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!

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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

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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.

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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 keep exercising during the coronavirus pandemic

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In this article I’ll be sharing 20 ways to keep exercising during the coronavirus pandemic. Whether you are able (and allowed) to get outdoors or whether you have to stay indoors while you’re isolating, there are plenty of ideas here to keep your body moving and your mind feeling at ease.

Isolation around the world during the coronavirus pandemic

No matter where you live in the world as I write this blog post, you will be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the health and government directives to manage its spread. Many people are isolating themselves at home or in hotels, and options to spend time outdoors and to exercise and socialise have been restricted.

But, you need to continue to nurture your health including your mental health. You may need to be creative in how you get your regular exercise fix, your outdoors time, and how you socialise.

Mental health risks during isolation

For myself, one of the biggest fears I had about isolation practices was concerning my mental health and the mental health of other people. Vigorous exercise, time in nature, and deep connections with others form the foundation of my ability to function. Without them, I’ve really struggled in the past. And I know I’m not alone. Exercise and movement also boosts your immune system which is incredibly important now too, and it provides protection against future disease.

Stay active and stay connected when you can’t get about freely

I’ve collected together some ideas to help you stay active, stay connected with the outdoors, and stay connected with others during periods of isolation. These ideas are just as useful for other times in your life when you can’t go out as freely as you’d like to such as:

  • when you have to stay home to care for young children or someone who is not well
  • during times of injury, sickness or limited mobility
  • when your non-working hours are after dark
  • when you’re travelling

Caution: check your local regulations about isolating during the coronavirus pandemic

Of course, you need to pick and choose, or innovate your own ideas based on your own circumstances, what your local regulations require and what resources you have access to. Not all these ideas will suit everybody or every situation. Naturally keep your physical distance from others during the pandemic, and don’t take any unnecessary risks that might result in injury and the need for medical assistance. Another thing – be mindful of the level of noise and disturbance you might make if you share a house with others, live in an apartment building, or if you live on a small block.

We’re all in this together!

Let me know if you have other ideas to add to mine and we’ll include them in a follow post! Remember, we’re all in this together and supporting each other is the best way to overcome challenges like this.

fear and possibility

20 ways to keep exercising during the coronavirus pandemic

  1. YouTube videos provide a wide selection of workouts for you to do in your own time at home. Look for ones that have been created by accredited instructors or recommended by exercise physiologists or physiotherapists.
  2. Virtual gym classes enable you to participate in a class in real time. Generally virtual classes are streamed live and everyone participates at the same time from their own location. Check if your local gym is offering these (most gyms have closed their face to face services at the time of writing), or search for online businesses and exercise apps which offer this.
  3. Home equipmentMake use of what you have at home such as weights, skipping rope, Swiss ball, steps, and old exercise DVDs . You can adapt everyday household items too such as water bottles or cans of food for weights, and don’t forget the stairs in your house can add value to your workout too.
  4. Virtual accountability buddies can check in with each, hold each other accountable to daily activities, and support each other to problem-solve issues as they come up. You can probably find an accountability buddy amongst your contacts, friends or work colleagues.
  5. Get out where and when you can. Look for opportunities and make the most of them while you can. If your local park is open and it seems quiet around dinner time, that might be a good time to get out there because you never know when places like that will close, or when your household will be quarantined.
  6. Plan and track your exercise in a journal to keep yourself committed and valuing your daily exercise on an ongoing basis. Take it another step forward by tracking how you felt before and after your workouts as well as your recovery experiences.
  7. Callisthenics, stretches, and body weight exercises were probably part of your school Physical Education classes. Do you remember star jumps, lunges, squats, jogging on the spot, push ups, and planks? If in doubt about injuries or medical conditions seek advice from an exercise physiologist or doctor first.
  8. Put on some music and dance and move to the rhythm! This isn’t about your style or skill – it’s about moving and having fun! Invite your household to join in.
  9. Chair yoga is great if you are not feeling well, have balance problems or limited mobility. Look on the Internet for workouts by yoga instructors who have adapted traditional yoga for use in seated positions.
  10. Street dances / classes are happening around the world in some suburban areas. Check if this is allowable in your area, and if so, organise a designated time for you and your neighbours to come out into your front gardens or patios for a dance-off or workout. Remember to maintain your physical distance!
  11. Backyard workouts are as varied as your imagination. Is there a job in the yard you’ve been meaning to do ‘one day’? You’ll get a great workout lifting logs, moving rocks, pruning trees and digging in the garden. You can also create an outdoor workout space in which you can jump obstacles, climb a pole, move through an obstacle or slalom course, practice bike handling or skate boarding skills, run around with the kids, or play games with your pet dog.
  12. Birdwatching from home is an activity that can have you moving gently and quietly around your garden, or if you are not able to go outside, watching from your balcony or window. Grab a bird identification book from your shelves or research your finds on the Internet or using an app such as eBird. There are also plenty of online forum and social media groups sharing birdwatching experiences.
  13. Mindful walks are another gentle activity that can be done in your own yard, footpath, or even indoors. Bring your attention to the sensations of placing your foot down and slowly moving your weight, lifting your foot and placing it forward. You can also bring your attention to the sensations in your legs and the rest of your body as you walk.
  14. Be a kid again! What did you do when you were a kid? Active kids don’t need dedicated exercise or outdoors time because their activity tends to be spontaneous and spread throughout the day. What did you do when you were a kid? I played elastics, tiggy / chasey, Red Rover, trampoline, balance games such as balancing on a log, backyard cricket and soccer, and hitting a ball against a wall. Don’t leave it only to the kids – these activities are perfect for any age!
  15. If you have children living in your household, get down on the floor and play! Games like wrestling (gentle of course!), kneeling chasey and indoor hockey can give everyone a great workout.
  16. If your National Parks, regional parks and State Forests are open and are not busy with other people exercising, go for a walk or a bike ride being careful not to stretch yourself past your comfort zone by taking any unnecessary risks or going off track.
  17. Make your own workout space at home by creating a dedicated exercise space (if you have the room) in a spare room, a section of the living room, the garage or the verandah. If you don’t have enough space for this, you can get yourself organised by creating a dedicated storage area for the equipment you use in your workouts.
  18. Use an App to track your activity levels, and if you’re into it, you can share your stats with your friends.
  19. Create circuits or stations with a variety of exercises, moving from one station to the next every minute (or longer or shorter if you prefer). Keep moving around the circuit to complete your workout.
  20. Use active indoor games like indoor hockey, quoits, and freeze as an alternative to your usual workout whilst having fun with your family or housemates.

