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Tantrums. Entitlement. Boredom. And those were the things I was battling with myself. The kids had their own issues! I was feeling sick of being in my head and restless in my own body. I was tired of being stuck in the house in the dead of yet another Midwestern winter (how did those keep coming back each year?!). I wanted neededa change for my family. For me.

I was spending an embarrassing amount of time on my phone. I limited screen time for my kids but still knew they were watching more TV than I’d like. We weren’t engaged with one another in a meaningful or present way, and I wanted more for us. I searched for how to fix these doldrums.

The solution I found was so simpleit was getting our butts outside. After coming across a few posts about the benefits of spending more time in nature, regardless of the weather, I finally decided to give it a try.

RELATED: A Messy Kid is a Happy Kid

The effects have been life-changing. I knew it would be great for my family to get outside more. What I didn’t expect was how wonderful it would be for me as an individual.

Did you know there are several studies that found physical, emotional, academic, and advocacy-based benefits to children spending time outside? The research is compelling, but nothing quite equates to enjoying the benefits first-hand.

Witnessing a stick become a magic wand. Learning the names of all the local birds that visit your yard. Jumping in muddy puddles without a single worry about how messy we’re going to get. Knowing exactly when the seasons have changed because your senses have been alerted to the signs immediately. Watching in awe as a bald eagle rides the air currents above your head.

Our boys’ imaginations run absolutely wild in the best way when we’re outside and enjoying completely unstructured time together. There’s no schedule to follow or rush to move on to the next thing. It’s given our kids the freedom to savor their childhoods, a chapter in their lives all too fleeting. It showcased a shared interest in exploration that my husband and I didn’t realize we had. It’s helped us appreciate every (okay, most) type of weather and temperature. It’s given me more peace of mind than I’ve had in the last several years.

RELATED: 7 Strategies for Reducing Your Kids’ Screen Time

As a society, it can often feel like we’re always wanting the next trendy item, or chasing the next self-care fix. But what if we (kids and adults alike) just need to get outside more? What if we just need to allow ourselves the space to play and explore? What if we just need to feel the grass tickling our bare feet?

We started slowly, investing in proper gear for the elements when our budget allowed. We ventured to local playgrounds and trails. Step by step, our hours outside blossomed, and we found ourselves further from home for longer stretches of time. Our micro habits formed into second nature, and it became a fun challenge to add more hours and try new menial tasks outside instead of in the house. Ultimately, I started going outside to escape. Instead, I found myself.

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Brianna Baranowski

Brianna Baranowski is a California girl loving the Iowa way of life! She is a boy mom who thrives on authentic and honest connection. Brianna is a writer, naturalist, and former teacher.

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