You have likely experienced for yourself the phenomenon of how getting out into nature- feeling the warm sunlight, breathing in the fresh air, being close to rushing waters or under a sky full of stars- refreshes you, fills you up, even heals you. It is a well-accepted fact that nature has this incredible ability to affect us in these positive and remarkable ways. It is impossible to delineate here the thoughts, the awe, the grandeur and the marvel of being a part of something much bigger than yourself, so abundant, so beautiful and so powerful. More recently, science has given voice to this veritable wonder, proving that getting out into the great outdoors greatly increases the happy hormone and endorphins, resulting in genuine happiness, lowered stress and greater overall health. Psychologists now recommend spending time in nature to combat stress and mental health issues. It has also more recently been discovered that walking on the earth barefoot (grounding) creates bodily contact with the earth's natural electric charge, stabilizing our physiology at the deepest levels, reducing inflammation, pain, and stress, improving blood flow, energy, sleep, and generating greater well-being.
Consider, then, what effect combining this wonder with the limited time we often have with our most cherished family members and friends might have on our relationships with them? Could getting out-of-doors and into nature with our spouse, our kids, the whole family and even our friends exponentially grow these relationships as compared to time spent together indoors? Absolutely it could, and in my experience, it truly does!
When each of us is individually experiencing the rising nature-induced endorphins, we interact with one another in a more genuinely positive way. We share the wonder we are feeling and experiencing with one another. We hear one another sigh in relief or awe, we see one another relax and smile. We are individually more calm, relaxed, refreshed and healed. Experiencing the thrill of wind on our faces and the grandeur of a waterfall together is binding and healing. Seeing and experiencing the nature-induced endorphins get to work on everyone is thrilling and connecting. Nature provides us wonders, adventures, lessons and opportunities that to experience together naturally binds us in the intimacy we are craving and meant to experience with one another.
When we had 3 small children, my husband liked to come home from work and take the kids with him on a bike ride around the many beautiful trails we had surrounding our neighborhood. My oldest were 4 and 3 years old, respectively. Both could ride their own bikes. We also had an 18-month old who of course could not ride his own bike. We had never purchased a child bike carrier, and it had never been an issue. Until one day he sat at the window sad and crying as they left on their bike ride without him.
When my husband returned home from their bike ride to find our little one so upset, he went to work the next day, and using some spare parts, constructed a child bike seat of his own imagination. He brought it home the next day, quickly clamped it onto his seat post extending in front of him, set our toddler on it safely between his legs and off they happily went! Our toddler was thrilled! And so was I, because I was now able to join them. He had his very own handlebars and felt like such a big boy riding like his older brother and sister. He pointed and exclaimed at all he could see. He smiled and squinted at the wind rushing past his face. He talked with my husband, yelled out to me and his siblings, and we all interacted in a way that was bonding and enjoyable for all of us. He would look up at my husband; they could make eye contact, share silly faces and see the excitement and enjoyment on one another's faces and hear it in one another's voices.
Over the next several years, strangers would often stop us during our family bike rides to inquire where we had gotten this amazing contraption. We added two more kids to our family and enjoyed using it on our bike rides with them as well. About the time our youngest was 2 years old, my husband decided it was time to take the risk and start manufacturing this child bike seat to share with others so they, too, could experience the joy of bicycle riding so interactively and safely with their children. So he did! And we immediately had a thriving family side-business involving our kids in the entire process from start to finished product! In the photo above, you can see me using this TykeToter with our youngest.
There are so many ways to spend time as a family outdoors and in nature; the possibilities are endless. Even though our kids are now in their teens and older, we enjoy taking kits to an open area and feeling the thrill of an open sky and the power of the wind pulling against us as we try to harness it and keep our kites in the air. We enjoy launching out on a river up our local canyon on innertubes and floating peacefully down, having water fights and greeting other fisherman or river travelers on our way. We love to camp and find beautiful new landscapes, rock scrambling and hiking through the wilderness.
One time, at Lake Powell, we took a boat deep into a canyon which ended in a sandbar leading further into the canyon crevice. We disembarked to continue the exploration further on foot. A small stream wandered down to the lake and in it, to our amazement, nearly the entire hike, were small tadpoles and baby frogs galore. Our kids were thrilled to see so many little frogs and all the life and activity going on. They caught several and played with them.
Every night at Lake Powell, we were able to fall asleep on the rooftop of our houseboat with nothing between us and the vast universe of stars to behold with complete wonder. We shared quiet conversations about life that it seemed only the intense beauty could draw out from our minds and hearts to share with one another.
Our experiences in nature and with nature create a holy and safe space for us and our loved ones to vulnerably connect and share with one another. They induce the happiness and peace within us individually, creating the desire within us and the ability to connect and share in ways we otherwise would not be able to. Nature creates opportunities for adventure, exploration, discovery and pure fun that we can't share or experience in any other way.
I will say also that many of the most romantic experiences between my husband and I have taken place or been induced by spending time together in beautiful nature. Laughter getting caught in a rainstorm; borrowing his coat because the wind picks up and I'm cold; stopping in a remote canyon to be still and hear the birds calling and bask in the sunshine.
So next time you want to exponentially grow a relationship with those you most cherish, consider inviting a friend to join you on a walk or hike, taking your family on a picnic to throw Frizbees or fly kites, or enjoy sitting around a campfire as you sing and roast hot dogs. Get outside and find the adventure, opportunities, discoveries, lessons and bonding that happens- naturally- in the great out-of-doors.