Hike and Camp Weekend for Women

hike and camp weekend next to the waterhole

Spending a weekend hiking and camping in the Australian bush beside a waterhole was made all the more perfect by sharing it with a group of nature-loving women. The Adventure Therapy Project has guided women on bush adventures throughout 2019 and 2020 across the Southern Downs Region in southern Queensland. The funding sourced from Darling Downs West Moreton PHN was used to bolster the mental health of locals who’ve been doing it tough with severe drought for years.

The grant enabled small groups of women to experience mountain biking, canoeing, bouldering, bushwalking, birdwatching, nature walks, trail yoga, nature craft workshops and of course our Hike + Camp Weekend in the stunning Goomburra Valley in November 2020. All of these activities were fully funded so there was no added burden for the women to participate.

The time leading up to the Hike + Camp Weekend was filled with excitement as well as uncertainty as stormy weather systems that we hadn’t seen for a few years began to move through. The welcome downpour meant we needed to postpone for a few weeks to let the sticky black soil and clay dry out so we could safely access the property.

a grassy track on the property where we held the Hike and Camp weekend

Finally the day came and we eagerly met at the hay shed just below The Grain Shed Retreat. This private property is used for bush adventure and therapy by Bel and her team from Darling Downs Wellness Therapies. Bel was our very welcoming yoga instructor and camp host for our much anticipated weekend of balanced action and relaxation.

Bel was our host for the Hike and Camp weekend

We began with some yoga in the shade of the hay shed and I think we were all mesmerised by the sight of lush green grass around us. Awake to the beauty around us, we loaded our gear into the ute to be transported to our campsite for us and we moved into action. The uphill trek to our campsite was steep yet stunning. Even in the heat of the day we were unstoppable, pausing every few minutes for another breathtaking view of the valley around us. It was such a beautiful lesson about the value of persisting, pacing yourself and the power of group support.

stunning views on the uphill trek on the Hike and Camp weekend

Our campsite was cosily nestled among the gum trees next to the waterhole where we swam and cooled off whenever we felt like it. For some of us that was pretty special because women are so often focused on caring for others and getting things done, we don’t often prioritise our own self-care choices. The waterhole was also the perfect spot for sunset yoga and again early in the morning (we were so relaxed we didn’t quite make it for sunrise!)

campsites

Our delightful camp bathroom consisted of separate shower and toilet tents with all the mod cons you can imagine which made us feel so special despite roughing it for the weekend.

The hand built wooden deck looking over the waterhole, was perfectly positioned for us to settle in for the weekend. The tall whispering trees were like old friends standing by our sides, the trickling waterfall at our feet reminded us to bring focus to those things that revive us, and a clear night sky with the moon rising above us comforted us with its spectacular halo of light.

moon shining through the trees

Exploring the dry creek bed was one of the treasures we experienced during the Hike + Camp weekend. We discovered an incredible array of rocks, some of them sparkling intensely in the sunlight, some of them purple, some of them pitted with holes from volcanic days gone by. Others were a motley combination of rock and clay artfully stuck together on display. Each of them different and special – a bit like all of us. It’s amazing how things can sparkle and shine with their true colours even in the harshest of environments.

layers of rock forming the dry creek bed and banks

Over the weekend Bel shared stories with us of people who had walked the land before us. It was moments like these that we were reminded of the vastness and multi-dimensional nature of our world. Slowing down for the weekend opened up opportunities for enriching, heart-felt conversations, silent reflections about life, and lighthearted moments where we laughed wholeheartedly, doubled up and breathing deeply, wiping the tears of laughter from our cheeks.

3 women at the Hike and Camp weekend peer into a deep hole in the creek bed

In quieter moments we read books or created with craft. We ambled, rested, shared stories and came home to that inner part of ourselves as we reset and reconnected with the important stuff of life.

relaxing and resting on the deck overlooking the waterhole

The Hike + Camp weekend really was a time to practice balance. All the juggling we do in our every day lives was paused. We each chose a balance that was just right between action and relaxation, togetherness and alone time, introspection and outward expression. As we packed up camp and meandered down the mountain to our vehicles, each of us carried a sense of clarity about what it is that we need as an individual to nurture our energy levels and zest for life. For all of us that meant remaining connected with nature in some way.

grassy field with hills in the background and blue sky

I’m always inspired by the magic that happens when women come together for activities such as hiking and camping. With open hearts and minds we connect with nature, connect with each other, and most importantly we connect with our inner selves and when it’s time to go home again, we leave with a certain richness that inspires us in other areas of our lives.

INTERESTED IN HEARING ABOUT FUTURE BUSH RETREATS, CAMPING ADVENTURES AND NATURE-BASED ACTIVITIES? Sign up for my Grounded Inspiration emails so you won’t miss out!

You can also listen to the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast episode where I chat about all things to do with the Hike and Camp Weekend!

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Where to Mountain Bike on the Southern Downs

I get lots of queries about where you can mountain bike on the Southern Downs. This article gives you a summary of some of my favourite places to ride close to my home. If you live further afield, you might be interested to know what’s around here so that you can bring your bike on future visits. And if you think you’re not likely to ever come to the region, keep reading anyway because you’ll get some tips on how to find out where you can mountain bike in other regions as well.

MTB Southern Downs

MTB for fun, fitness and mental health

Over the last couple of years I’ve been running some mountain biking (MTB) skills clinics for beginners/intermediates in the region through The Adventure Therapy Project for Women. This community project is an initiative of Kathryn Walton Consulting and has been supported by funding from Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN. Supporting women to ride off road is important to me because I know there are many barriers that prevent women and girls getting out and having a go or consistently being involved with adventurous activities. I’ve been riding MTB for about fifteen years recreationally. I’ve competed in a few races but my love for MTB is all about getting out there for cross country rides with my family and friends and inspiring other women to do that too. It’s all about the fun, fitness and mental health.

Where is the Southern Downs?

The Southern Downs region is 1 ½ to 2 hours south west of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia, or about 1hour south of Toowoomba. The Southern Downs stretches down to the New South Wales border through the Granite Belt district and includes the regional towns of Warwick and Stanthorpe with dozens of smaller rural towns and villages throughout. There are plenty of dirt roads connecting our farm communities and groups regularly get together to ride and enjoy a coffee stop along the way.

The best places to MTB on the Southern Downs

Across the region you’ll discover National Parks, State Forests and lots of other parks. This is not a comprehensive list or description of every spot you can take your mountain bike but it will definitely get you started! You can also check the Trailforks app or website for trail information, and you can ask people who are familiar with the region. Jump on the Southern Downs Mountain Biking Club Facebook Page and ask questions anytime.