Plan of Action

Now it’s your turn – what will YOU do?

Now it’s your turn to put these ideas into practice so that you look after your health, including your mental health in spite of the limitations you have during a period of isolation. Which of these ideas would you like to try? Have you got some other ideas to share with our readers? I’d love to hear from you and include your ideas in a future post. How will YOU keep exercising during the coronavirus pandemic?

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

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.

How to have an outdoors staycation

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In this article, I am going to share some ideas with you about how to have an outdoors stay-at-home holiday (or staycation) during isolation.

Isolation means holidays will be different this year

With much of the world practising various levels of isolation to protect themselves and everyone else from covid19, we’re all facing having our next holiday at home. Not only at home, but without even travelling away for picnics, bushwalks and day trips; no friends coming over for a BBQ and game of backyard cricket; no fishing expeditions, group rides or sleepovers.

If you’re anything like me and my family, you may not have ever had a home-based holiday that didn’t involve trekking from place to place, taking in a different mountain bike trail each day, or meeting friends for outdoor adventures in a National Park.

New experiences are simply adventures in disguise

So, being at home and not having the freedom to travel and socialise in person might be a new experience for you too. And new experiences are simply adventures in disguise! This is the perfect opportunity to create glorious memories in new and unexpected ways.

Here is a list of outdoors and nature-based mini-adventures that you can have right on your doorstep ….. literally! Many of these activities are family-friendly and suitable for most people if you are feeling well. If you’re a bit under the weather, I think you’ll find something here too if you take it at your own pace.

