You feel like you’re getting lots done, but you rarely feel peaceful. The truth is, according to recent research, multitasking can actually reduce your efficiency and endanger your health. If you’ve ever had to re-make dinner because you burned it while answering e-mails, or if your adrenaline regularly pumps overtime as you try to do four things at once, read on.
One of the best ways to take a break from parental multi-tasking, even if only for a few minutes, is to step outside. With or without your kids in tow, put on your coat, turn off your phone (no texting, no talking), open the door and spend some time in the natural world. If you have a yard, you don’t need to go far. If there is a park or an open space nearby, head there. If all you see outside that qualifies as “natural” is the sky, look up. Ideally, find a natural place that is relatively free of distractions, and allow yourself – and your children if they’re along – to slow down and simply take in your surroundings…one thing a time.
If you are a regular runner, biker or walker, you probably already understand why spending time outdoors is so liberating. Sounds are gentler in nature than they are inside — think birds singing, rain falling, leaves rustling, wind blowing. Inside, it’s phone ringers, blip-beeping video games and jarring washing machine alarms, sometimes all at once! And although there is lots to look at in nature, there is only one scene at a time playing itself out before your eyes – unlike what you have to take in when you watch TV, with its unending parade of visuals.
Kids are great at immersing themselves in the natural world so let them lead the way when you venture outdoors. Little people love to poke around and dawdle, and almost always discover something interesting crawling in the grass or hiding under the leaves. Adults would do well to learn to look closely like their children. Check that bug out…wow! How does it feel to be eye-to-eye, legs-to-skin with a beetle? It gives you a whole new perspective on the world.
As you spend time outdoors, alone or with your kids, you will feel yourself relaxing, both mentally and physically. Your attention to detail will sharpen as you take note of drops of water in a spider web or multicolored vegetables in the garden. You will notice how leaves smell when they fall to the ground and how the air feels on a misty-moisty morning before the sun breaks through the fog. You will also find yourself appreciating your children more, complete with all of their noisy curiosity, enthusiasm and energy. All of those things are so much more wondrous outside than they are in the confines of your home’s four walls.
As your kids get older and have busier lives themselves, it will continue to be important to venture outdoors as a family and learn together the value of taking in the world one thing at a time. After all, if you as a parent spend most of your day multitasking, why shouldn’t your kids want do their homework, chat on Facebook and eat dinner all at once? They learned it from a pro! Multi-tasking is useful when used appropriately and sparingly, but it doesn’t have to rule our lives.
One final note, don’t let a little dampness keep you from spending time outdoors this winter. Here in the Willamette Valley, we are incredibly fortunate to be able to spend time outside safely and comfortably year around. Rain gear is essential, but if you are well covered, you can consider yourself a duck, and let the rain roll right off your back.
Beth Stein is the director of Nearby Nature, a non-profit education group that hosts school programs, nature walks, no-school days, and summer daycamps in Alton Baker Park. Parenting Now! is a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening families through parent support and education. Explore this site; visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram; or call 541-484-5316. Family Info Line is also available; call 211, extension 5, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org