Mt Marlay MTB Bike Park, Stanthorpe

Trail head: Foxton Street, Stanthorpe
Trails: Green, blue and black cross country and downhill trails
Length: Currently total of 6-7kms of purpose-built single track with new trails under construction (as at December 2020)
Facilities: Picnic table, signage
Features: Lots of granite rock with short ascents and descents; naturally occurring rock obstacles; views; tank mural/artwork; close to CBD and accommodation
Best suited to: Riders with some prior experience riding off road who enjoy a variety of short loops
Club: Southern Downs Mountain Biking Club

Mt Marlay MTB

Broadwater State Forest / National Park

Entrance: via Glenlyon Drive or Plant Lane
Trails: Mostly green / blue level of difficulty; cross-country
Length: Currently approximately 15 kms of multi-use cross country trails, double track and dirt roads for walkers and MTB
Facilities: Limited facilities – be self-sufficient
Features: Sandy, rocky terrain only a few minutes from Stanthorpe CBD; old-style trails; close to Granite Belt Brewery and accommodation
Best suited to: Riders of all levels; can be very hot in summer

Passchendaele State Forest

Entrance: Multiple entry points off Amiens Road
Level of Difficulty: All levels of difficulty catered for. You are permitted to ride only on formed management roads and you may require a permit if you are organising a group ride or an event.
Length: You could easily ride all day in Passchendaele!
Facilities: Limited facilities – be self-sufficient
Features: Sandy, rocky and granite terrain with some steep sections; dries out quickly after rain; 20-25kms from Stanthorpe
Best suited to: Riders of all levels especially beginners and intermediate cross-country riders

Women's MTB Ride Passchendaele

Girraween National Park – Peak and Creek Trails

Northern Entrance: Mt Norman Road – approx 5-6kms east of the Bald Rock Creek Day Use Area

Southern Entrance: Mt Norman Day Use Area, Mt Norman Road
Level of Difficulty: Green, blue
Length: The Peak Trail is 10.6kms return and can be combined with the Creek Trail which is a 3.5km loop.
Facilities: Toilet at Mt Norman Day Use Area; signage on the trails
Features: Granite terrain with some sandy sections; spectacular wildflowers in spring; amazing views of Mt Norman and other parts of Girraween; 20-25kms from Stanthorpe; car-based camping at Castle Rock and Bald Rock Creek Camp Grounds; bush camping at designated sites along the Peak Trail (permit required); accommodation nearby
Best suited to: Beginners and intermediate cross-country riders

MTB at Girraween, Mt Norman

Other parklands

There are several other State Forests and regional parks suitable for MTB in the Southern Downs Region. Remember to check for alerts (closures, bushfires, harvesting etc) and whether you need a permit to access. Locations include:

  • Leyburn State Forest
  • Durakai State Forest
  • Gambubal State Forest
  • Condamine Gorge
Maryland National Park

Maryland is not technically part of the Southern Downs Region but it’s very close and runs along the border in New South Wales. You can access Maryland National Park from Cullendore Road by turning west into Maryland Cullendore Road and following this dirt road into the park. There are no facilities and you must be careful to leave all gates as you find them. Ride the length of Maryland National Park along the dirt road from Cullendore towards Dalveen. It’s a great ride for beginner and intermediate riders through beautiful forest.

Cullendore High Country

Cullendore High Country Camping is a privately owned establishment next to Maryland National Park right next to the Queensland border. This is a working farm with beautiful camp sites and dirt roads and tracks suitable for beginner riders including children. The owners are continuing to develop on-site MTB trails with direct access to Maryland National Park.

Safety first

For a fun day out, prepare and research your mountain bike adventure before leaving home.

  • Check the National Parks and State Forest alerts, Southern Downs Mountain Biking Club and Southern Downs Regional Council notifications
  • Take plenty of water and some food as many of these places do not have water or shops close by
  • Make sure your bike is suitable for the terrain that you’re going to ride
  • Be sun safe
  • Follow signage and advice from the authorities including COVID-19 regulations
  • Be First Aid aware and know how to manage snake risk and other injuries
  • Mobile phone service may not be reliable in all areas
  • Let someone know where you are going and what time you expect to be back

For more information go to:

You can also listen to this article via the Outdoors is my Therapy Podcast using the link below or via your favourite podcast player / app. Subscribe so you’ll always know when the latest episode is up!

Till next time, enjoy your outdoor adventures!

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Exercising on a budget

Getting started with a new exercise routine can seem daunting and expensive especially when you’re on a budget. There are a lot of pressures to spend your hard-earned money on exercise gear, equipment, memberships and trainers or coaches. But you don’t need a big budget to get active, improve your fitness and reduce your health risks.

Throughout history people have coped quite well with little or no special exercise equipment. So what IS the best way to improve strength, flexibility, endurance and cardio health when you’re on a budget? In this article I share with you how you can make walking your go-to exercise of choice and how you can vary your walking routine so that you stay motivated and keep your fitness progressing along ….. all on a budget!

bushwalking with family

Money, money money!

Australians spend billions of dollars a year on exercise – memberships of gyms and clubs, exercise classes, clothing, equipment, massages, personal trainers and more. Can you believe that about a third of the population pay for gym memberships but almost half of these people only occasionally use the gym, maybe 1-2 times a week? That’s a huge investment for minimal health gains!

Gym memberships are only one way to get your exercise in. There are many other ways you can spend your exercise budget – sports clubs, specialised gear and clothing, race entries, travel and accommodation to participate in races, training programs, and renovations and equipment to make your own home gym.

If you’re just starting out and want to get an exercise program going, this can seem daunting and expensive. Maybe you won’t like that sport, or maybe you won’t enjoy the gym environment. What if you purchase all the gear and equipment and then decide it’s not really for you?

Don’t fall into the trap of spending big in order to exercise. You have other options if you don’t want to spend a lot of money, or if you don’t want to spend any money at all. There are plenty of pressures out there to hand over your hard-earned money on everything in life including exercise. It’s easy to get hooked into marketing campaigns and the latest health fad which often leads people into comparisonitis, FOMO (fear of missing out) and an unhealthy focus on changing your body’s appearance. You can easily get sucked into believing that you HAVE to spend up big to get fit and healthy.

bushwalking boots

Get back to the basics with exercise

I love going to the gym and I find some of the modern technical clothing very comfortable. These things can certainly enhance your enjoyment of exercise but throughout history people have coped quite well with little or no special exercise equipment. Remember, the aim of exercise is to improve strength, flexibility, endurance and cardio health by putting a load on your body. And that doesn’t have to cost anything!

Generations before us didn’t need all the gear and memberships! Exercise was part and parcel of a hard day’s work fixing fences, chopping fire wood, baking bread by hand, walking or riding to the shops, and doing the laundry with a boiler and wringer!

Functional activity like this can provide you with plenty of exercise but today’s housework generally doesn’t cut it in terms of exercise. If you’re going to increase your physical activity without overspending, you’ll need to get back to the basics and make the most of opportunities all around you.

Start with a good pair of shoes

In my opinion, the most important piece of equipment you’ll need is a good pair of sports shoes. If you don’t have any, get yourself properly fitted out so that you protect your feet and minimise any injuries from poorly fitting shoes. Once you’ve got your shoes sorted, the rest is pretty easy. Pull on some comfy clothes, slop on some sunscreen, grab a hat and a bottle of water and you’ve got all the makings of one of the most accessible forms of exercise we have on the planet today – walking!

Walking is ideal exercise for most people wanting to improve general health and fitness. But if you have any concerns or medical issues, make sure you check with your doctor or health practitioner before beginning.

one step at a time

Walking is your ideal exercise on a budget

Walking is an ideal form of exercise because …..

  • You can set your own pace
  • There’s less opportunity for comparisonitis when you’re walking outdoors than when you’re in a group class or gym hall
  • Walking is convenient – you can walk almost anywhere no matter where you live or work or travel
  • You can walk alone or in a group
  • You’ve probably already got everything you need to go walking
  • If you don’t have everything, you still don’t HAVE to spend a lot to get started
  • You don’t need any special equipment
  • Walking is low impact exercise – perfect if you’re just starting out, coming back after injury or have joint pain.
  • Walking is free (please note that there are day entry fees or car parking fees to some National Parks and recreation reserves)
  • Walking is not boring if you change your routine regularly. Find a new place, pace, direction, gradient or length of walk. Ask someone to be your walking buddy or go alone. Walk at different times of the day including at night and explore different areas in different seasons. Adopt a different theme for each day to make it interesting – look for animals, clouds, sounds, colours on your walks.
  • Educate yourself while you walk by listening to podcasts and audio books
  • Listen to music as you walk and keep the pace
  • Walking keeps you grounded. The process of making forward motion with each repeated step can get your mind and body in sync with the world around you.
  • Spending time in natural environments can be settling when you feel anxious, down or stressed. Combine this with physical activity and you’re onto a winner!
  • Meet up with others to stay motivated. Join a walking group or try your hand at Park Run.
  • Vary your walks by including different elements and scenery. What urban walks interest you? Seek out as many flights of stairs as possible. Try a bush walk, wetlands walk or beach walk. Go barefoot at the beach and feel the sand between your toes. Pace out your steps around the farm paddock or check out your local park.
  • Walk with a purpose – walk to work, school, a friend’s place, bus or train station, shops
  • Have a go at orienteering using a map and compass
  • Use a navigation app or GPS device to pre-plan your walk or record statistics of your walk for your own purposes or to share with others.
  • Wearable devices with pedometers, smart phone apps and other data trackers can help with motivation to reach your goal (eg number of minutes walked, numbers of steps each day)
  • Wear a backpack for added weight training whilst walking
  • Schedule ‘walking meetings’ and ‘walking catch-ups’ into your week
  • Go for a lunch time walk or an end-of-day walk to wind down and de-stress
  • Earn as you walk – deliver newspapers or pamphlets along your way
  • Go ‘window shopping’ – meander along a street with retail stores after business hours and enjoy your time to look around a part of town that you usually rush through
  • Take your kids for a walk after school while everyone chats about their day
  • Add value to your daily walk by incorporating a session at the local outdoor gym, a sprint along your favourite section, carry some hand weights along the way, or pause for a few yoga stretches midway.

take time out for a night walk

Make walking your ‘go-to’ exercise

Walking is my go-to exercise. I can go walking almost anywhere, any time that fits my schedule, and with minimal gear. You can spend heaps of money on exercise, but for most of us, we don’t have to. Walking is a fantastic opportunity to move your body and improve your health, fitness and your mental health. Did you know that walking is in fact the most popular form of exercise in Australia? Don’t miss out on the everyday opportunities to be kind to your mind and body! Begin your walking adventures with any of the ideas above and let me know how you go.

Do you have some other ideas about how to exercise on a budget? I’d love to hear from you!

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Family Adventures: Tania’s Story of Travel Around Australia

Have you been thinking about creating a family adventure? Maybe an epic travel adventure? Or perhaps you’ve already nurtured a culture of adventure in your family? In this blog post, Tania Bertram (guest blogger) shares her memories of travelling throughout regional and remote Australia  with her husband and two young daughters in the late 90’s. Tania is a keen Ambassador for the Outdoors is my Therapy initiative. She knows first hand that spending time outdoors gives you the chance to switch your mind off stressing, take in the beauty of your surrounds, focus your mind and your body, and bring a smile to your face.

An Epic Family Adventure

All packed and ready to go. One of many family adventures was about to be made. The adventure actually started many months before with the decision my husband Jeff and I made to travel Australia with our 2 year old and 4 year old daughters. Travelling and camping were not new to us or our girls.

In February 1997 the old camper was hitched on the back of the old LandCruiser and we headed south. Enjoying our own company, we chose secluded, quiet spots to camp. Nature is always on display when those around it are quiet and observant.

family adventure

The ups and downs of adventures

First week we encountered gale force winds as a storm tore through our camp site. The girls sheltered under the kitchen table as Jeff held the awning and I held the canvas side from ripping inwards. The next week in a remote National Park we sat in buckets of water as the temperature peaked at 48 degrees in the shade. The Grampians [part of the Gariwerd Aboriginal cultural landscape] beckoned us to explore its mountains and rocky outcrops, then a visit to the nearest emergency department to get the youngest child’s elbow manipulated back into place after a slip. Then our children’s eyes wide as 4 spoons darted in and out of a tub of ice-cream, overlooking the valley.

Awe-inspiring adventures

Hiking up a stony track at sunset we wandered around the amazing stone sculptures of Broken Hill. Further south to some sinkholes we camped near clear water pools and watched an echidna waddle on past, leaving us pondering where he was heading to. We explored remote and windswept beaches with only our footprints to keep us company while we fossicked through treasures that had been washed up.

adventures in Australia

Travelling up through the middle of our vast country we lay at night stargazing in the desert and listening to all the night animals calling. We sat on a low branch with the cool water washing over our feet, making up songs about what we saw. Redback spiders needed to be pushed aside so we could use the long-drop toilet. We swam in 38 degree artesian bore water, chilly crystal clear water in numerous gorges and warm tropical waters. It was a sheer joy every time.

Us girls put on our posh frocks, our only going out dress, and cheered as we watched a horse race event in a small outback town. At yet another remote beach we dodged the squirts of the blue ringed octopus as we walked past their enchanting rock pools. Red chasms of the Bungle Bungles [now known as  Purnululu National Park] beckoned us in to explore around the next bend, listening to our echoed voices dance above us. Boab trees in the north west became hiding places for our happy girls. We joined hands and circled the tree only to reach half way.

family adventure in Australia

We sat mesmerised while listening and watching whales playing in the inlets, their fluke slaps lulling us into a peacefulness that only nature can do. We saw so many historical places, natural wonders and native animals up close. Our favourite pastime was lighting the campfire and making, cooking and eating damper on sticks filled with golden syrup.

making damper on the campfire

Daily life on the road of adventure

Daily chores were part of life on the road. The children would wash their undies and socks in their bathwater and hang them up to dry and some times they would wash the dolls clothes and hang them up.

I have beautiful memories of them sitting on a rug under the tree, observing in quietness. Other times they would be drawing what they saw or how they felt. I often smiled as my little family were huddled up on our laps around the campfire and Jeff would start a story with …. Once upon time there were two little sisters off exploring Australia…

adventures in the outback

Make memories while you can

Many older travellers would ask “Why do it now? Wait till they leave home!” Our answer was twofold. If we waited we may not get the chance to do it, and, we were having a wonderful family time making so many memories together. There are so many opportunities and adventures as a family.

