This article is a part of Families for Depression Awareness’ Hope and Discovery campaign.
By Amy Williams, October 11, 2017
As adults, many of us strive to gain insight into our true character and understand who we are at our core. As parents, we strive to help our children do the same and gain perspective on their individual identity, as well as their part in the family as a whole. One of the best ways to do this is to be involved and participate in positive activities together as a family. Doing so gives everyone an opportunity to discover new interests and passions, stay connected, strengthen relationships with each other, lower the risk of teen depression, build a healthy self-esteem, and enhance overall mental health. Here are eight ideas to provide self-discovery activities for families.
1) Join a service organization that you all find meaningful and volunteer together. This could be at a wide variety of sites, such as an animal shelter, non-profit organization, or food pantry; it could be doing activities such as cleaning up a park, helping build homes for people in need, or completing household chores for elderly neighbors. Go as big or small as you like, choosing either a national service organization or identifying a need in your own neighborhood to tackle together.
2) Journal as a family. Journaling is an activity often encouraged as a coping skill. It is a great way for adults and children to work through emotional issues. This can be guided by a parent providing a sentence starter, or it can be completely individual. Each person should have their own journal and simply take some quiet time to reflect on the day. For older children, this could mean writing about the best thing that happened that day or expressing a worry. For younger children, it may simply be an illustration about how they are feeling or what they did that day. The journals should be private to their owner and items should only be shared if they are volunteered to do so. This creates trust and mutual respect and will allow for the activity to be more meaningful.
3) Plant a garden. Clear a spot in your yard with plenty of sunlight. Work together to prepare the plot and select your favorite flowers and/or fruits and vegetables to plant. Then, together, plant, water, and nurture your garden. It is an ongoing way to keep your family engaged and growing together, both literally and figuratively. Plus, recent studies show the simple pleasure of seeing and smelling fresh plants and flowers has multiple benefits for enhancing and improving our state of mind. They enhance our ability to relax, increase productivity, decrease stress and anxiety, and improve positivity, memory, and concentration. Vitamin D from the sun is also thought to boost mental health.
4) Cook together. If you were able to plant a garden and reap the rewards, you can use the veggies from your garden; if not, creating even a simple meal can become a meaningful family activity. Take turns choosing the menu and experiment together with different flavors and techniques. Record your favorites and create a family cookbook. Not only will your family enjoy cooking together, you’re likely to eat healthier and spend more quality time together as well. Eating more fresh fruit and vegetables fuels the body with key combinations of vitamins and minerals needed by the body to boost mental and physical health.
5) Create a time capsule or family photo album together. Spending time going through old mementos and pictures can stir up happy memories and help everyone to refocus on those things that are most important to us. The end product will be something to be rediscovered years later and help those memories come to life.
6) Visit different places of spirituality together. Try as many as you like until you find one that fits your family’s belief system and style, and then visit regularly. Building faith and spirituality together provides a sense of comfort and unity. Many places of worship also have other groups and activities you can get involved in as a family or individually. Sharing a common belief system with others builds relationships, reduces stress, creates a strong overall sense of wellbeing, provides a sense of belonging, and enhances self-esteem, all of which are key components of mental wellness.
7) Create a family book club. Depending on the ages and maturity of your family members, find books that appeal to the whole gang. Take turns picking the book, then read and discuss them together. Be creative and choose different topics and areas of interest to keep everyone learning and exploring. You can try books that help your family talk about more difficult subjects like teen depression, mental health, or suicide prevention. Books are a great way to open up a conversation and apply the lessons to your family.
8) Go camping together. This can be anything from rustic, hike-in tent camping or “glamper” camping with running water and four sturdy walls around you. Whichever suits your family, take time to escape the chaos of your busy schedules together and de-stress. Go explore somewhere new, take some hikes, go kayaking. Experience the great outdoors together by disconnecting from technology and connecting to each other.
Whatever activities you choose, be sure to take time to value and nurture your family. In the stress of today’s society, we need to remember to stay connected to our families, decompress, and enjoy quality time together. Each person will benefit from it, and your family’s emotional and mental wellness will be stronger for it.
- To sponsor or attend our annual event, An Evening of Hope and Discovery, learn more here.
- Interested in starting a family book group? Check out our list of recommended reading to start or continue a conversation about mental health and family support.