outside? There are dozens of good reasons, but as moms in this modern go-go-go, now-now-now world of do more, be more, more more…we need to DE-STRESS.
Being outside reduces stress. We need less stress. Our kids need less stress.
Being outside also increases connection and combats feelings of loneliness—two things we need to prioritize for ourselves and our children.
Going outside doesn’t have to be as complex as we sometimes imagine it needs to be. So many people feel that to be “outside in nature,” we have to have a formal plan for an elaborate hike or memorable canoe trip with loads of gear. Not at all. It can be as simple as creating a daily routine that involves stepping out your door and taking a deep breath with your first sip of coffee. It can time at the park after school to provide an outlet for your child to decompress when they need it. It can look like a family stroll down the street after dinner or children playing in the yard. In fact, simple is what we’re after.
September is all about taking the mystery out of being outdoors. Too many families are starting to feel like being outside is “not a good use of time,” “too much work,” or even “too dirty.” This isn’t every one or every family. My family goes outside a lot…but those times are often cut short because I feel like we need to move on to something more productive. Or I use too many moments when my kids are occupied outside to get more work done instead of being present. It’s time to see the productive side of being outdoors. It’s time to acknowledge the stress reducing benefits of quality time outside and act on those truths instead of just reading about them.
Society as a whole is so far detached from nature and regular outside time. Recesses are being shortened or taken away as punishment. People are shaming parents online for not allowing their children to watch television or play video games. What sealed the deal for me was when I heard someone claim that denying a child time to watch TV is a form of child abuse.
That accusation disgusted me to my core. The Go Outside Guided Journal was already in the works, but when I heard that accusation I knew it had to become a priority.
Negative views, excuses, societal pressure…all of these things needs to change. And that change begins with us, mamas. One day at a time, one step at a time. Each time we step outside with intention, we make an impression on our children. We model healthy behavior. We model a love and appreciation for our natural world that we rely on for life. We model how to de-stress. We model growth, change, connection, and decompression. These lessons (though seemingly small now) are ones they will carry into adulthood so that when they feel the pressures of being a grown up, they have a memory to tap into—a life skill to get them through times of stress. Go outside. Take a deep breath. Reconnect with what’s important.
What September’s Guided Journal Looks Like
Week 1: Observe
Week 2: Take Action
Week 3: Look at Loneliness
Week 4: Family Values/Goals
Create a Goal
Choose a goal for yourself and your family. Here is a list of ideas. (This list is inspired by my own…I totally understand that not everyone has a beach near them. Beach can easily be replaced with park, trail, etc.). Pick one or more ideas from the list or create your own. Do what is best for you and your family. Feel free to start off general and get more specific after observing during Week One.
* Go outside every day for a whole month, no exceptions
* Find a permanent time block to make outside part of our daily rhythm/schedule
* Compile nature books for the kids to read and learn
* Read one book on the importance of being outside/in nature
* Create an outdoor space for my kids to play, explore, and dig
* Actively take a moment and find beauty in nature every day
* Bring the kids in on that moment of beauty & encourage them to find their own
* Go to the beach once per week
* Look to see if the leaves are changing color each day during September
* Bring more beautiful flowers, shells, and rocks into the house for decoration
* Maintain our nature table in the schoolroom
* Bring up the topic of outdoor time with mom friends to get ideas for my own family
Commit to It
Keep your goal in mind. Write it down. Put it on the fridge. Tell your family about it. Get everyone on board. Make it happen. Get over the mental blocks that keep you from going outside every day during the month of September. Rain? Go out anyway. Cold wind? Put on a jacket. Find yourself going to bed and realizing you haven’t had quality time outside today? Get up and go look at the moon & stars in your pajamas. Show up for yourself. You’re worth it.
Feel inspired and want to read more on the importance of being outside with our children? Here are my book suggestions for the grown ups. Want children’s book suggestions for this month’s topic? Almost all children’s books (especially picture books) take place outside, when you really look at them. For a list of my favorites, visit Lori Beth’s Library. Or follow our Instagram and Facebook stories for more suggestions.
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
Sharing Nature with Children: The Classic Parents’ & Teachers’ Nature Awareness Guidebook by Joseph Bharat Cornell
I Love Dirt! 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature by Jennifer Ward, Susie Ghahremani (Illustrator), Richard Louv (Foreword)
Roots, Shoots, Buckets Boots: Gardening Together with Children by Sharon Lovejoy
Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids by Rebecca P. Cohen
The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder through the Seasons by Amanda Blake Soule, Stephen Soule
Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World by Ben Hewitt
Do you enjoy being outside? When was the last time you were outside? When was the last time you were outside and really enjoyed it?