Grow a culture of adventure in your family

We always wanted our children to know their country and the many people who make it their home. Eight months on the road began their confidence with their surrounds and their ability to fit into society, respect for their country and those who live off the land. Continued travels, to often remote locations, has given our daughters the courage and knowledge to become successful members within their communities.

amazing family adventures

Be with your children. Get down at their eye level and explore together. Explain and discuss what you all see, hear and feel. The colours and textures vary between leaves, bark and rocks. Make up stories about your children’s adventures.

Safe travels.

Tania x

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, daisy spokeKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves.

How to get into the habit of spending time outdoors

Have you been trying to get outdoors and spend more time in nature lately? It seems people are increasingly wanting to connect with the outdoors but I think it’s important to look at the longer term picture. How can you make sure that spending time in the outdoors becomes an ongoing habit and not just a passing phase as you react to COVID-19 restrictions? For some of us getting out into nature is a new habit we want to create, for others it’s more about changing the outdoors routine we previously had to fit with our changing world.

The benefits of connecting with nature are infinite – mental, physical, spiritual, social, environmental. If you believe in these benefits, then you’re more likely to invest time and energy into getting outside, and it will become your priority. You’ll need to get your mindset and your body working together to create a few healthy daily habits that will become part of your routine.

In this blog post I’m sharing some practical and proven strategies that you can use to get your mind and body working together for your own health and happiness.

Focus on what you DO want

Get your mind and body working together!

When it comes to habits, clearly some habits are more helpful and others are less helpful to living a healthy, fulfilled life. We know that nature has many benefits but like all ‘healthy’ things, creating the habit of getting outside daily is easier said than done. If going outside seems like a punishment, then you’re probably not going to be terribly excited about it. But if you have a deep belief that investing time and energy in the outdoors has great rewards (such as freedom, a sense of calm, or fun) then you’re halfway there already! This mindset shift can go a long way to making it a priority in your day and creating the new habit.

If time is an issue for you, or even if it isn’t, spending time outdoors can be combined with other activities such as meetings, exercising, studying and socialising.

You can’t rely solely on a great mindset though. You’ll need to take action too. Creating new habits requires a combined effort from your mind and your body. New habits can take a lot of work at first because it’s easier for your brain to keep doing the same old thing rather than changing. But it’s important to stick at it because habits take time.

creating new habits

Practical strategies to get outdoors

So, how can you get your mind and body working together on your new habit of spending time outdoors? Here are some practical suggestions:

  • Gather a tribe of people around you who already have an established routine of getting outside. You might find your tribe amongst your existing friends or networks, otherwise you can join a club or an online group who enjoy the same sorts of activities as you. The Outdoors is my Therapy Facebook Group inspires its members to spend time outdoors each day.
  • Spend time outdoors doing what you enjoy, and then find ways to do that more often or in new places.
  • Make your habit of spending time outdoors easy and do-able. Minimise the impact of the obstacles so that it’s harder NOT to do it! Get yourself organised ahead of time and don’t over-complicate it. You can ask yourself “If it was simple to get out there, how would it look? What would I be doing?”
  • Be creative and flexible. If you can’t find a way to spend time outdoors, find a way to bring nature inside.
  • Use logic and reason. Read up on the research that tells you all about the benefits of spending time in nature and the effects of Nature Deficit Disorder.
  • Give it time. Habits take time to develop so don’t give up if it doesn’t work out straight away. As challenges arise you can adjust, modify or adapt your plans. You can also ask for help and creatively problem-solve the difficulties.
  • Focus on what’s important to you about spending time outdoors. Is it fun, health, socialising, freedom or something else?
  • What’s your self-talk like? What do you believe about nature, exercise, spending time outside, relaxing, being active and being still? What are you telling yourself about your own worth and how you “should” spend your time and energy? How is that affecting your actions?
  • There is a lot of research and many popular books about creating and keeping habits. There’s no one ‘right’ way. You’ll need to experiment with strategies like those listed here to find what works for you.

create a habit of getting outdoors

What’s your story?

Do you have a story about how you’ve successfully developed a regular habit of spending time outdoors? I’d love to hear from you and feature some of your stories in future blogs and podcast episodes to help others in the same situation get past the obstacles that get in the way.

Till next time, enjoy your outdoor adventures!

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, daisy spokeKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves.

Tips to getting motivated to exercise

If you ever have difficulty getting motivated to exercise, then you need to read these tips!

Motivation is like a part-time friend

“I know I should exercise, but I just don’t feel motivated” is a very common problem. There can be a big gap between knowing what’s good for you, and actually doing it. It’s easy to allow excuses to creep into your life. They become blocks or obstacles to your own health care – it’s a form of self-sabotage. The point is you can’t wait till you feel motivated, and you can’t rely on motivation to keep your exercise routines in place. Motivation is a fickle feeling! It comes and goes like a part-time friend who is sometimes there in your hour of need, but is often nowhere to be seen or heard.

getting motivated to exercise

Commitment, not motivation will see you through

If you can’t rely on motivation, then what can you rely on? What’s going to keep you on track to living the health-filled life you want? You need to get real, cut to the core and examine your values, your priorities and the choices you’re making.

If health is one of your values, if it’s very important to you, you’ll make sure that it’s a priority and you’ll take actions that reflect that. For example, when you have to make a choice between exercising and something else such as staying in bed, watching TV or scrolling through social media, you have an opportunity to prioritise what’s most important to you.

So, what’s on your priority list for today?

What’s on your priority list right at this moment?

Where does exercise rank on your actual (not theoretical) list of priorities?

If you’ve identified that health is high on your priority list you need to be committed to it. Commitment, not motivation, will get you to take action. Keep your commitment to exercise as your focus whenever you need to choose how you spend your time and energy.

Are my actions in alignment with my values when working from home?

