Family hiking in nature

The environmental parenting book, “Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer,” prescribes nature-based fun to improve mental health and mood in children (and parents).

In our always-on, pressure-cooker culture, children are at special risk for mental health threats. From too much screen time to navigating social media to obsessing over grades and extracurricular activity overload, children face enormous stress. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year one in five American children — 15 million kids — are diagnosed with a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder.

Fortunately, a powerful therapy to protect childhood mental health exists right outside everyone’s door, argues environmental journalist Sandi Schwartz. Written from one parent to another in an easy, nontechnical style, “Finding Ecohappiness” clearly explains the science of how nature improves mental health, while giving parents simple, practical ways they can help their children develop regular habits of reconnecting with nature to reduce stress and boost mood.

Ranging from hiking and bike rides to visiting nature centers and science museums to volunteering outdoors to embarking on ecotourism adventures, activities are categorized by awe and gratitude, mindfulness, creative arts, outdoor play and adventure, volunteering, food, and animals. Each chapter includes activity checklists and additional resources for further exploration.

“Finding Ecohappiness” has received numerous accolades, including GOLD book award from Foreword Reviews, GOLD award from Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) Benjamin Franklin Award program, GOLD Nautilus Book Award, GOLD award by Nonfiction Book Awards via Nonfiction Authors Association, Arlene Book Award: Books That Make a Difference from American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), and National Indie Excellence® Awards (NIEA) finalist.

The following is an excerpt from “Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer” by Sandi Schwartz, pages 265-266. Copyright © Sandi Schwartz 2022. Reproduced by permission of Quill Driver Books, Fresno, CA.

Mother and daughter on nature hike

How Your Nature Habit Can Heal Your Family…and the Planet

Thank you for sticking with me. If you have found just one new nature-related activity for your family to enjoy together, then I have done my job. Whether you decide to start a family garden in your backyard, practice nature meditation with your kids before bedtime, or something huge like booking an ecotourism trip in another country, you have found ecohappiness. Nature has so much to offer us if we open up all our senses to receive these extraordinary gifts.

I hope that your family’s nature habit helps you all feel happier, healthier, and calmer. I invite you to return to this book often as your tool kit to spark fresh ideas and to find support on your ecohappiness journey.

The details of the numerous nature activities highlighted throughout this book are simply stepping-stones to reach the ultimate result, however. This nature habit you have started to build for your family does so much for you, your children, and beyond. By turning to nature, we can improve our mental health, our communities, and our planet. My goal is to open your eyes to the tremendous ways that nature helps us thrive.

Now that you know how beneficial nature is to your family’s well-being, will you try to save it?

It is ironic that nature is ready and willing to provide us with the solution to help us feel more joyful, positive, and energetic, but we do not always treat our natural environment with the admiration and respect that it deserves. We are facing multiple threats to our environment from climate change to plastic pollution to overdevelopment, among other catastrophes. While this book focuses on how nature improves our children’s mental health, there is a much larger picture to consider.

The next step beyond recognizing nature’s healing power is to protect it for the future. If the local park turns into a shopping center, where will your children play? If the nearby lake or river fills with garbage, how will your kids swim and fish? If habitats are ruined, how will our children ever experience the awe and pleasure of watching various species of birds fly in the sky? In essence, how we treat our natural environment is a reflection of how we treat ourselves, our children, and all living things. And this impacts all our happiness.

In addition to helping families find a natural solution to stress, I wrote this book to shine a light on why mental health should be part of the environmental movement. This has been a missing piece for far too long. The bottom line is that we need to protect our environment for many critical reasons, including our mental health.

I also deeply believe that happy, balanced people do not hurt others. If more people utilize these happiness tools and learn to cherish nature’s treasures, then our world will ultimately be safer and more peaceful. Isn’t that what we all want anyway?

Keep challenging yourself to do more, go a little bit deeper, and experience something out of the ordinary. Try new activities, visit different places you have never explored, and experiment with what brings ecohappiness to your family. Then share your experiences and the tremendous benefits of nature with friends and strangers alike and pay it forward by volunteering your time to help others and the planet. That is how we will see our world progress and transform for the better.

By Sandi Schwartz

Sandi Schwartz is an award-winning environmental author and journalist with over 20 years of experience in the areas of sustainability, green living, home and garden, nature, and wellness. She has worked for organizations and publications including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Academies, District of Columbia’s Department of Transportation (DDOT),, mindbodygreen, One Green Planet, Green Child Magazine, and more. Read more of her work including her book, Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer.