Everyone knows that families who spend time together have strong relationships, but new research out of the University of Illinois that was published in the Journal of Family Theory & Review shows that spending that time together outside in nature can make those bonds even stronger.
The researchers began with the existing scientific premise that spending time in nature can reduce mental fatigue and improve attention in individuals. From there, the researchers theorized that an individual whose attention has been restored will be less irritable, have more self-control, and be better able to pick up on social cues, all of which can facilitate better interpersonal interactions, co-author Dina Izenstark, PhD, explained to Science Daily.
To test their theory, the researchers asked 27 sets of mothers and daughters (the daughters were between the ages of 10 and 12) to take a 20-minute walk together, following 10 minutes of participating in an activity designed to drain their attention (such as solving math problems). Half of the sets walked in nature, while the other half walked in a mall. Afterward, and after testing both the mothers’ and daughters’ attention and observing their family interactions, the results were clear: A walk in nature increased positive interactions, helping the mothers and daughters get along better. It also increased attention in the mothers. For the daughters, attention was restored after both types of walks, which Dr. Izenstark says may be a result of spending family leisure time with their mothers, just like these 8 ultimate mother-daughter bonding activities.
Although this study looked solely at mothers and daughters, the researchers report that the findings suggest participating in family-based nature activities “may lead to positive psychological outcomes and improved family functioning,” and more so than other types of leisure activities. The study authors also suggest that these positive outcomes can be further enhanced by adding elements of “routine” (day-to-day repetitive activities that occur within the family unit in a predictable manner) and “ritual” (participation in ritualized events, such as celebrations or what the study authors refer to as “patterned family activities,” which would include walks in nature).
Looking for more ways to keep the family bonding going? Try these surefire family dinner conversation starters.