Keeping the Family Together
The year 2020 will go down in history as one of the hardest years for the family. Family is perhaps the most important group in one’s life, but being stuck in the house for so long can be taxing on familial relationships. A couple things that can help the family relieve tension, help relationships, and improve the mood in the home are:
- Getting Outside
- Getting Active
Ashcreek Academy is a residential treatment center where adolescent boys can work through their mental health issues and reconnect with their families. Ashcreek helps young men in a variety of ways, but experiential activity is one of the most proven methods. At Ashcreek, taking the boys into nature to reflect and build relationships has proven to be one of the number one ways they have improved their home life and well being.
There are a variety of things that getting outside can do for the family. One of those things is it gets people exposed to sunlight which has many benefits. Being in sunlight exposes people to a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin lifts people’s moods and helps them feel calm and focused (Healthline). Getting outside has also been shown to improve mental health significantly. According to one study, people who engage in nature-based recreation can show improvements in well-being and affect, and decreases in depressive symptoms and anxiety (Lackey, 2019). As mental health is improved among the different members of the family, the family as a unit can grow closer together.
Getting active is usually related to individual health; however, it can help the family as well. Many problems arise in the family due to family members being tired and tolerance levels being lower than usual. Being active can increase energy levels over time, allowing family members to be their best selves, and to treat each other in the best way possible. Being active can also improve people’s mood (Mayo Clinic), which has a direct impact on how family members communicate and interact with one another. As each family member’s mood improves, so will the overall environment of the home.
The family is extremely important, and in order to build and maintain familial relationships, people need to put in the work. At Ashcreek Academy, the primary focus is “doing” and teaching others, whether that be through kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, etc. One student noticed that he found a love for mountain biking and riding horses while attending Ashcreek. He noticed that this was a coping mechanism for him for frustration and anger. He took his mother with him on an Equestrian outing one day, and on another he took her to do a mountain biking trip. His mother said she learned more about him in those two days than she had during the two days prior.
The therapists at Ashcreek encourage the students to get outside and learn, but also to take the lessons they learn and teach their family. “The ‘learning pyramid’, sometimes referred to as the ‘cone of learning’, developed by the National Training Laboratory, suggests that most students only remember about 10% of what they read from textbooks, but retain nearly 90% of what they learn through teaching others” (Education Corner).
When we are engaged in an activity we love and have others wanting to learn about our interests, defense mechanisms start to disappear and it opens the door for genuine connection.
So what does this mean for the family? As kids learn about how to engage meaningfully in activities, connect on a deeper level, communicate, and share their passion for an activity- they will maintain that for years to come, and will most likely replicate this in future generations.
As families get outside, get active and experience things together, they improve the overall mental health of the family, continually enhance their relationships and draw closer together.
Lackey, N. Q., Tysor, D. A., McNay, G. D., Joyner, L., Baker, K. H., & Hodge, C. (2019). Mental health benefits of nature-based recreation: A systematic review. Annals of Leisure Research. doi: 10.1080/11745398.2019.1655459.
Healthline. Accessed Oct. 14, 2020. What Are the Benefits of Sunlight? https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/benefits-sunlightt.
Mayo Clinic. Accessed Oct. 14, 2020. Exercise: 7 Benefits of Regular Physical Activity. www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389.
Education Corner. Accessed Oct. 14, 2020. The Learning Pyramid. www.educationcorner.com/the-learning-pyramid.html.
Written By: Crete Gallagher, Admissions/Outreach Counselor