Tips for staying committed to exercise

  1. Remind yourself that exercise benefits not only yourself (your physical health and mood) but also those around you. Be the role model you’d like your family and friends to have.
  2. Have a good look at your daily routine and identify the best time and space for your exercise. It has to be doable and work for you in your situation. Don’t give up – changing routines and creating new habits can take a few weeks to settle in.
  3. Find or create a tribe of other people who also value exercising. Join a club or online group that shares your goals and can help you stay on track when things get tough.
  4. Get an exercise buddy so you’re accountable to someone else.
  5. Schedule your exercise into your diary and let others around you know your plans.
  6. Organise yourself by getting your clothes and equipment ready the night before and making sure your plans (eg child care, maps, meeting points) are all sorted.
  7. Pay ahead for your exercise program eg buy a multi-use pass for a swimming pool, gym or yoga classes.
  8. If your day doesn’t go as planned, don’t opt out of exercise altogether – a 10 minute walk is better than nothing. Doing nothing one day easily leads to doing nothing the next day.
  9. Reward yourself for being consistent with your commitment but make sure your reward doesn’t sabotage your efforts. You could reward yourself with some new exercise kit rather than with a cream bun and coke.
  10. Use a calendar, chart or exercise journal to document your commitment and progress.
  11. Use technology to plan, record (and share if you like) your efforts. There are many apps and devices that can record your steps, mileage and heart rate for example. But if you find yourself stressing or obsessing over them, give them the flick. They’re intended to be an aid not a burden.
  12. Exercise can become a bit ho-hum after the novelty wears off or when your body has adapted to the intensity and type of exercise you’re doing. Make sure you change it up occasionally to keep your physical and mental health progressing not stalling. See a personal trainer for a new workout, aim for a mix of indoor and outdoor exercise, go walking with a friend, swim in the ocean instead of the pool, dig a new garden bed or do some fencing as a change from lifting weights.
  13. See yourself as someone on a progressive health journey who values exercise and nutrition rather than focusing on weight loss or physical weakness.
  14. Use an indoor exercise training plan throughout the week to prepare yourself for a challenging outdoor adventure on the weekend.
  15. If your exercise session seems too long, too hard or too boring, break it up into segments or sets. Tell yourself “Just get to that next big tree then you can have a rest” and repeat it till you get to the top. Or if you’re swimming, change your stroke every 10 minutes. Or simply stop and give yourself a pat on the back at intervals.
  16. Set yourself a fitness goal such as entering an event, scaling a mountain you’ve had your eye on for ages, or going on one bush walk every week. Then take little steps towards your goal.
  17. The best type of exercise is the one you enjoy because it’ll have you going back again and again. Put your worries about what other people might think out of your mind and do what works for you.
  18. On those days that exercise seems really hard, focus on something enjoyable or pleasurable in your experience. It might be some little flowers growing in the grass, wispy clouds, a soft breeze, the rhythmic beat of your heart, or the strength you can feel in your leg muscles.
  19. Sign up for a community challenge such as a charity fundraiser or an online challenge to walk or ride or swim a certain number of kilometres in a month.
  20. Take notice of any injuries and seek expert help before they become a problem.
  21. Be firm but gentle with yourself. If you’re tired and carrying extra stress, review and adjust your exercise program to suit. If you’re just a bit tired or feeling blah, remember that exercise gives you energy and improves sleep and attention.
  22. Use visual reminders about your commitment to exercise. Display them as a wallpaper for your computer or phone, stick one on your bathroom mirror, or hang a printed photo or quote in your workspace that keeps you inspired.

The ‘getting motivated to exercise’ trap

Above all, don’t fall into the ‘getting motivated to exercise’ trap. Stay committed to your values and your priorities. Make intentional choices and take deliberate action. Then you’ll savour the benefits of exercise and you’ll be able to let go of your attachment to motivation.

Personal coaching to stay inspired and committed

coaching for womenWould you like support to tap into your values, work towards a personal goal, overcome the messy obstacles that get in the way, and live your best life? My personal coaching program may be just what you need. Contact me for more information.

daisy spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

How to find parks where I live

how to find parksAt the time of writing this post, it’s late May 2020 and Australia is going through a staged process of coming out of isolation. The world is striving to manage human health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m seeing and hearing a lot of enthusiasm from people to get out and socialise more, but also to reconnect with outdoor spaces and places. That includes people who haven’t been especially interested in the outdoors before. I think people have become more aware of the role that getting out and about and connecting with the outdoors has on mental health and well-being.

Lots of people have been asking questions about how to find parks where they live, where they can go, what walks are around, how to get to places, what facilities are available in different locations, whether particular trails are suitable for young families or people with mobility issues, how to get started bush walking and so on.

In this article I’m going to begin answering some of those questions. I’ll give you a run down on what types of parks we have in Australia that you can access for outings, picnics, walks, bush walks and other activities. We’ll look at what the differences are between National Parks, State Forests, Regional Parks and privately managed parklands and what sorts of activities can you do there.

I wrote last year about the Goomburra Section of Main Range and in future posts I’ll share information about some of my other favourite parks as well.

What are National Parks?

National Parks and reserves are publicly owned landholdings that are protected and managed by Federal or State authorities. Many National Parks are open for public recreation activities and have infrastructure such as toilets, picnic shelters, campgrounds and marked walking trails. Some National Parks have designated mountain bike (MTB) trails and locations for abseiling, rock climbing, bouldering, and other adventurous activities. There are some National Parks with no facilities and some that are not open to the public.

If you want to know what National Parks are in your area, what facilities are there, what activities you’re permitted to do and so on, you can start by looking up the National Parks website in your state and check the Parks Australia website for information about the National Parks that are managed at the federal level. Here are some clickable links to help you find a National Park:

Queensland
New South Wales
Victoria
Tasmania
South Australia
Western Australia
Northern Territory
Australian Capital Territory
Parks Australia

Visitor Information Centres are dotted around the nation and are a great source of information about the National Parks in their areas.

Regional tourist associations will also have information including accommodation and hospitality options nearby.

Social media groups is another way to find out more about National Parks and other parks as well. Many people love to share their knowledge of different parks so this can be a fantastic way to get first hand information about people’s experiences and to ask questions that you might have. But don’t forget to check with National Parks for up-to-date information as well, especially about current closures. National Parks can be closed for maintenance, bushfires, extreme weather and other reasons so I recommend checking every time before you set out for a visit.

There are entry fees for visiting some National Parks and for camping which you may need to book ahead. Some National Parks have an online booking system for camping, and others are first-in-first-served. In certain circumstances you may need to apply for a special permit well ahead of time if you want to undertake activities such as running organised events or commercial tours.

What are State Forests?

State Forests are publicly owned lands that are designated for multiple uses and which may be managed by your state National Parks, plantation companies or other enterprises. There is a lot of variation in what activities are permitted in each state forest. Mountain biking is popular in some State Forests, as well as walking, bouldering, and 4WDing.

State Forests are also subject to closure for harvesting timber and other reasons, so once again it’s best to check what’s on offer before heading out. My suggestion is to get on the Internet and search for State Forests in your area to find out more. Very generally there are fewer facilities and less infrastructure provided at State Forests than in National Parks so you need to be prepared to be self-sufficient.

What are Regional Parks?

There are lots of other public parks and reserves that are not National Parks or State Forests. Many of these are managed by regional councils or other local authorities so we’ll refer to them here as Regional Parks. They could also be managed through partnerships between different authorities and even with the private sector. Because the management can vary from place to place, you’ll need to look up your local council government website, or contact your Visitor Information Centre or your regional tourist association for more information about what’s around and what you can do there.

I want to give another plug for Visitor Information Centres. They can be a wealth of information about all sorts of local attractions, not just parks. And they should be able to tell you or give you brochures about local marked or signed walks, places where you’re allowed to take your dog, and parks where there are public toilets. Information Centres are often staffed by volunteers who are enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge of their area.

How do I find out about privately owned places that I can visit?

There are some privately owned or managed properties that the public can access for recreation, often for a fee. I’m thinking here about campgrounds, bush retreats and farm properties which allow you to camp and/or use the property for bushwalking, bike riding, climbing, bird watching, photography, picnics and so on. These properties are usually required to comply with certain regulations or have a licence and insurance to allow visitors. Once again you can find out about them through Internet searches; social media groups; Visitor Information Centres; and travel, tourism and accommodation platforms.

