When your child was younger, you may have sent him outside to play in the backyard or taken him to the park to run around with his friends. Now, he’s grown up into a teen who may prefer to spend more time alone in his bedroom. This may leave you wondering if there’s still a need to get him spending time outdoors.
If your teen participates in sports or is a part of a scout program, he may already be spending plenty of time outdoors. If he isn’t, then he may just be withdrawing further into his solitude. How much time your teen has spent outside in the last year could have been enhanced by the pandemic that forced many of us to spend more time inside our homes as well.
So, why exactly is it a good idea to encourage your teen to spend more time outside?
How spending more time outside can benefit your teen
Spending time outdoors is so important for our general well-being and mental health. Teens, in particular, can see a positive influence in their life when they spend more time outside.
Natural night, sleep, and mood
Some studies show an interesting connection between the type of light exposure and teen sleeping patterns. Those who spend more time exposed to artificial light at night are much more likely to develop sleeping disorders and struggle with their mood. These teens may find it difficult to establish a good circadian rhythm, driving our sleeping and wake cycles.
Any changes to a regular light-dark cycle can impact a teen’s hormonal, cellular, and other important biological processes. This can also lead to concerns with mental health.
For a teen who may already be prone to struggling with his mental health, any disruption to his sleep can potentially be the catalyst that kicks off a depressive phase.
Establishing healthy habits
There’s simply no denying that more time spent outdoors generally equates to more physical activity. This is an excellent way for otherwise sedentary teens and parents to get their bodies moving in a low-impact and fun way.
The more time your family spends outdoors, enjoying some great activities, the more likely your teen will carry these healthy activities and habits into adulthood.
Mental wellness benefits
There are numerous positive benefits of exercise in those who are suffering from depression and other mental illness concerns. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to march your teen out for a ten-mile hike every day, of course. Even just moderate exercise that includes a stroll around the neighborhood or helping out in the backyard can be enough to help ease the symptoms of depression.
It’s not a cure-all for depression and other mental illnesses. You should have your teen seen and treated by a mental health professional if there are any signs of depression or anxiety.
How can you get your teen outdoors?
Many parents of teens may expect their angst-infused teen to roll their eyes dramatically if they suggest spending time outdoors. That doesn’t mean you should give up. The benefits your teen will reap are definitely worth a few eye rolls and foot stomps.
Here are some fun outdoor activities that many teens enjoy:
- Swimming is a fun summer activity that most of us enjoy. If you have a pool, encourage your teen to spend more time in the pool. Going to a community pool, a nearby lake or the beach can also be an excellent way to get them engaged.
- Kayaking and other paddling activities on the water can engage and interest your teen. They can be fun for the whole family and help a struggling teen get a bit of a mental health reboot after a day out on the water.
- Hiking can be an excellent way to disconnect from an ever-connected world. Leave your devices put away and enjoy the flora and fauna you’ll encounter on your hike. This can be a great way for your teen to get lungs filled with fresh air and a spirit filled with relaxation away from otherwise stressful concerns at home and school.
- Try individual sports. If your teen has little to no interest in most sports, consider introducing something fun like tennis or golf lessons. Most sports involve too many people for an introverted teen to find much pleasure in them. Sports like tennis or golf involve just a few people and can offer plenty of fun for a teen with a competitive spirit. These activities can boost their confidence and also encourage them to spend time with or meet new friends.
- Get bikes for everyone in the family and start hitting the road or trails for some great outdoor adventures. You can ride your bikes around your neighborhood or pack up and head to a nearby park. Bikes offer so much fun for everyone involved and often encourage teens to ride with their friends.
- Riding horses isn’t for everyone. However, if your teen has previously expressed an interest in learning to ride, this is a great time to encourage them to take a few lessons. There’s a reason horses are used therapeutically. Well-trained horses can often have a calm and soothing effect on someone struggling with anxiety and stress.
- Gardening can be another relaxing activity for those who struggle with the impacts of stress, depression, and anxiety. While most teens won’t likely want to dig in the dirt and fuss over weeds amongst the zucchini, it might be the right choice for an introverted teen. Studies suggest that there are higher instances of better mental health and physical health amongst those who garden. So, grab the shovel, get some soil and plant a few vegetables.
Remember that spending outdoors is not meant to be a punishment for your reluctant teen. This is intended to be something that they enjoy and look forward to. It may take a bit of time to find outdoor activities that get them fired up, but don’t give up.
It could just be that your family needs to try a few things, bring in some friends to help, and keep communicating about what you do and do not like about each activity that you try.
If your teen is struggling with mental health, you must get them the right type of help to meet their needs. Increasing outdoor activities can certainly prove beneficial, but it’s just as important to address any underlying concerns so that your teen is getting the help that he needs.
Contact Help Your Teen Now to be connected with some great resources. Many teens benefit from a residential treatment center, where they will have the opportunity to get the treatment they need in a safe and structured environment.