11 Ways to Enjoy the Outdoors as a Family

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After a high degree of burnout almost a decade ago, I continue to make it a priority to be outside whenever possible and focus on as much physical activity outside, when not at work. There is no doubt that on a day-to-day basis, my awareness and commitment to being outside became easier for me after moving to Florida in 2013, but over the years our experiences vacationing at various national parks firmly validated that immersing myself and my family in nature was the best way for me and us to connect and achieve “strategic recovery”.

Of course, one must find ways to “recover” on daily and regular basis and not wait for that “one big trip”. I have a much stronger drive to be outside compared to my husband, Dave and my daughter, Claire, therefore it is always challenging to reach consensus on what we do together as a family. What I am most proud of is my acceptance and theirs, of our differences. We plan accordingly so that I am outside as much as I want to be while they join me for some of the activities for our family time.

Here are some ideas we do as a family that are simple yet so many of my patients and families admit they don’t do even when able: 

  1. Take a walk around the block, after dinner, on weekends. Having a dog may motivate you and the family to walk more. Shiro (our Samoyed) definitely motivates me to get out on the weekends for early morning walks to see the sunrise! Perhaps you can choose to walk alongside your children who may want to be on their scooters, skateboards, etc. Claire loves to be on her skateboard while we walk. At times Claire is doing her homework, so after dinner Dave and I will take short walks with the dog, and enjoy connecting for 15-20 minutes at the end of our workday. 

    Shiro, our Samoyed, with his friends
    Shiro, our Samoyed (middle), with his friends on a morning walk.

  2. Get in the water; go swimmingkayaking, paddle boarding, even play in the backyard with those water spouting slipping n’slide games! No question, access may be a challenge, but no matter where you live in the US, there is a summer season sometime! There is nothing more peaceful for me than being on the lake in my kayak, watching the minnows jump out of the water as I admire the lakeshore cypress trees and see the clouds reflecting off of the lake, or the amazing water lilies that are blooming now. 

    Lake Nona
    One of my favorite places—Lake Nona in Orlando, FL.

  3. Play a sport, like tennis or basketballMany adults grew up playing a sport in high school. If you did, depending on what it is, you may be able to pick it up again. Having always loved tennis and being on the high school tennis team, I definitely missed playing after high school graduation. Over the next 2 decades, there were few and rare stretches of tennis playing, but I am so grateful that it is a part of my routine again since picking it back up 2 years ago. Take lessons as a family for something like tennis or golf, see what your local YMCA offers, or your local parks and recreation department, or just kick the soccer ball around in your backyard, play some hoops in front of your garage if you have a basket installed or play catch with your kids! 

  4. Play yard games (like cornhole or spike ball). I still have fond memories of playing volleyball or badminton almost daily after school during junior high, with my friend and neighbor, in the driveway between the rows of townhouses.  

  5. Eat lunch or dinner; have a picnicOn a nice day, pack a cooler and a picnic and head to a park, or if you are short for time, how about just doing it in your backyard? Or on your deck? On a beautiful sunny day, younger kids love to eat outside and have a “picnic”. 

  6. Plant a gardenDave is amused that I love going with him to Lowe’s or Home Depot to the gardening section, buying flowers, and coming home to plant a couple of flower boxes, re-pot my orchids, or create a succulent arrangement in a pot. I love immersing my visual field with a view of multi-color flowers. When Claire was a toddler, we loved planting seeds with her, watering them, and watching her reactions in amazement as she saw the sprouting of anything green. There is something very gratifying about growing plants! 

  7. Enjoy a fire; make s'mores! I loved the fire pit we had when we lived in Kansas City, and watching the beautiful red sparks when Dave would build these wood log fires. There is nothing more cozy than the natural fire light glowing on our faces as we share warmth, laughter, and tell stories. When we went “glamping” at Auto Camp Russian River in Northern California with my sister Nancy, brother-in-law Eddie, and our gorgeous niece Emi, we had the best time making breakfast over the fire pit and enjoying s'mores at night. 

  8. Watch the sunrise or sunsetMy absolute favorite thing to do, as often as possible, as many days as possible, from anywhere including our hospital building, which thankfully has a glass exterior! 

    Sunset in Mexico
    A sunset during our trip to Mexico this year (2019).

  9. Play with sidewalk chalk and blow bubbles! When Claire was young, blowing bubbles and drawing on the driveway brought so much joy. You may get anxious waiting for the rain to come to wash the chalk off, if you’re like me and like a clean driveway!  

  10. Ride your bikes. Many parents ride with the attachment carrier that hauls their toddlers, and once children learn to ride, it’s awesome to go on family bike rides. Be sure to find a safe route hopefully away from busy traffic, and don’t forget to wear helmets! 

  11. Hold a garage sale and have a lemonade stand with it. This is a great way to clean out the house and garage, your closets, and purge yourself and family of unnecessary items while generating a little income. Whatever doesn’t sell give away to Good Will. 
Get outside and enjoy your summer! 
    Burnout Well-Being

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