Your mental health will thank you for it!

I hope this article has given you some helpful information about how to find parks in your region and what the differences are between National Parks, State Forests, Regional Parks and privately managed park lands. All of these parks offer a different range of outdoor experiences and activities. It’s absolutely vital for your mental health and overall well-being to get out, to be active and to connect with nature. And my aim is to help you to do that in ways that are safe and health-giving as well as good for the environment.

Listen to the audio version of this blog on the podcast!

You can listen here to the audio version of this article on the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast, or find it on your favourite podcast player and remember to subscribe so you won’t miss future episodes about places you can go to get your outdoor therapy!

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Improve Your Sleep By Spending Time Outdoors

Use the outdoors to improve your sleep

Did you know that you can improve your sleep by spending time outdoors? In this blog post, I’m going to break the research down into practical bite-sized pieces of information so you can take the steps you need to get a better night’s sleep.

The connections between sleep, the outdoors and mental health

Sleep is closely linked to mental and physical health but nearly half of adults report not having adequate sleep. I’ve written in other blog posts about the complex nature of sleep so I won’t delve into the details here. But it’s important to understand that there are many factors that affect sleep quality and quantity. This means that the research about sleep can be pretty tricky. For one thing, it’s difficult to separate out all the different factors and identify exactly what causes what for different people in different situations. One of the factors that we know impacts sleep is spending time outdoors. So let’s have a closer look at how you can use this all-natural treatment to improve your sleep and feel better.

Day to day stresses affect your sleep

Day to day stresses affect your sleep so you need to develop effective stress management strategies not only to deal with your stresses when you’re lying awake in bed at night, but more importantly managing your stresses throughout each day so you don’t carry them to bed with you. There are many ways you can use nature to help with stress management:

  • The fractals of nature can be soothing. Fractals are the patterns that you can see and hear repeated in nature such as tree branches, ripples on a pond, the shape of snowflakes and the way they fall, ocean waves, the patterns on tree bark and animal skin, the sound of a running stream or a waterfall.
  • Meditation and mindfulness practices are known to be very useful for managing stress among other things, and the outdoors is a great place to practise them. Using your senses, bring yourself into the present moment – what do your see / hear / taste / smell / touch? Meditation and mindfulness practices can also help you refocus your attention and let go of stresses that you’re carrying around with you.
  • Physical activity and exercise are great ways to manage stress. Moving your body triggers changes in your bio-chemistry so that you feel better and manage your stresses better. When you get outdoors you’re more likely to be active than when you stay indoors. The point here is to be intentional about giving yourself outdoors time every day and to be as active as possible.
  • If you can’t get outside, for whatever reason, find ways to bring nature in to you that brings you joy and a sense of calm. You could try opening a window, growing indoor pot plants or flowers, displaying sea shells or even hang up a landscape painting or a photo of a natural setting.
  • Your imagination is another tool for managing stress by connecting you with nature even if you’re not outside. If you’re having difficulty sleeping or want to relax, you can visualise yourself in a natural setting. Invite all your senses to help out so that you truly feel as if you’re in a tranquil location surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells that help you de-stress and relax. I like to visualise myself lying on the sand at the beach and letting my stresses drain away into the sand as the sun warms my skin, the waves softly lapping the shore and the she-oaks waving their branches.

Nature setting - beach

Physical activity and exercise reduces stress levels and improves sleep

When you spend time outdoors you’re more likely to be physically active. Your body was designed to move, to be active, so it’s important to move a lot throughout the day. Activity and exercise also tires you out so you’re more likely to get a better sleep.

Medical conditions and pain can affect your activity levels and your sleep. My advice here is to focus on what you CAN do rather than what you can’t. Seek advice from your health professionals about the best and safest ways for you to be active. In general, something is better than nothing.

According to the research, moderate to vigorous physical activity is the best intensity of exercise to improve your sleep. When you are engaged in moderate intensity activity, you’ll feel your heart rate and breathing rate increase. You’ll feel like you’re working but you can still have a conversation with someone. Step it up a notch to vigorous intensity activity and you won’t be able to carry on that conversation any longer. Measuring intensity is all about your personal experience, so make sure you don’t compare yourself with others.

Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines are a useful guide to improve general health and wellbeing including sleep. Some other countries have similar guidelines developed from recommendations published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) including USA, Canada and UK. The Australian Guidelines state:

  • Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.
  • Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.
  • Accumulate 2 ½ to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity or 1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
  • Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.

Exercise in the afternoon can disrupt your sleep, especially if it’s vigorous exercise, so for most people the recommendation is to exercise in the morning if possible and preferably outdoors with the morning light (see my next point!)

The research also shows that time spent outdoors at any time of the day may assist with sleep but afternoon exercise is possibly best kept at a gentle level.

Bushwalking

Light exposure can help or hinder sleep

You can use your exposure to light to help improve your sleep. Go outside first thing in the morning – the blue light that is dominant in the morning wakes you up and triggers your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin which is released after dark and causes you to feel sleepy. Remember to follow the health guidelines for protecting your skin from damage by the sun.

Every morning when you go outdoors into the sunlight, you re-set your body clock. This is why it’s important to avoid blue light after dark. Put your devices away (remember to mute them!) and do some other activities instead. Think about the sorts of activities that previous generations may have done in the evening such as playing or listening to music, reading, playing board or card games and even going to bed earlier!

A consistent daily routine sets you up for a better night sleep

The research suggests that people with a consistent daily routine that incorporates exercise, time outdoors, meal times and relaxing activities in the evening are more likely to sleep better. Does your daily routine consistently include all these things? If not, how you can you re-arrange things so that it does?

But what if you have children or a baby!?

Disruptions to sleep are inevitable when you have children or are caring for someone else. It’s a 24/7 job and it doesn’t go on forever although it might feel like it at the time! The general recommendation is to sneak sleep in when and where you can and to get support or practical help with your responsibilities. If you don’t have a tribe (or a village) around you, create one for yourself and your family rather than striving for independence. Ask for help.

A healthy daily routine is vital for everyone no matter their age. Australia has developed the Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines which complement the Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines. You can model these guidelines for your family by setting healthy boundaries and routines for everyone that includes outdoors time, physical activity, exposure to natural patterns of light and dark, meal times and bed times.

Tropical Rainforest Adventures with Children

Bring nature into your bedroom

It’s important to have a safe, comfortable sleeping space. You can use nature to enhance your bedroom environment and improve your sleep.

