Earth Day may not be until April 22, but spring has arrived early in many parts of the United States, and the TurfMutt Foundation is encouraging everyone to get outside to celebrate and receive the benefits of our green space now, but right in their own backyards.
“It’s a stressful time as our country seeks to ‘shelter in place’ as much as possible,” says Kris Kiser, president of the TurfMutt Foundation. “We’d like to remind everyone that getting outside — in your own backyard — is an important activity, now more than ever, for you, your family and pets. De-stress and enjoy the healing aspects of nature in your own corner of the earth.”
Science has proven that simply spending time in our family yards is good for human health and well-being, which is important today as everyone seeks creative ways to stay well while being confined to their homes. The backyard is “safe space,” adds Kiser. “So, mow your lawn, trim bushes, throw a ball with the kids, plant a butterfly bush together, and get your hands in the dirt. Do get off the Internet and take a break from being cooped up inside.”
A Stanford University study found that walking in nature resulted in decreased anxiety, rumination and negative affect, and produced cognitive benefits, such as increased working memory performance. Multiple studies have discovered that plants in hospital recovery rooms or views of aesthetically pleasing gardens help patients heal up to one day faster than those who are in more sterile or austere environments.
Explore these six ways to tap into the health and well-being your family yard can provide.
Keep kids learning. With kids dismissed from school, the TurfMutt Foundation offers free, online, do-at-home lesson plans and activities where kids in grades K-8 can continue to learn science and nature lessons right in their own backyards. The TurfMutt environmental education program resources are based on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) principles, and teach kids about the benefits of taking care of and spending time in nature. Access the free TurfMutt resources here.
Clean up your yard. The family yard is an outdoor living room, so prepare it for use. Mow the lawn, trim bushes, and tend to flower gardens. Garden supplies can be ordered online, or you often can have them delivered from your local nursery. Take care of your yard, and it will provide the space to relax and recreate.
Plant something. Getting your hands dirty is good for you, says science. Soil is the new Prozac, according to Dr. Christopher Lowry, a neuroscientist at the University of Bristol in England. The bacterium stimulates serotonin production, which explains why people who spend time gardening, doing yard work, and having direct contact with soil feel more relaxed and happier.
Play a family game. If you have a small patch of grass, you have a badminton court, a croquet field, or a soccer field. Throw a ball to your kids — or your dog. Run through the sprinkler if your area isn’t in a drought condition.
Play with pets or foster a rescue animal. No one appreciates the yard more than a pet. Science also has shown pets have a stress-reducing effect on people and kids. So, get outside with your furry family member and let them remind you of the joys of the outdoors.
Dine outdoors. Have a family picnic right in your backyard or set up a table and chairs to have family meals in the sun or under a shade tree.
Just be. De-stress by observing the birds, butterflies, bees and other wildlife that use your yard as habitat and food. Get your toes in the grass. Watch the trees. Use outdoor time as meditation time.
“Your yard offers much during these challenging times. It has purpose,” says Kiser. “And that purpose is more important than ever. Get outdoors with your family, get your feet in the grass and your hands in the soil. Just do get outside.”
For more facts on how the family yard and green space benefits families and communities, access the TurfMutt Foundation fact book.