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How time outdoors impacts family relationships

How time outdoors impacts family relationships

If the dizzying demands of the holidays get you down this season, go outdoors - enjoy quality time with your loved ones, strengthen your family bonds and improve on your mental and physical health.

By: Mary Deasy

“Families bond together as they play, talk, and learn in nature. They experience nature walks as an opportunity to grow together. When they discover a new bug or wildflower, they experience a sense of wonder and make memories together on the trail.” –Laurel Dodge

On paper, the holidays always sound wonderful—good food, presents, and quality time with your loved ones. While this is sometimes where it ends, we all know that the dizzying demands of the holidays can cause stress and tension to also rear its ugly head. 

If you’re carrying the weight of this around with you, try to spend time outdoors. Nature has proven time and time again its impact on our mental and physical health. Your body will experience stress reduction, increased concentration, mood improvement and overall wellbeing, even if you go on a quick five minute stroll. But how does nature impact family relationships? Can it actually help with family bonding?

Throughout the day, we are exposed to high amounts of stimuli, which greatly tax our attention. When we retire to nature, either alone or with loved ones, our mental fatigue decreases and our attention is restored.

The University of Illinois researched these benefits in relation to family relationships in their study, The Effects of the Natural Environment on Attention and Family Cohesion: An Experimental Study. More specifically, they tested how removing everyday stimuli would impact a mother-daughter relationship. Their findings confirmed that nature restored individual attention; the mother was able to slow down, be present and focus on bonding. Within a dyadic relationship, removing daily stimuli showed greater cohesion, and a sense of unity.

Though the idea of spending time outdoors with your loved ones this winter may sound appealing, getting everyone on board can be a challenge. We live in an age of technology, where we find comfort in a glowing screen. How are we supposed to get our family outdoors without a fight?

How to encourage your family to spend time outdoors

How can you encourage your kids to put down their phones?

  • Children respond to your excitement. Express your enthusiasm and emphasise the fun and adventure aspects (i.e. Who wants to go play next to the creek? Who wants to go jump in a pile of leaves?) rather than making outdoor time seem like a chore.

How do you turn quality time in nature into a routine? 

  • Spending time in nature doesn’t necessarily mean a long hike.You can easily reap the benefits of nature while exploring your local city park or community garden. Find an empty lot to dig in or explore areas of wilderness nearby!

Is your family sick and tired of the parks and gardens in your neighbourhood?

  • One of the many beauties of nature is its versatility; every season has its own unique things to see. If you want to see your local parks in a new light, check out our Outdoor Winter Activities for Kids article, which features a downloadable scavenger hunt activity sheet. A great game for children and mindfulness exercise for adults. Another great way to diversify your outdoor experiences is to book a local, family-friendly campspace


This winter, take a moment to remove yourself from the chaos of the holidays. Go outdoors and enjoy quality time with your loved ones, strengthen your family bonds and improve on your mental and physical health. Read Together In Nature to learn about the benefits of nature on family relationships. 

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