How to improve family bonds and keep peace while safe at home

You love your family. Your life wouldn’t be the same without them. But let’s face it… sometimes family relationships can be stressful… especially when you’re all stuck in the house together for months and months at a time as we have been during this pandemic.

All of a sudden, those quirks and bad habits you normally find (somewhat) tolerable become incredibly annoying. Whether it’s your kids not loading their dirty dishes into the dishwasher, your spouse living off pizza and beer or your parents not embracing social distancing and masks as much as you’d like, the tension can build and make an already stressful time even more stressful.

So how do you let all this stress go so you can make it through this pandemic with your family relationships intact?

Well, there’s no instant solution to strained family dynamics. Your relationship with your family comes with years of habits and history that’s hard to erase overnight. But there is something simple you can do to help your family get along a little better during the pandemic…

Go for a family walk.

That’s right. Research suggests a short walk may be just what the doctor ordered to help your family bond better during the pandemic… and beyond. But there’s one rule: no indoor walks allowed.

Families who walk together, have fun together

A 2017 study from the University of Illinois shows that walking in nature can help family members get along better.

The study included moms and daughters who were asked to walk together outside at an arboretum and inside at a mall. After their walks, these moms and daughters had more positive interactions and got along better than they did before the walks. They were also more attentive. But there was a difference between the outdoor walks and the mall walks…

Moms were more attentive and felt more restored only on nature walks, while daughters (who were between 10 and 12 years old) were more attentive after both walks. That said, both moms and daughters thought the nature walks were more fun, relaxing and interesting than the mall walks.

Related: The strange way COVID attacked my brain and how I’m beating it

Why does this matter? And more importantly, how can it keep your family from driving you crazy during the pandemic?

Well, researchers believe there’s a pattern that plays out in most families. Everyone in your family — no matter what their age — deals with mental fatigue from the demands of their day. School, work, household obligations and (of course) the stress of the pandemic leave everyone feeling drained and irritable. And when you put a few mentally fatigued family members together, you’re bound to have conflict.

But according to researchers, a walk reduces mental fatigue and restores attentional functioning, which is why mom and daughter duos who took a walk together got along better afterward. They were feeling refreshed and attentive, which always makes for a better family dynamic.

Family walks: A new part of your daily pandemic routine?

Ready to make family walks a regular habit in your household? Great! It’s bound to help you get along better… and keep you active and healthy during the pandemic.

The good news is researchers say you only have to walk for about 20 minutes to make it worth your while from a family bonding perspective.

Of course, depending on where you live, the weather can get extreme at times. So, make sure everyone’s prepared for an outdoor walk… whether that means bringing water bottles in the summer or wearing long underwear in the winter. That way, there’s more of a chance everyone will enjoy the experience, and family bonding can commence.

It may take a little persuading to get everyone out and walking. But once you do, I bet you’ll see more laughter, smiles and good old fashioned family bonding during a time when families need to love and appreciate each other more than ever.

Sources:

  1. A walk at the mall or the park? New study shows, for moms and daughters, a walk in the park is best — MedicalXpress.
  2. The Effects of the Natural Environment on Attention and Family Cohesion: An Experimental Study — Children, Youth and Environments.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.