wild flowers in background with text that says adventures are for everyone

20 staycation mini-adventures to have on your own doorstep

  1. Backyard Picnic – Pack a delicious picnic for your family or house mates, grab some card games and a few books, spread the picnic rug in the backyard, put up your sun shelter or umbrella, sit back, relax and enjoy your picnic.
  2. Nature Craft – Collect nature items from your garden and craft them into a nature collage or arrangement. Search the Internet for ideas if you need inspiration.
  3. Sunset Wind Down – Set the alarm for half an hour before sunset, grab your favourite pre-dinner drinks and nibblies, and get outside to enjoy the colour show.
  4. Star Gazing – Prepare for an evening of star gazing by researching what you might expect to see in the night sky where you live. This is best done on an evening around the new moon phase, minimal light pollution, and a clear sky. Check out the apps that help you get the most out of your astronomical adventures.
  5. Sunrise Captures – Set the alarm for this adventure too if you’re not an early riser. Make sure you’re outside well before dawn to watch the sun greet the new day. Why not make it a regular adventure and capture the moments in photographs!
  6. Herb Gardens – Plant some herb seedlings or seeds in the garden or in pots. Seedlings might be ready for you to use in a holiday cooking adventure within a couple of weeks.
  7. Make a Movie – Use the video app on your smart phone or camera to film a documentary about your backyard or park if you are permitted to go there.
  8. Outdoor Dance Party – Create a playlist of your favourite music, put together some party food, and groove and move outside. If you have close neighbours you could invite them to join the fun ….. while they stay on their own side of the fence of course, and no sharing of food either. And as always be considerate of the noise level and timing of your dance party.
  9. Outdoors Yoga and Meditation – Take your indoors practice into the outdoors for the added benefit of fresh air, Vitamin D and all the goodness that nature has to share with you.
  10. Cubby House – Grab some old sheets or blankets and throw them over the top of the clothes line, the laundry trolley or other structure that’s suitable. Grab a good book, some board games or a picnic lunch and relax for the afternoon.
  11. Bushcraft – You’ll need some milled timber that you might have lying around in the shed or some sticks in the garden, as well as some rope or baling twine. Tie the sticks together into a tee-pee, chair, table or other construction that sparks your interest.
  12. Backyard Spotlighting – Spend some quiet time in your own yard after dark getting to know the night creatures and noises that often go unnoticed. Your eyes will adjust to the dark after a few minutes, but if you use a torch, take care to respect your neighbours as well as the wildlife that might be startled by the light.
  13. Outdoor Movies – Take your laptop outside either during the day or evening for an outdoor movie experience. Add to the atmosphere with popcorn and chocolate coated ice cream!
  14. Mindful Walk – You can use a mindful walk in your own garden to ground yourself and bring a sense of stability into your day. As you slowly walk around, observe how each step feels right through your whole body. You can do this in bare feet or wearing shoes.
  15. Working Bee – This is a great time to knock over that backyard job that seems to keep getting put off. Call your family or house mates together for a working bee followed by a celebratory shared meal. Don’t forget the before and after photos!
  16. Adventure Gear Check – Your staycation might be a timely chance to pull out your adventure gear and check it over – backpacks, panniers, hydration systems, sleeping bags, tents, boots, stoves and so on. Do you need to de-clutter? Upgrade? Repair? While you’re at it, you could set up the tent and camp out in your own yard for the night.
  17. Knotting – Grab a knotting book, You Tube tutorial or an app and get outside while you practise knots that come in handy on your adventures that take you further afield from home.
  18. Obstacle Course – Set up an obstacle course or an exercise circuit in your yard, and then get to it! You can create games and challenges using a stop watch, timer or a playlist of music.
  19. Birdwatching – Use a bird identification book, app or the Internet to identify the birds that visit your neighbourhood. You can record these in a journal or using one of the apps like eBird that has built-in data collection.
  20. Make-Your-Own-Adventure – Get your family and friends to help brainstorm mini-adventures that you can have without even leaving home. Perhaps you could connect in virtually with each other mid-adventure for a shared meal and a few laughs?

It’s not about coping – it’s about turning it into an adventure!

There will be many of us having a staycation over Easter and later in the year while we’re in isolation. It’s not a matter of learning to cope with it. It’s a matter of making the most of every opportunity to turn the moments into adventures and wonderful memories.

What will you do to have adventures on your staycation?

It’s over to you now – which of these mini-adventures are you going to try out first? What other ideas do you have for making the most of your staycation? How will your staycation strengthen your well-being?

bushwalking boots

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

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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.

Calming techniques for fear and anxiety

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With dramatic stories of doom and gloom flooding the media in recent times, I’ve found myself digging into my store of calming techniques for fear and anxiety. I figured you might find them useful too, after all, we’re all experiencing a global pandemic together – something that none of us have had to deal with before. This article explores the nature and purpose of fear and gives you a list of action-based techniques and a list of mind-based techniques that have a calming effect on anxiety and fear.

Fear is the voice in your head trying to keep you safe

Fear is the voice in your head telling you a story that sets off a chain of physiological and psychological responses. This gets you prepared to fight off danger whether it’s really there or not, to run away from it in pursuit of self-preservation, or to freeze.

As much as we may not like the sensations that fear brings, we need to allow it. It’s helped to keep the human race alive so far by signalling to us and enabling us to draw away from danger and move towards safety.