Studies on people who go camping show that many campers sleep better and longer. They also tend to go to bed with the sun and wake up with the sun as our ancestors did. There are probably many factors contributing to this, so I’m not suggesting you move into a tent to improve your sleep, but it’s worth exploring how you might be able to tweak your sleeping environment, evening routine, behaviours and habits to replicate what happens in a camping situation. You could try the following:

  • Dim your house lights after dark and minimise exposure to blue light. You could mute your devices and put them in another room.
  • If you have bright street lights or car lights shining through your bedroom window, think about window coverings that will block them. Change the arrangement of furniture in your room to lessen the problem. Can you grow some plants or install an external window shade that blocks the light?
  • Many people like to keep a light on during their sleeping hours to provide comfort or safety when getting up to the bathroom. Try using a light that has a soft, warm glow rather than a bright light.
  • Air temperature and air flow, or lack of it, can disrupt your sleep. Your body needs to drop in temperature to have a good sleep. Unless you live in the tropics, the temperature normally drops at night time, so be careful not to rug up too much. Likewise, if it’s a hot night, you might need to find ways to cool down such as leaving the windows and internal doors open to allow for air flow.
  • Gazing at the night sky from the comfort of bed can be relaxing for many people, but not for others. Adjust your window coverings and rearrange your furnishings to suit your needs.
  • Waking up with the sunrise and going to bed just after sunset can be a wonderful way to start and end your day. Of course this is different at different times of the year and in different parts of the globe and isn’t always practical. But it’s definitely a habit worth considering.
  • What about the sounds you hear when you go to bed? Many people eventually get used to the sounds in their own neighbourhoods including cars, trains and sirens. But it can also take a while to get used to the sounds of nature at night if you’re not familiar with them. What nature sounds do you find soothing, and which do you find unsettling? How can you intentionally bring soothing sounds into your sleep environment? You could play music that incorporates the sounds of nature or download a ‘nature sounds’ app.
  • Aromatherapy can be used to improve your sleep too. Think about which aromas (or smells) you find soothing in nature and how you can safely bring them into your sleeping space. For example, you could have some fresh or dried lavender in your room if you like that scent, or use essential oils or incense (but for safety reasons don’t keep anything burning or heating when you go to bed, and follow recommended instructions carefully.)

Campsite at Elsey NP

What to do if you need more help to improve your sleep

If your sleep doesn’t improve after trying these strategies, have a chat with your doctor or health professional who can help you explore what you need to do in your situation. There are some medical and psychological conditions such as sleep apnoea, certain chronic diseases and stress disorders that may need more specialised interventions to get you the super sleep you deserve!

It’s up to you now to take action.

What can you do, what’s in your control right now that you can experiment with to improve your sleep? How can you use the outdoors to get a better sleep?

  • Manage your stress levels each day by getting outside or connecting with nature in some way
  • Get outside each day, be more active or increase the intensity of your exercise
  • Spend time outside first thing in the morning to get a dose of natural light that re-sets your body clock and helps you to feel sleepy later in the evening
  • Create a consistent daily routine that includes getting up and going to bed closer to sunrise and sunset, spending time outdoors, getting plenty of movement and exercise, avoiding blue light in the evening and doing some relaxing activities instead of scrolling through your device
  • Model a healthy routine for your children and set boundaries around their activities
  • Bring soothing aspects of nature into your sleeping environment by checking in with your senses – what can I see, hear, touch, smell that is calming and is associated with rest and sleep

Whatever you do, don’t give up too quickly. Stick at it because it can take a while to see the results. We know that even when you implement a new healthy habit, it can take a few weeks or months for it to really kick in.

Download the free printable!

improve your sleepI’ve created a handy hint sheet for you to use to remind you about all the actions you can take to improve your sleep by using the outdoors.

When you click on the image you’ll be taken to the RESOURCES tab on my website where you’ll find this handy hint sheet, along with many other printables which are free for you to download and print for your own use.

Listen to the audio version of this blog on the podcast!

As I write this blog post, our “Outdoors is my Therapy” podcast listeners are growing in number every day. I have many fabulous topics planned for the podcast including some interviews and stories about outdoor adventures.

I’d love to know if you have a topic about the outdoors that you’d love to hear more about. You can let me know via Facebook, Instagram or email. And join the Outdoors is my Therapy Facebook Group for plenty of inspiring chat and photos about the outdoors.

Daisy SpokeDiscovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Everyday in the Outdoors

everyday in the outdoors sunrise

Intentionally spending time everyday in the outdoors can add amazing value to your day, to your mental health and to your life in general. Yet many people rush through their day without even a thought about it. When you invest time and energy into connecting with the outdoors and with nature each day, you stand to gain multiple health benefits including improved attention, reduced stress levels, improved sleep and a better mood. Spending even just a few minutes outside each day can start to make a difference.

Recently the Outdoors is my Therapy Facebook Group ran a 7 Day Challenge to share ideas about some of the ways we can all get connected with the outdoors on a more regular basis – so we feel better! And live better! All of these are completely do-able, perhaps with some modifications, no matter your fitness level, age, where you live or how mobile you are. Here are the 7 challenges we undertook to spend time everyday in the outdoors:

GO FOR A WALK

I’m referring here to simply walking around, moving your larger muscle groups and immersing yourself in your surroundings. Whilst daily exercise is very important, the act of getting your body in motion and connecting with the outdoors is the focus here. You can take a walk at various times during the day depending what works best for your routine.

Morning walk

Getting out into the natural sunlight first thing in the day helps your brain to wake up, re-sets your body clock so you’re ready for sleep again after dark, and forms a solid foundation for your day.

Lunch time walk

A mid-day walk helps to break up your day. Getting outside your usual workplace and changing your focus is one of the best stress breaks you can give yourself. Perhaps you’ll love it so much you’ll incorporate a daily constitutional into your regular workday routine.

End of the day walk

A stroll at the end of the day signifies the end of work and helps you transition to family time, personal time or relaxation time. Walking as the sun goes down is especially helpful to switch modes and settle for the evening.

WITNESS SUNRISE & SUNSET

Begin your day with the waking light of dawn and finish your work day as the sun sinks below the horizon – nature’s perfect bookends for your day! If you practise yoga, why not do some sun salutations as the sun rises or sets. Or use this special time for personal prayer, meditation or breathing or stillness practices. Sunrise and sunset are global phenomena which can help us feel connected with other people and places.

SPEND TIME IN A GARDEN

Are you fortunate enough to have your own outside yard? Or do you have pot plants, indoor plants or access to a local park or green space? Maybe you have an in-house kitchen garden with herbs or bean sprouts growing? Your daily garden routine could include weeding, pruning, watering, planting or harvesting. It could also include more physically demanding jobs such as fencing, making compost and nurturing your worm farm. If you don’t have your own garden, you can spend time planning your dream garden, creating a garden either in the earth, on your balcony or on your kitchen bench. Or you can use your senses to enjoy nature’s handiwork outdoors.

HAVE A GO AT BIRDWATCHING

Bring your attention to the bird life around you. What birds can you see? And hear? You might like to identify the various birds in your neighbourhood, or simply watch and listen to them. Over time you’ll notice their patterns and routines, flight paths, nesting sites, amusing behaviours, social groupings, and how they respond to seasonal changes.

PRACTISE MINDFUL PRACTICES

Mindfulness-based practices are wide and varied. In general the focus is on slowing down and bringing your attention to your surroundings and your experiences in the moment. This can be challenging because we spend so much of our lives rushing around.

Sensory mindfulness

One way to practise mindfulness in the outdoors is to observe the world around you through each of your senses one by one. Spend a couple of minutes noticing what you see, then move on to noticing what you hear, what you smell, what you feel, and so on.