“Here is this vast, savage, howling mother of ours, Nature, lying all around, with such beauty, and such affection for her children, as the leopard; and yet we are so early weaned from her breast to society, to that culture which is exclusively an interaction of man on man.” – Henry David Thoreau
You in Nature
How much do you go outside? Why do you go outside?
“The healing powers of nature are only limited by mans idleness.” – Nature for Kids
How much do your children go outside? Do they ask to go outside or do they require a bit of prodding? Do you bring them inside quickly in favor of a to-do list? How do you feel about your answers?
“What do parents owe their young that is more important than a warm and trusting connection to the Earth…?” – Theodore Roszak, The Voice of the Earth
As a family, how much do you go outside? Think about some of your favorite family moments. Are any of them outside? Most of them?
“Let Nature be your teacher.” – William Wordsworth
Scheduling Time in Nature
Look at your daily schedule. Is there a time each day where you could be outside this month? If not a large chunk of time, are there moment you could incorporate more observation of nature during your day?
Some examples: Looking out the window and choosing your favorite flower while you’re in the car. Finding the colors of the rainbow in nature (red flower, blue sky, green grass, etc.). Reading outside, doing homework outside, stopping at a park, planning a hike, stepping outside for the sip of coffee in the morning, etc.
“Nature-deficit disorder describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illness. This disorder can be detected in individuals, families, and communities.” – Richard Louv
Ask your family (individually and/or collectively) what their feelings are on being outside. Do they think they spend enough time outside? Too much? Do they dread it? Do they love it? Look forward to it? Do they like being outside in the rain? What’s their favorite time, season, temperature, type of weather, etc. to be outdoors? Write down their answers.
“Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.” – John Muir
From Discomfort to Action
Did any of the journal prompts, your observations, or family’s answers from this week make you uncomfortable? If so, can you think of discomfort as a call to action? Do you see where you would like to make changes? Write about it.
“I am well again, I came to life in the cool winds and crystal waters of the mountains…” – John Muir
September Week 2: Take Action
This week’s goals are going to be the same every day—Go Outside!—but with a new thinking point each day.
“You are capable of more than you know. Choose a goal that seems right for you and strive to be the best, however hard the path. Aim high. Behave honorably. Prepare to be alone at times, and to endure failure. Persist! The world needs all you can give.” – E.O. Wilson
Go Outside: Planning vs. Impromptu
You’ve spent a week observing, now it’s time to make some changes. Day one of get outside more: Go Outside. Write about what you did. Was it impromptu? Planned?
“When you have seen one ant, one bird, one tree, you have not seen them all.”- E.O. Wilson
Go Outside: All the Feels
Write about when you went outside today. Write about what you did, how you felt while outside. How do you feel when you are outside in general? Better, stressed, at peace, calm, on edge? Really pay attention to YOU and how you feel during your moments outside this week. Check in with yourself first.
Then turn your focus toward your children while outdoors. How do they feel? Tired, free, creative, high energy, timid, energetic? Write about your observations. (Optional: write about how everyone felt during each outdoor time this week).
“Man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; [the Lakota] knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too.” — LUTHER STANDING BEAR (C. 1868–1939)
Go Outside: Personal Preference
Write about what you did when you went outside today. Did you plan it? Was it spur of the moment? Do you prefer to use time in nature to de-stress when you’re in the middle of tense moments, or do you feel better if you plan ahead?
How do you think this preference could be worked into your outdoor goals? (i.e. If you’re a planner, making it a habit to step outside and take a deep breath first thing in the morning or scheduling in a park playtime or picnic. If you’re more spur of the moment, simply knowing you can announce “everybody outside!” when crankiness takes over).
“Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.” – Thomas Berry
Go Outside: Quality
Write about your time outside today. The when, why, where, what, who. Now think about this: what do you consider quality outdoor time? Do you feel the need to plan an “outdoor adventure” when trying to get outside more? Or do you feel the benefits of simply going into the yard are enough? Do you feel the need to be prepared?