So how do we keep these voices of fear in check so that they do their job of keeping us safe without stopping us from living a healthy and fulfilling life?

fight flight freeze OR pause breathe think

The biology of fear through the ages

Biologically, for some of us, our brains and bodies excel at responding to fear. In days gone by, we were the warriors, chiefs and the village leaders who led our families to safety, found shelter from storms, fought off predators and kept everyone together. In our modern world it’s easy to forget that people led very physically active and outdoors-based lives not that many years ago. Bodies were in constant motion throughout the day and in tune with nature and with their wired brains – the perfect combination.

But today we’ve removed a lot of the physical movement from our lives and we’ve become disconnected from the outdoors and often from each other and our inner selves too. We’ve organised the world around us to protect us from weather and hard labour. Many of us live in permanent housing in societies with building regulations requiring our homes to be resistant to cyclones, tornadoes, rain, snow, hail, and wind. We shop for our food rather than hunt and gather it. Most people around the world commute using motorised transport rather than human power. And everywhere we look there are labour saving devices such as food processors and power tools.

The signs of fear and anxiety

Although our physical activity levels have reduced and we spend a lot of time indoors, our wired brains continue to go searching for danger and find it everywhere. This is exacerbated when something unexpected happens, such as the current corona-virus pandemic. For many of us, our bodies are not moving enough or connected with the world in ways that stimulate the physiological changes that keep a calm equilibrium and so we experience more signs of anxiety including:

  • ruminating thoughts
  • difficulty sleeping
  • sweating
  • feeling on edge, irritable
  • distracted
  • difficulty concentrating
  • body tension
  • aches, pains and nausea
  • lethargy
  • restlessness

are you feeding your fears

Action-based calming techniques for fear and anxiety

When we understand the physiology of fear, that is, what’s happening in our bodies when we feel anxious, we can begin to take actions to calm it. Calming actions may include:

  • set boundaries around your sedentary activities, for example, give yourself permission to use your electronic devices at set times of the day, put them away at night, set a limit on your daily quota of usage, and limit the number of times you check the news and social media
  • move more, sit less – move as much as you can during the day and get outside whenever it’s safe to do so
  • exercise for 30 – 60 minutes each day, preferably in the morning so you’re energised for the day ahead and it doesn’t disrupt your sleep at night
  • spend time with people whose company you enjoy or create a tribe of like-minded people – this can be face-to-face (when health directives allow this once again) but don’t forget there is great value in connecting with others online or by phone, video-conference (eg Skype), text and through social media groups
  • get creative and constructive doing hobbies or other tasks
  • participate in regular yoga, meditation or breathing practices – if you can’t go to a group class, try using an app, online class or a YouTube tutorial
  • watch a funny movie or a comedy show – laughing helps you breathe deeply and relax
  • talk to a professional
  • drink plenty of water and feed your body with good nutrition
  • spend time outdoors connecting with nature using your senses to be fully present in that space and time
  • watch your posture – shoulders back, head held high and breathe fully and deeply
  • have a massage to release tension from your muscles
  • give yourself a head massage
  • use your senses to connect with activities that you find relaxing, for example think about what things you can look at, listen to, smell, taste or touch that brings you joy
  • work on improving your sleep – if you are having trouble sleeping, read my  Top Ten Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep
  • rest or have a nap in the morning or early afternoon if you need to

use nature to deal with fear and anxiety

Mind-based calming techniques for fear and anxiety

Your mind is a mighty powerful tool that can also contribute to a sense of calm. Using your mind in this way can be a bit tricky if you haven’t done it before so here are some techniques to get you started:

  • talk to yourself using a calm, kind and rational voice

I know you’re feeling scared. Is it actually dangerous, or does it simply feel scary?”

What can I do to minimise the risk and maximise the benefits / enjoyment in this situation?”

What do I have control over in this situation? Hmmmm…. Okay, let’s just focus on that”

