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Category: Health and Wellness

Get Your Children Outside to Play

Get Your Children Outside to Play

A few weeks ago, on a beautiful fall day, my boys and I biked to a local park to play basketball and climb around on the jungle gym. There were other children also outside and I noticed three boys, about 10 or 11, were huddling around each other staring at a cell phone. They were engrossed. As my boys and I played, these older kids remained hunched over this electronic device for at least another thirty minutes. 

This is not what playing outside should look like.

I grew up spending a lot of time outside. I was usually with my sisters or friends, but as I got a older I would occasionally be alone. We would swim, ride our bikes, skateboard, jump on a trampoline, play football, basketball, or capture the flag. We would hike in the creek, build forts, and climb trees. We spent thousands of hours playing outside. 

Kids need to be outside, to play, to run, to explore. As a father of two boys, I know this, but sometimes forget. This fall, I was reminded of how beneficial it is for my kids to regularly play outside. Over the course of a few weeks we hiked, biked, played sports, camped, and experienced some natural wonders. It was tremendously joyful for all of us. As a result, we all slept better, ate better, and were generally in a better mood.

Kids need space to run and explore. Inside they have physical boundaries and limitations. Outside they are free to move their bodies with speed and strength. They can push themselves. Outside, they can touch and break most things without much consequence. Inside the house can feel like a museum filled with crystal vases for a young boy full of energy.

The progress of science has demonstrated many benefits to spending more time being active outside. Daily active play for children improves overall health. There are mental benefits from spending time in nature such as taking a hike in the woods. Moderated heat and cold stress both active different pathways benefiting overall health. Exposure to outside light improves vitamin D levels and helps align us to a healthy circadian rhythm. 

When kids are outside you get to ask them these questions:

  • Want to pick up that stick and break it?  
  • Want to climb on that rock?
  • And jump off? 
  • Want to run and yell?
  • Want to goof off with your friends?
  • Want to jump in that puddle?

Do it! What’s the worst that can happen? Your children may get some bumps and bruises and their feelings may get hurt from time to time. They’ll likely get dirty and occasionally ruin some clothes. A few band aids, some soap, and a home cooked dinner can remedy most mishaps that happen outside.

Inside our house the conversation often goes like this:

  • Stop running!
  • Don’t jump on the furniture!
  • Use your inside voice!
  • Be careful!
  • That could break!

Our world has become too sanitized and controlled. Children benefit from dirt and discomfort. Fortunately, nature provides both.

Our children need to play outside more. Their schedules should allow for regular outdoor play time. The rain, cold, or heat shouldn’t stop them. Kids need to be able to just be kids and being outside is their natural habitat to do so. 

Therefore, go buy your children some boots, open the door, and let them be themselves.

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

I started this year rested. I was recharged. I was ready for a big year. This was because I took the time to slow down, rest, and reflect over the holiday break leading into the new year. I learned how important this is.

We are constantly tempted to do more, watch more TV, and the worst offender is out smart phone. Our phones and social media remind us all day that we’re missing out the newest TV show, restaurant, recipe, band, or exercise fad.

At the very beginning of this last break, I intentionally sat down and took some moments to be still. I put my phone down, turned the TV off, and just sat with my thoughts. These moments weren’t terribly long, sometimes 5 or 10 minutes. Sometimes they would last 30 or 45 minutes.

Most of the year, as a father of young children, there aren’t enough of these moments, so we need to take them when we can.

Entering this past holiday break, my wife and I both sensed the need to slow down. My wife has incredible intuition, and so when she starts to sense something, I’ve learned to listen. She sensed the need for making time for rest and simplifying our schedule. I agreed.

Our normal week is often hectic. There’s a lot of rushing. Rushing to and from work. Rushing to drop off and pick up the kids in time. Rushing to get chores done and keep a house in a semi-orderly state.

This year, we purposefully spread out the holiday family gatherings. In previous years, we had family gathering smashed right up against another. We cherish the time we get to spend with our family more than anything else, but in past years it was rushed. Historically we went from an extra rushed week at work straight into back to back to back holiday gatherings.

Fortunately, most of our family is local and we can see them whenever we want. We started the break with this new approach for the holidays and built the rest of our break around that. Spreading out these gatherings allowed us to savor them each a little bit more.