“Many children… delight in the small and inconspicuous.” – Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder
Go Outside: Excuses
Do you feel like you need to have an excuse or reason to go outside? (i.e. walk the dog, playdate at the park, mow the lawn, etc.) Do you make excuses to not go outside? What are some excuses you’ve made to go outside? What are some excuses you’ve made to not go outside?
“Adults forget the depths of languor into which the adolescent mind descends with ease. They are prone to undervalue the mental growth that occurs during daydreaming and aimless wandering” – E.O. Wilson
Go Outside: Childhood Memories
What are your favorite memories from childhood? Do those memories involve a sense of danger, take place outside, and have no grownups present?
“Why do so many Americans say they want their children to watch less TV, yet continue to expand the opportunities for them to watch it? More important, why do so many people no longer consider the physical world worth watching?” – Richard Louv
Go Outside: Teachable Moments
How much do you show nature to your kids? How often do you look up nature topics that interest you and/or your kids? Ever been curious about how to open a coconut or how pineapples grow? Ever wanted to grow herbs or start growing vegetables, trees, or roses from a cutting? Want to know more about the moon cycles? When your kids ask about natural occurrences, foods, trees, weather, etc., do you take the time to research these topics with them? Write about it. How do you involve them while encouraging a sense of wonder?
“You teach me, I forget. You show me, I remember. You involve me, I understand.” – E.O. Wilson
September Week 3: Look at Loneliness
I receive many requests to address the topic of loneliness in motherhood. It turns out there is a belief that people are more lonely than ever. So this week we’re going to dive into the topic of loneliness, acknowledge it, recognize it, and then take action and actively address it.
“It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.” – Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder
In an interview I listened to, author Richard Louv talks about his belief that there is a collective loneliness among humans because of our disconnect with nature. What are your thoughts on this idea? Do you feel nature plays a role in loneliness? Why or why not?
Read the quote below and write down your feelings, thoughts, and observations about it.
“In nature nothing exists alone.” – Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
Loneliness in Motherhood
Write about a time or times when you have or do feel lonely in motherhood. Did you talk about it with anyone? Did you feel like you should reach out or simply deal with it by yourself? During times of loneliness do you tend to stay indoors more?
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” – Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder
Do you ever feel “trapped” in your role? By the demands of motherhood?
If so, write very specifically what that looks like—times, places, chores, locations, etc. Do any of those descriptions include times or places outside? What have you done to shake those feelings?
If not, what about other mamas? Do you know any mamas who feel this way from time to time or all the time? Have they talked about it with you or is it something you observed or both? Have you felt compelled to help? Been able to help? If so, how and when?
“Humanity is part of nature, a species that evolved among other species. The more closely we identify ourselves with the rest of life, the more quickly we will be able to discover the sources of human sensibility and acquire the knowledge on which an enduring ethic, a sense of preferred direction, can be built.” – E.O. Wilson
Every Day Beauty
Today’s goal is to find something beautiful in nature and write about it in detail. Look around. Take your time. Find what speaks to you the most, what you find beautiful, and then capture it in words on paper. Be sure to include all the senses, colors, smells, etc. in your description. What it is, what it looks like, what’s around it, how it makes you feel. It can be poetic or literal. Don’t stress about the technical details of your description. This exercise is only for you; no one is editing it or critiquing it. It’s all about taking the time to appreciate how beauty inspires you, calls to you, and to show you how you are connected to nature and how it influences you.
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as it exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” – Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
The Power of a Breeze
Do you recall a time when you felt a breeze? Were you driving with the windows down? On a boat, racing across the water? Were you suffering through a hot summer day when a blessed breeze blew across your face and provided relief? Do you notice breezes? The wind? How did it affect you? Write about it.
“Nature is often overlooked as a healing balm for the emotional hardships in a child’s life.” – Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods
Out it Out
If you follow yayamamas on social media, you know that one of my strategies for dealing with stress, overwhelm, and negative emotions is to either dance it out, read it out, or out it out (i.e. go outside).
Out it Out today, mama. Every day is filled with ups and downs. When you sense a down coming, stop what you’re doing and go outside. Yes, this could mean leaving a grocery cart in a store for a few minutes while you regroup outside. Yes, this could look like you leaving your desk and walking outside for a breath of fresh air. Yes, this could look like scrapping an afternoon plan and going outside to pick flowers with your kids. Connection is more important than a to do list. Modeling how and when to de-stress is very powerful for your children to see. They learn so much by watching your actions. Write about your time outside and how purposefully using time outside affected you, your mood, your mental state, and productivity.
