You weren’t always an indoor person. Or maybe you were, poor city kid.
Here’s the thing: by DNA, by ancestry, by survival of the fittest – you weren’t always an indoor person. You were (at one point) barefoot in the dirt, making mud-pies with leaves for garnish, eating raspberries straight off the bush, climbing trees and peering into nests. You laid on your belly in the sand in cool water of a lake, rolled in the grass down a hill or rode your bike with the late summer sun on your little tan shoulders.
Those memories create good heart feelings, don’t they?
You were designed for the great outdoors.
Evolution didn’t create you to sitting in front of the computer or TV or at a desk for 8 – 14 hours at a time. Many of us take less than 2,500 footsteps a day (recommend minimum is 10,000) – much easier to do outside than in a parking garage, mall or office hallway.
You were at some point hunting and gathering, hauling water, collecting firewood, herding animals, picking berries. At the very least, you were outside with the sun on your face or trying to stay warm next to a fire in the winter, washing clothes in an icy river and going to bed when it was too dark to see. (Boo to blue light.)
Here are 3 Reasons to Get Outside Now
(followed by 3 PRACTICAL Tips for making it happen)
ONE: Nature Calms You the Eff Down There is education and science that backs this up. Your city-self is only as many years old as you are chronologically. Your wise animal self is literally thousands of years in the making. At some point, your DNA slept under the stars, obeyed it’s circadian rhythm and ate whatever grew in the earth within a few mile radius of your ‘home’. That innate wisdom is ancient and there is a part of you that is in sheer misery in the world of busy, deadlines, square eyeballs and blue light.
When we step out into nature, mostly away from urban streetscapes, slip off our shoes, turn off our devices and let nature seep into our senses, we begin to experience the familiarity and peace of nature. The sound of birds, the wind in the leaves, the coolness of the grass, the warmth of the sun and the varying levels of day light and dusk all work with our oldest self to soothe and still. Blood pressure is lowered, anxiety falls away and a deep sense of peacefulness … and happiness … sets in.
TWO Tucker Yourself Out I remember being outside in the snow – all frozen snot and icicle eyelashes and rosy red cheeks – trudging through almost knee deep snow, pushing huge snowman parts around the yard, using the shovel to make ‘streets’ and racetracks and houses for hours of happy play. I also remember the way my blood felt coursing through my body as it began to warm up inside the house while I enjoyed hot chocolate. My cheeks would get hot, and my legs felt like tree trunks from working so hard to move through the snow.
Add 5,000 steps outside in the snow. Or the rain. Or in the sand on the beach. Trudge. Take slow methodical steps – or push yourself to break a sweat and aim for 10,000. Breathe deeply and with each exhale let go of the ‘city’ stuff that is weighing you down. Even before you think happiness, you will sense happiness in the tissues of your body. Your old DNA knows what feels like home. And when you crawl into bed at night, grateful and spent, your tired and happy body will enjoy the rest.
THREE Doubles as a Workout with You Knowing It Only 12,500 steps these days classifies as ‘highly active’. Pick up the pace from a stroll to a stride and increase the cardiovascular benefits. Stimulate your bowels. Let your blood flow fast through all the tiny blood vessels not dilated when sitting.
Get really crazy and throw in 20 squats, or 10 push-ups from your knees every time you cross a park bench.
Or swing on the swing-set at a park when you stroll by.
Or buy snow-shoes and soak your shirt under your coat.
Or tighten your laces and run for 40 steps every couple of blocks.
This practice alone will increase your personal fitness, make you feel like a superstar over-achiever and help to tucker you the eff out.
3 Tips for Making Outdoor Time Happen
ONE Shut Sh*t Off I’m not a TV watcher. That’s my secret to making time outside happen. But I am addicted to the internet. For quite a while, while building an outdoor habit of obtaining more daily steps – my trick was a pedometer – to track my progress (always enlightening).
Once I’d formed the habit and began to notice that my body felt happier outside, making time to be outside came easier.
TWO Find an Outdoor Accountability Partner That’s my dog-friend, River. For you, it might be a girl-friend, or a baby in a stroller, or a hiking club or a spouse. Whatever works. Your accountability partner says things like ‘I thought we were walking today.’ and ‘Let’s go a little further today.’ and ‘Want to take bread crumbs and feed the ducks at the pond.”
I actually prefer outside time with River because she’s fast but won’t go to far from my side, she likes it when I stop to sit and meditate and she doesn’t talk. When you’re silent in nature, magical messages come through to the heart. Your intuition fires. Your brain isn’t distracted by beeps and bells and voices and background noise. Solutions to nagging problems start to appear. (Advice: carry a notepad and pen!)
But, if in the beginning, you need company to make this time happen – for comfort or safety or companionship – ask someone if they’d like to join you on an adventure.
THREE Baby Steps, Sweetheart … Baby Steps As with any new habit being formed, practice makes perfect. Try and try again. Make it a Sunday thing until it can be a three-times-a-week thing. Find new places to explore – a local park, a regional attraction, a set of trails nearby or walk on a beach at sunset. JUST. KEEP. GOING.
You were designed to enjoy the great outdoors. There is a wild woman (or man) inside of you that longs for the familiar feelings of ‘home’. Let yourself go there and then come back tell me if you feel something change for you.