There’s nothing quite like stepping out into the great outdoors and taking in a deep breath of fresh air. It’s been a long winter for many, and if you’ve been spending a lot of time inside, you’re not alone.
But I’ve got great news: June is National “Great Outdoors Month.” It’s the perfect time to get out of the house and find some new and exciting ways to immerse yourself in nature!
At the Morning Star Foundation, we’re especially excited about all the great benefits getting out into nature can have for kids and their overall health and well-being. But stepping out into the great outdoors is beneficial for everyone, and it’s never a bad time to get out and explore.
So if you’re wondering what Great Outdoors Month is all about, or if you’re just looking for some ideas of fun things you and your family can do to celebrate, allow me to shed some light on this great national tradition, and why you should celebrate.
Great Outdoors Month. What’s It All About?
It’s a fair question. Great Outdoors Month might not be the most well-known tradition, but at the Morning Star Foundation, we think it’s one of the coolest.
The tradition first began in June of 1998 under President Clinton as “Great Outdoors Week.” It was an initiative to develop a broad appreciation for the great outdoors and get more people out into nature. It has since turned into “Great Outdoors Month,” and every June, we’re reminded to celebrate the beauty of nature and its importance in our daily lives.
Throughout the month, there are many opportunities and initiatives from states, local park services, and other organizations encouraging people to get out there and smell the roses (and lilacs, honeysuckle, and…well, you get the picture).
We all know that fresh air and sunshine are good for us, but it’s easy to forget how exactly, and Great Outdoors Month encourages us to stop and think about this.
The Many Benefits of Getting Out Into The Great Outdoors
It’s perhaps more important than ever to highlight and celebrate the benefits of the great outdoors. With so many people working remotely, spending their days in front of screens, taking zoom calls from their bedrooms, and rarely leaving their homes, the beauty of nature is a welcome retreat, and it offers a wide range of benefits.
So, what are the perks of getting out to celebrate Great Outdoors Month?
It’s good for your physical health
Whether you’re hiking a forest trail, biking that path you’ve driven past a hundred times but never explored, kayaking down a river three towns over, or just taking a walk around the block to soak up some sun, these types of physical activities are crucial, and exercise out in nature has a number of added perks.
Sure, you have the general health benefits of physical activity, like benefits to cardiovascular function and muscular development, as well as improved blood sugar regulation and healthy insulin sensitivity. But when it comes to getting out into the great outdoors to exercise, there’s more!
With so much time indoors, many of us are probably lacking Vitamin D, which is crucial for overall well-being and contributes to the health of your bones, blood cells, and immune system. In addition to that, spending time out in the sun contributes to a healthy sleep cycle, so you can get more out of your shut-eye, and feel energized when you wake, ready to seize the day.
A body at rest stays at rest. So why not get the blood pumping out in the sunshine?
It’s good for your mental health
Being socially distanced can be incredibly difficult on our mental health, and many people struggle with low mood during the winter months as it is. Exposure to the fresh air, sunlight, and beautiful changes in scenery that the great outdoors offers can be just the thing to lift your spirits and pull you out of any funks that may have set in while stuck indoors.
It can also be a fun way to engage with other people, which is crucial for mental health.
Immersing yourself in nature has been shown to help with lowering stress levels and managing anxiety and depression, and there is a growing body of research supporting the link between the great outdoors and mental health. A 2015 Psychiatry Advisor article breaks down some of the most fascinating new studies, highlighting this seemingly crucial link between nature and our psychological well-being.
Researchers are still trying to more completely understand this connection, but there are many theories. And they all seem to point to some very real, very significant mental health benefits to getting outside.
It’s good for the environment
Our nation is covered with gorgeous terrain and breathtaking wildlife, and we have many federal, state, local, and non-government organizations that do the important work of protecting our lands and waters.
But in order for our parks and wildlife protection programs to continue with their conservation efforts, they need funding and public support. Great Outdoors Month raises awareness and draws attention to these organizations, which means the potential for more funding and more resources.
By taking the time to acknowledge and explore the wildlife that surrounds us, we can be better stewards of Earth.
It’s CRUCIAL for kids
At the Morning Star Foundation, we are especially keyed into the remarkable impact that some outdoor time can have on children.
With remote learning and social distancing adding additional stress to daily life, getting out into the great outdoors has never been more important for kids. Playing outside provides numerous benefits.
Spending time in nature has been shown to aid with kids’ ability to concentrate on a given task.
It’s also been shown to improve sensory skills in young children, and can work to improve their attention spans. When kids are able to play together outside, it can contribute to cognitive and social/emotional development, teaching them to share, to take turns, and to communicate.
And on top of that, it’s simply fun for children to explore new environments, see animals they might have never seen before, and immerse themselves in beautiful surroundings.
Nature: A Great Place For Kids To Grow
With nature having so many benefits, especially for children, the Morning Star Foundation has been committed to helping to support initiatives that make this possible — especially in light of recent shake-ups in our daily lives.
Over the years, the Morning Star Foundation has worked with the Dishman Hills Conservancy, helping to fund a number of programs that help get kids from the Greater Spokane area out into the great outdoors.
The Dishman Hills Conservancy (DHC) was founded in 1966, and is Washington State’s oldest Land Trust. The DHC has provided numerous kids with the opportunity to get outside and learn about nature. This is especially crucial for kids who might live in the city, or who wouldn’t usually have easy access to gorgeous forest trails or rolling hills. Programs like “Kids in the Hills” look to bring kids out into the wonders of nature to learn and explore, and they’ve been wonderful for children in the Spokane area.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, these initiatives have become more difficult to maintain and organize, but the DHC has risen to the occasion. They’ve been working on educational videos for a “Nature At Home” series, and continuing their important work of bringing kids out into nature, and bringing the wonder of the outdoors to the kids.
Great Outdoors Month 2021 will be an especially great opportunity to explore initiatives like these, which work so tirelessly to ensure that our kids have access to all of the remarkable benefits of spending time in the great outdoors.
You can learn more about our partnership with the Dishman Hills Conservancy here.
Great Outdoors Month: Adventure Awaits
New events are being planned every day, and your local parks and conservation organizations might have event calendars of their own. If you’re in the Spokane area, you can find a list of some of the great events being organized by the Dishman Hills Conservancy here.
Here’s a short list of some of the nationwide activities and initiatives planned for Great Outdoors Month:
National Fishing and Boating Week – June 5-13th
National Get Outdoors Day – June 13th
The Great American Campout – Friday, June 25th to Saturday, June 26th
These are great events, and there are many, many more being organized by state and local parks, so check out some of your local events too … but there’s also nothing stopping you from making plans of your own!
Get out under the stars and look up.
Put on your hiking boots and venture somewhere new, away from the beaten path.
Get the whole family together for a trip to the beach.
It’s the perfect time to celebrate and acknowledge the public lands and waters that give us so much.
The Great Outdoors Have Never Been Greater
The yearly tradition of Great Outdoors Month provides a number of new and exciting ways to escape the indoors and immerse yourself in nature, and there’s never been a better time to get out there and rediscover the earth in all its beauty.
So grab your sunscreen, your bug spray, and some of your favorite people, and get out into the great outdoors!
Want to get to know more about the Morning Star Foundation and the many ways we’re helping kids, indoors and out?
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