“Sometimes you need to step outside, get some fresh air and remind yourself of who you are and who you want to be.” – unknown
Reach out if you need help. Reach out to mamas who might need help. Write about how you know when to reach out. What do your instincts tell you?
If you feel like you need to reach out, write about whom you could reach out to or a time you have reached out. If other mamas have reached out to you, write about how you’ve helped them and what you’ve said or encouraged them to do.
“Each new year is a surprise to us. We find that we had virtually forgotten the note of each bird, and when we hear it again, it is remembered like a dream, reminding us of a previous state of existence…The voice of nature is always encouraging.” – Henry David Thoreau
September Week 4: Family Values – Goals
You’ll be asked during the yayamamas Guided Journals to think about, evaluate, and write about your family’s values and goals a lot. These can be ever changing. This week looks specifically at how nature fits in with your family values and goals.
Make a List
Think about your family’s values. What are they? Make a list of them. Do any of the items include an appreciation of nature or being outside? Do any of them include valuing time to de-stress?
“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” – Roy E. Disney
Make a Commitment
Being outside is as essential to the human spirit as water and food are to the human body. Make a commitment to yourself, your children, and your family to make experiencing nature a priority. Write about it. What do you need to commit? What do your kids need to commit? How do you feel about this commitment? What do you need to make it sustainable?
“Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose – and commit myself to – what is best for me.” – Paulo Coelho
Connection Over Convenience
We are constantly fed the lie that parenting is supposed to be convenient, that if we buy this baby product or do this thing our lives will be easier, better, and just convenient. I’ve asked many, many parents to name one thing that is “convenient” about parenting or motherhood. No one has ever given me an answer. That’s because there is nothing convenient about having children. It’s not supposed to be about convenience. Mothering is about connection. It’s a relationship, a journey with ups and downs…but it always comes back around to our connection with our child. Write down your thoughts on this. Have you aimed for convenience? Have you fallen for the illusion of convenience? (I know I have). What do you feel parents need to focus on instead of convenience? What real tools or ideas do you rely on as a parent in your relationship efforts? Does nature or being outside appear anywhere in those tools or ideas? If so, where? If not, do you think outside could have a place in those tools and ideas?
“Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.” – Herodotus
Doing an honest analysis of yourself, how much do you feel you live in a virtual world of devices? Are you able to look at and analyze the difference between your life online (social media, video games, tv shows, movies, etc.) and your life offline? How much time do you spend in each? Are you happy with the balance between the two? Can you see that nature does not exist in the virtual realm? Do you use nature in your offline life to balance out the lack of nature in your online life? Write about it.
“Man must live, not only exist; he must do, not merely be; he must grow, not just vegetate.” – Spencer W. Kimball (Miracle of Forgiveness)
There is a notion that the most resilient adults were also resilient as kids; specifically, they were children who went outside in all types of weather. What do you think of this notion? Does it ring true to you? How resilient are you? How much did you go outside as a kid? Did you go out in all types of weather? How resilient are your kids? How much do they go outside? Are they okay with or afraid to go outside in all kinds of weather?
“Turns out, the most beautiful things in my life were never on my to-do list.” – Rachel Hollis
A Page from Our Kids
Take a page from your kids. Watch how they play and interact with nature. Watch how they let go or interact with nature and give their version a try.
“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full or wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later year…the alienation from the sources of our strength.” – Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder
Recap this month. Recap the last 6 months. How much time did you spend outside? Did you meet your goals? Did you make an effort to be outside more? How did your efforts affect your kids? Do you see a shift in yourself? Your children? Your family as a whole? Write about it without judgment.
“The women whom I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because shit worked out. They got that way because shit went wrong, and they handled it. They handled it in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it. Those women are my superheroes.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
Thank You Day
The first bonus day of each Guided Journal is all about thank yous! Write a thank you note to someone who helped you this month. This can look like a text, call, handwritten card, email, or in-person thank you. Reach out! Unexpected thank yous are always appreciated. Gratitude feels good to both the giver and receiver.
Thank YOU, mamas, for joining me on this Guided Journal journey! I appreciate you showing up! Mahalo!
Next Month: Friendship
Tomorrow starts the beginning of a new Guided Journal. October’s topic is all about friendship. When you hear the word “friendship,” what are your very first thoughts? Write them down!
See you tomorrow, friend!