The second thing we intentionally did was to not over schedule with other activities. We made plans once a day and kept one or two days free from any activities at all. We prioritized our activities on friends and family that were in visiting from out of town.

Then we let the rest of the break play out organically. It was amazing.

We rested. We slept 7 or more hours every night. We took moments throughout the day to sit down, drink coffee, and read. We tackled projects we usually were too busy to do.

I cleaned and organized the basement and office. I filed paperwork that piled up over the year. I took some trips to Goodwill and identified many other things to give away in the future.

During this time we noticed something beautiful happen in our boys. They had long stretches of time for unstructured play. This brought out some amazing creativity. They were able to focus and explore. My oldest played with one items for hours on end. Our youngest learned to build his own wooden train tracks. They created new games together and bonded through the process.

I exercised almost everyday. I lifted, ran, did yoga, and was able to work on my mobility and flexibility.

I practiced the piano everyday. This is something I’ve wanted to learn for a long time. The momentum from playing it everyday on break has carried into the new year.

The best part about the break though were not the things I achieved or checked-off the to do list. It was what happened in the space when we slowed down.

  • I said yes to my son when he asked if I wanted to color or play.
  • I sat and talked with my wife.
  • I planned how to handle some upcoming personal challenges our family faced.
  • I noticed the pile of paperwork needing filed and just sat down completed the task.
  • I read two books.
  • I listened to my body and rest, exercise, and rest again.

This pace was beautiful and needed.

What I noticed from this break was that I need to build a habit of creating regular space in our lives. I want and need to work hard, but allow myself to slow down to recharge. After a week and a half of purposefully slowing down and taking these moments throughout the day, I noticed many benefits. These moments of reprieve from the pace of parenthood enable me to have more energy, enthusiasm, and confidence I spend my time and energy in the right places.

Our modern life is full of endless choices for things to do. They fight for your attention, time, and money.

The goals I have in 2018 are my most ambitious goals ever, which is piled on top of looming personal and professional challenges.

I know to achieve those goals and maintain fulfillment throughout, I need moments of reprieve from doing.

These moments provide three primary things: rest, reflection, and space for imagination. Our best ideas come when we let our minds wonder.

So my new goal is to regularly give myself space on a consistent basis. I’m exploring that schedule to look something like this:

  • Daily: An hour or so in the evenings after work with the family. I need space to cook dinner, play with the kids, and sometimes to just sit and read.
  • Weekly: Part of a weekend day to not have anything schedule or any expectations of myself. Maybe this time is spent on a hike, reading, writing, or just resting and daydreaming.
  • Monthly: Both one day of vacation or holiday where I don’t have plans and a weekend where we under-schedule ourselves as a family. At least one full day without plans if not two to play, explore, and rest.
  • Quarterly: Extra long weekend or a full week with travel. Maybe it’s a long weekend in a cabin, a week at the beach or lake with the family, or a backpacking trip.
  • Yearly: Similar to this year, a week plus when the kids are out of school to slow down and unwind. Here is the best time to reflect and review the prior year as we begin to cultivate hope for the new year.

There is a fine line between trying to do too much and becoming apathetic and not challenging yourself. Don’t misread this as a call to do less in life or have more time to watch TV. These moments are often not fun. Self-reflection can be gut wrenching. When we face our own faults in the mirror it will leave you longing for growth and stronger discipline.

Sometimes life dictates that we don’t get the opportunity for these breaks for an extended period of time. Sometimes our spouse or children get sick and require us to take care of them while we continue to run the household. Sometimes our work throws us a monkey wrench or opportunity that needs a temporary surge in time and energy. Get after it in these times and do your work. Then, when life eases a bit, look for moments of reprieve.

Usually under normal circumstances, we can afford a few moments to pause, put our feet up, and let life breathe. We probably will have to turn the TV off, put the phone down, or prune some unnecessary activities to make a little space. Sometimes we may need to say no to an extra project at work or push off a social engagement to create these moments. But the fruit or the investment is worth it.

We often won’t be able to plan them or predict when we’ll need these moments. It is better to take them when you can because we don’t know what curve ball life will throw at us the next day.

