The amount of time parents spend with their kids has risen dramatically (almost doubled!) since the mid-1990s, according to a 2010 study done by two economists at the University of California, San Diego. On the flip side, kids spend half as much time playing outside than they did 20 years ago, undoubtedly connected to a 2017 study that showed kids under nine years old spend more than two hours a day on screens.
While it’s great that parents spend so much more time with their kids, their kids are still spending a fourth of their day glued to today’s technology. So what’s better? Ironically, what went down in the pre-screen, pre-helicopter-parenting days may actually be the key to better health.
Here are five things you probably did as a kid that can help you stay healthy as an adult.
Napping (it’s not just for kids)
In the midst of a national sleep deprivation epidemic, napping may be the new drug of choice. Napping now has achieved considerable viability. A 2018 New York Times article states that “the stigma of sleeping in the middle of the day might be disappearing.” Nap pods are now springing up in several corporate offices, and a handful of designated nap centers are offering sleep treatments.
A cultural shift around napping has emerged, one that posits napping may be a more effective way to recharge than swigging energy drinks or reaching for a sugar bomb. Instead of being evidence of laziness, napping is now recognized as the ultimate power move. As cultural understanding grows of the critical connection between sleep and wellness, there’s more recognition that sleep is at the core of a healthy and productive lifestyle.
Bottom line: Don’t think of napping as lost time. Consider it found time that can make you more productive overall.
Digging in the dirt
The adult version of playing in the dirt (aka gardening) has much to offer. Studies suggest a wide range of mental health benefits of gardening, such as reduced depression and anxiety. There are also physical perks as well, including a reduced body mass index and a healthy immune system. Playing in the dirt can literally strengthen your microbiome.
As a baby, you put everything in your mouth, including dirt. This may be due to an evolutionary strategy to “feed data” to our immune system. But even as adults, the immune systems need a range of diverse data, or challenges, to stay in fighting shape.
Bottom line: Antimicrobial products may make you more – not less – susceptible to disease-causing organisms. It may be car more beneficial to cultivate a relationship with dirt, which can significantly expand your microbial richness and biodiversity. A little dirt not only doesn’t hurt, it can do a lot of good. A common-sense approach to cleanliness is to avoid excessive use of antibacterial cleansers and rely on natural soap and water as necessary.
Crafting and coloring
Fooling around with yarn, coloring between the lines and letting your creativity run wild stands to benefit your inner adult as much as your inner child. Research shows that creative activities are a conduit to decompressing from everyday pressures. Several studies show that structured, rhythmic endeavors such as coloring, knitting and sewing are particularly conducive to stress relief, easing you into a meditative zone that puts negative thoughts and worries on the backburner. The repetitive actions used in these activities release serotonin, the brain transmitter responsible for relaxation.
Bottom line: You can literally color your way to longevity. A study co-sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts “found that adults 65 or older who engaged in creative activities such as making jewelry, painting or writing had better overall health, made fewer visits to the doctor, used less medication and had fewer health problems than non-crafters.”
The importance of play for kids is well-documented. Now researchers are turning their attention to why play may be just as important for adults. While play may not look the same amongst the age groups, it does share a common theme: a sense of engagement and pleasure, a release of agenda and time, as well as prioritizing action over outcome. For adults, playing is a lot more than goofing off. It’s about developing resilience, perspective, reducing stress and boosting well-being.
Bottom line: One recent study found highly playful young adults—who self-reported themselves as spontaneous, energetic or open to “clowning around”—had less stress and better coping skills.
Taking gummy vitamins
The adult gummy trend is real—and they’ve come a long way from the chalky cartoon characters of yore. Now you can stop poaching your kids’ gummies and invest in your own supply. A tasty new delivery system for vitamins and supplements, gummies make consumption more treat than chore. It’s a viable remedy for the “pill fatigue” that plagues many adults. Besides, older consumers, in particular, can have difficulty swallowing tablets and pills.
Natrol has a line of gummies that includes multis formulated specifically for men, women and kids. Natrol also offers melatonin gummies, a pre-natal in this fun-to-take form and a biotin formula for hair, skin and nails.
Bottom line: Be sure gummies are not candy in disguise. Look for adult gummies that are made with organic ingredients and are non-GMO, gelatin-free and vegetarian.