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How Spending 1,000 Hours Outside Can Change Your Life with Ginny Yurich

"When you're in a state of awe and wonder you can't be anxious at the same time, it's physically impossible to have those two things going on simultaneously."

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If you had to guess how many hours your kids stared at screens every year, how high would you go? 100 hours? 500? Try 1,000! Ginny Yurich, a mom of 5 in Michigan, is the creator of the global movement known as 1,000 Hours Outside. The goal: to balance the average 1,000+ hours a child is in front of a screen per year with 1,000 hours of unstructured outdoor play.

After a tricky start to motherhood, Ginny decided she wanted to try something new with her young kids. A friend invited her to take part in “nature days." After a year of regularly gathering together with friends outside, Ginny realized they had spent more than 1,000 hours together. After looking back on the year and the changes she had seen, not only in her kids but herself, she knew she was onto something and coined the slogan, “1,000 Hours Outside: A movement for those who want a slower childhood and a fuller life." Now her outdoor curriculum has been used around the globe and she receives personal success stories from fans on a daily basis.

In this episode of The MomForce Podcast, Ginny tells Chatbooks co-founder Vanessa Quigley what life is like right now for her family — and what to do about video games! 

What was the main thing that inspired you to consciously begin planning outdoor time with your kids?

I spent my kids' early childhood just basically flailing. It all changed when I began to homeschool back in 2011 with my oldest and a friend invited us out for a nature day. I was thinking, no, what are we gonna do for four to six hours? I ended up saying yes, even though in my mind, I did not think it was going to go well. Turns out, it was the first good day I had as a mom. I'd not had a good day up until that point. It changed the trajectory of my life because I went from struggling as a mother to make it through the day, to having a good day.

Why has the movement been a success?

There's something about being outside and it hits all the senses and you remember that experience. You have these deep bonds with your friends and with your family while still gaining all of these other benefits. That's really neat.

What has the response been like to the 1,000 Hours Outside movement?

To this day, people send messages and say, "if not for this challenge, I wouldn't have had this memory." So it's about finding the things we don't even know we're losing.

Is the goal of spending 1,000 hours outside by the end of the year only a realistic goal for homeschooling families?

Every family is so different and unique and that's part of the joy of the 1,000 hours outside goal is figuring out how you want things to look for your own family. But you know, trying a walk to or from school, riding a bike to school, or going to the park for an hour instead of going straight home from school — there's lots of creative ways that you can do your outdoor time.

Does it count towards my 1,000 hours if I take a book and read on my porch?

Yes, that full spectrum light does so much for your health, your eyes, and your mood. People always ask, well, does it count if my kid's in a stroller? Does it count if I'm just reading a book in a hammock? Well, yeah, you're getting that surround sound. You're getting all those benefits of the fresh air and it does make a difference.

What are some benefits you have seen in your own family from outside time?

The research says that when you step outside, it lowers your blood pressure and helps you be present. And when you're in a state of awe and wonder you can't be anxious at the same time, it's physically impossible to have those two things going on simultaneously.

And so when you're outside and there are things that are catching your attention, the shapes of the clouds, the birds singing, it is so beneficial because our brains are wired for novelty.

What should I do about a teenager that loves to play baseball but most of the time ends up playing video games?

Encourage him to stick with the organized sport. Although it is not unstructured play outside, sports can still have benefits! Especially when it means regular time spent outside each day. He will learn how to play on a team and get that outdoor time.

What are some things to consider when planning your first ever 4-6 hour nature day?

You don't need much. I always say the three Fs: food, friends, and a first aid kit!

Find more from Ginny on Instagram and the 1,000 Hours Outside Podcast. You can find a free 1,000 Hours Outside Tracker here.

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