Mindful walk

There are many variations of mindful walks too. You can be barefoot or wearing shoes. Begin by pausing for a few moments, close your eyes, take a few breaths and tune into how that feels in your body. Notice the sensations of the ground beneath your feet. Slowly open your eyes and draw your gaze to the ground slightly ahead of you. Move slowly forward one step at a time, bringing your attention to the sensations as you move your foot forward – lifting, moving, placing it down, and adjusting your balance. Repeat this for each step you take bringing your attention back to the sensations of walking each time your mind wanders. Continue for a few minutes, then when you are ready to finish, pause again, close your eyes, take a few breaths and then open your eyes. This is a wonderful moment for a gratitude practice.

FIND THE LITTLE TREASURES

Make new discoveries in your outdoor spaces every day. When you begin to look, you can find little treasures everywhere! Cobwebs hiding in the corners of the fence. Bugs scurrying in search of new homes. Grasses beginning to seed. Leaves swaying in the breeze. The soft sound of bird wings as they fly by. Grains of sand sparkling in the sunlight. The feel of the breeze as it moves your hair or caresses your skin. The smell of the eucalyptus tree.

CELEBRATE LIFE WITH A PICNIC

Picnics are the perfect way to celebrate life and the outdoors. They are equally delightful whether you go solo or share it with others. Picnics can be simple or complex, planned or spontaneous, romantic or practical. All you need is some food and somewhere suitable outdoors. You might like to have a picnic rug, chairs or a park bench to sit on, but finding a fallen log or rock is heaps of fun too.

Pre-preparing picnic food can be pretty special, however turning your ordinary everyday meal into a picnic outdoors is a fabulous way to liven up your day. If you like, you can bring some extra activities with you such as a camera to do some photography, bat and ball games, “I Spy” games, books and crosswords. Turn your picnic into an adventure by adding a physical challenge to it, for example hiking or biking into your picnic spot.

Let's sum up!
We had a lot of fun sharing these activities during our 7 Day Outdoor Challenge. Which ones would you like to incorporate into your routine for getting outdoors everyday? Or what other actions are you feeling inspired to take to get connected everyday in the outdoors?

Head over to our Facebook Group to view the videos and threads about our #7DayOutdoorChallenge and share your ideas with us. By the way (if you’re not already a member) when you request to join the Group you’ll be asked to answer some questions before you can join (so we know you’re not a robot!) and you need to agree to the rules which are there to keep the group as a safe space for sharing and inspiring.

You can also listen to this article in the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast!

Kathryn talks you through how you can incorporate a daily routine of spending time in the outdoors that works for you!

Daisy Spoke avatar has long curly hair and smiling mouth

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Asking for help to reach your goals: a true story

Daisy Spoke Banner

Last week I wrote about asking for help. Today I want to share with you a true story about asking for help and how it was the exact strategy needed to reach a goal. This story is about me. Well, actually it’s really about you. It’s about how you can ask for help to reach your goals so that the challenges that will inevitably arise don’t become stumbling blocks on your way to success.

Setting goals is essential for growth and satisfaction

I believe that setting goals is essential for personal and professional growth and life satisfaction. There’s a delicate balance between accepting and embracing life as it is, and striving to be the best version of yourself. I don’t always get the balance right and sometimes find myself floundering in a pool of frustration as I strive for independence instead of striving towards my goal. This state of affairs is definitely not conducive to accepting and embracing life as it is! What I’ve discovered is that asking for help along the way does not necessarily erode your independence, but it does help you to accept and embrace life AND have the satisfaction of achieving success.

What's my plan of action to deal with this issue?

I set a goal and ran into a problem

A few years ago I set the goal of jogging continuously for 2 kilometres. I started off in the recommended way progressing from fast walking to walk-jog-walk and gradually increasing the time I spent jogging. I didn’t pay much attention to my nagging foot discomfort as it got worse. I’d always had trouble with my feet and figured I’d just need to put up with it, push through it, and prove to myself that I wasn’t a Drama Queen. After all, isn’t that what all athletes do? When I couldn’t stop the tears as I walked between my house and shed I realised this was a little bit more than my usual foot trouble.

Asking for help vs independence

Having been raised with a high degree of independence and an aversion to asking for help (I was the student who never raised their hand to ask a question in class), I realised this situation was one that I couldn’t solve by myself. I needed help from someone who had specialist knowledge and skills. The constant pain was a daily prompt that I needed to take action. So that’s what I did. I took myself and my pain, shame and embarrassment to a doctor for a review and x-rays, and then to a podiatrist. Armed with orthotics, physio exercises, iced bottles and advice on shoes, I went home to rehabilitate. It was definitely no magical overnight fix; in fact it took many months before I was able to take up my jogging goal again. If only I’d asked for help sooner, I’d have reached my goal much earlier than I did.

sports shoes

You have to do more than simply ask for help

I really appreciated this lesson in life when I made my way back to my podiatrist last year with a new foot issue. I had a very specific goal that I was committed to and knew that if I was going to accomplish it I really needed her help with some new foot pain issues! I had four months to get myself sorted because I had registered for an overnight hiking expedition with a group of strangers in very rugged, steep country. The group was made up of bush adventure therapists, and I was sure I’d struggle to keep up even if I didn’t have foot pain.

Enthusiastically and confidently I gathered my new orthotics together with my new hiking shoes and new sports shoes and went home. I diligently did my exercises and physio every day, but the improvement was not as rapid as I’d hoped. A few weeks later I had a review with my podiatrist. I told her I’d been consistently doing the exercises but my foot was only a little bit better and I was worried it wasn’t going to get me up those steep rocky hills in another couple of months. The deadline was looming and I was losing hoping that I’d be able to reach my goal despite asking for help before things got really bad.

My podiatrist sensed my frustration and understood my goal-oriented approach to life. She did what I do in my counselling sessions with clients – she ran through my ‘homework’ checklist:

  1. Had I been wearing my orthotics? Yes!
  2. Had I been doing the calf stretches and massage at least twice a day? Yes!
  3. Had I been using the phsyio gel AND ibuprofen to reduce inflammation? “Ummm… no….. I thought that was just for the pain and I thought I’d be okay without it”
  4. Had I been icing my foot regularly, not just when it was really painful? “Ummm…no…”

Okay, so I’d THOUGHT I had been consistently following instructions but I hadn’t. I’d gone into autopilot mode following my ‘old’ treatment plan and had mentally filtered out some of the critical steps in the new treatment plan. Once I began following the plan completely, I was well on my way to achieving my goal. This consultation was a pivotal event for me. I realised how important it is to not only ask for help, but to listen to it carefully and follow through with every piece of advice.

bush adventure therapists on expedition

Choosing to ask for help is the balance between independence and success

Over the past few years I’ve thrown myself into the practice of asking for help from a range of professionals so I can reach my health and fitness goals as well as my business goals. Goals don’t have to be lofty to be valuable. They can target your ordinary everyday life, like learning to make your own muesli or re-potting a plant. When you set a goal and choose to ask for help, you’re finding that balance between independence and striving towards success, whatever that means for you.

Daisy Spoke avatar has long curly hair and smiling mouth

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.