Creating space by slowing down allows me to do the following things that I have now deemed critical:

  • Make sure that I’m not just busy for busyness sake but I’m spending my time and energy on the most important things,
  • Rest enough to generate energy and enthusiasm to accomplish these important things, and
  • Have enough free space to allow my most creative thoughts and ideas come to life.
So take a moment and ask yourself the questions:
  • Do you feel like you are moving too fast all the time?
  • Are you giving yourself enough time to recharge and reflect?
  • Do you give yourself enough space to be creative and think?

If you need, create some space in your life to slow down. And then get back after it again.

The Power of Saying No to Others

The Power of Saying No to Others

We have so many choices that it can be overwhelming. We have endless choices for our careers or companies to work for. We have choices for hobbies and activities. And anyone who has had cable TV recently knows there are endless choices for entertainment. We also have the ability to leverage technology and connect with people with similar interests almost anywhere.

We need to learn the power of saying no to others. It is just as important and powerful as saying no to your children.

As you may have noticed, I have a strong interest in bass guitars. In the city I live in, there are numerous bands and churches I could play with. But additionally, there is also a local and online cultural of bass enthusiasts who love to talk, write, and share information about the bass. I could endlessly shop in the classifieds section and see the unbelievable options for custom instruments, amps, cabinets, and pedals. I could browse the learning forums, seeking the latest and greatest technique tips to improve my finger funk just a little more.

All of these things are wonderful choices and sources of opportunity and information, but did you notice that very few of them actually involved me just sitting down and playing the bass? I have been distracted by many of these things in the past, to the point where it has negatively impacted learning the instrument. It has also distracted me from my enjoyment of the instrument. For a long time, I kept wanting a new pedal, bass, amp, or technique. The want never ended.

When I made some hard decisions, and learned to start saying no to certain gig opportunities, to searching and contributing to online forums, and to the various opportunities to buy new gear, a funny thing happened.  My growth in the instrument blossomed while my overall time invested in it went down.

So by learning when and how to say no to others, be it people or outside distractions, I flourished. My enjoyment and progress went up.

Saying yes, when you’re young and growing makes sense as long as it is strategic. I learned a lot from playing last minute gigs and having to learn songs quickly. This forced me to site read music, learn by ear on the fly, and be able to assess gear that fit my playing style and tone. I learned a lot from playing with a variety of different musicians, styles, and venues.  But I also reached a point where I needed to learn more by doing less variety and say no to others and the opportunities they presented.

I needed to go deep into my work on the instrument and say no to anything that distracted me from that.

Saying no is not easy and comes with some fear. What if they don’t ask me to play ever again? What if I don’t keep up with the current trends or technologies?  What if I miss out on the opportunity of lifetime to buy a unique instrument or play in the ultimate gig?

We all have an innate desire to connect with others, and music for me was a really fun artistic way to do that. But sometimes, my tendency to want to make people happy distracted me from what I was really trying to accomplish. It lead me to say yes more than I probably should have.

I would commit to gigs or bands out of this desire for human connection. I never really took into consideration all of the impacts it had and if it really was helping me achieve the goals I really was chasing. I wanted to be an incredible bass player, specifically in jazz and funk styles. I ended up playing a lot of indie and singer-song writer gigs for a handful of years instead. Sure, I was getting experience playing in front of different crowds with different musicians. But I look back and I think to myself, what if I spent half the time I did moving gear around for those rehearsals and just practiced and mastered 15-20 incredible Motown masterpieces.

I needed to learn how saying yes would impact other areas of my life. When I would accept some of these gigs, I would end up without enough time to exercise, prepare healthy food, and get enough sleep. Staying up until 1 A.M at a bar on a Friday night after getting up at 6:30 A.M for the day job would start my weekend off on the wrong foot. I often wouldn’t recover until Sunday when it was almost time to go back to work again.

Todd Henry in his book, The Accidental Creative, talks about the importance of pruning in your life. Sometimes you need to remove some good things in your life so that you can make room for more great things. I look back on that period of my life musically and I was playing a lot of good music, but not enough great music defined by my musical preferences. Pruning one or two things would have benefited many areas of my life, not just my musical progress.

So what are some things or people in your life where that you need to say no to more?  Or even to get started, what are some things that if you removed from your life would give you more time and energy to do something potentially great?