  • choose a positive intention or attitude for the day that will help you stay calm eg “Just breathe” or “I’ll start each day with movement and exercise”
  • remind yourself about fear’s purpose and that even in low risk situations your brain is wired to search for the danger, the difficulties, the problems – but this is only part of the whole picture
  • tune in to yourself and notice what’s happening in your body and what’s going through your mind
  • allow the fearful voices and thoughts to settle gentle as if they are snowflakes in a snow dome that’s been shaken up
  • imagine what advice a wise mentor might give you – this can help to balance up your own narrowly-focused thoughts
  • visualise wrapping your worries up as a gift and handing them over to someone or something that has more control over the situation
  • give your worries a name and imagine a safe little place that you can store them for now so that they no longer take over every part of your day and night
  • if you feel the fear or anxiety in parts of your body such as your belly or your head, imagine shrinking them down and allowing them a small space to do their thing – maybe a little corner of your belly or your little finger nail or behind your ear
  • visualise yourself walking into a beautiful garden and leaving your worries on the ancient worry tree at the gate before you go in (this idea comes from Maureen Garth’s book “Earthlight: new meditations for children”)

fear and possibility

Fear brings up other emotions

Fear is closely connected with a range of your emotions. It can keep you quiet with nervousness and shame. Fear can make you loud and angry too, or it can make you feel jumpy and agitated. It’s different for each of us, and it’s different in each situation we face too. That’s why it’s so important to have a deep store of techniques that you can draw upon when you need to. What worked for you before, may not work for you in a new situation.

Fear can be suppressed, expressed and transformed

When you think of fear as a form of energy, you can understand how it can be suppressed, expressed or transformed. Each of these processes has their purpose, but today I encourage you to focus on transforming your fear into productive and constructive actions and a healthy and helpful mindset. This takes practice and patience with yourself. Using the calming techniques for fear and anxiety that are listed in this article is a great way to begin your learning journey.

More Help?

If you would like help in managing fear and anxiety, you can chat with your doctor who may be able to refer you for counselling or to a local program or online resource that meets your needs. And check my website for my current individual and group programs including coaching, bush adventure and retreats that have been created to inform, inspire and empower you towards health and vitality.

You can listen to this article in the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast – Episodes 5 & 6!

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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.

Adventures are for everyone

I believe that adventures are for everyone. Yet people tell me all sorts of reasons why they don’t or can’t have adventures in their lives.

wild flowers in background with text that says adventures are for everyone

What’s stopping YOU from leading a life of adventure?

The most common reasons people give me are:

  • I’m too old, my adventuring days are long gone
  • I’m not fit / strong / co-ordinated enough
  • I don’t have enough money
  • I’ve got too much pain
  • I’m too scared to do adventurous things
  • I don’t have time
  • I don’t have the energy
  • It looks too hard
  • I can’t leave my children / partner / dependants / pets
  • I can’t have time off work
  • My health won’t allow me
  • I don’t know anyone else who would want to do it
  • I’ll wait till I feel motivated

Acknowledge the obstacles but don’t let excuses paralyse you

people having a picnic on a grassy road verge with bicycles lying down on the grass
Don’t let your fears and lack of confidence stop you from having adventures in life

These are all legitimate issues that need to be acknowledged and talked about. But it’s vital you don’t stop there with simply talking or whingeing. You see, the thing is that whingeing can turn into excuses. Excuses can turn into paralysis because you can’t see a way forward. Being stuck in a rut is no fun and the downward spiral can be terrifying.

The excuses that have paralysed me

I’m writing this post, not only because I’m a mental health social worker and it’s my job to share information that improves your wellbeing. I’m also a human being and I know what it’s like to be sick and in pain and to care for dependants who are sick and in pain. I’ve spent 29 years as a stay at home Mum prioritising my children’s needs above all else, working part-time jobs and building a business around them as they grew up. I know what it’s like to be sleep deprived, devoid of energy, overwhelmed and scared. I’ve often been geographically isolated from friends and didn’t want to go along to activities on my own. Money, fitness and skill have definitely been obstacles to enjoying adventures. And as I get older I’ve had those thoughts of “Hmmm….am I too old for this? Will I hurt myself? Does anyone else my age do this?”

Learn to manage the obstacles

So I’m not anyone special when it comes to adventures. I don’t have any superpowers, and I don’t have any magic fixes but I have learned a lot about the link between mental health and an adventurous mindset. By learning to manage my obstacles I’ve stepped into another world of excitement, confidence and hopefulness and I’d like to share my ideas with you so that you can too. My way of managing my obstacles and excuses may not work for you. After all, we’re all different, so you’ll need to spend some time experimenting to see what works for you.

Are you open to the possibility of adventure? And all the benefits that go with it? Read my blog post about Why You Need To Have An Adventure Goal

Getting past your obstacles

You’ll need to think creatively about your obstacles, those things that get in the way of you having adventures in life. Thinking about the problems in the same old way you always have probably won’t get you anywhere. A great place to start is rethinking your ideas about exactly what an adventure is.

Adventures DON’T have to be physically demanding!

Let’s get the definition straight here – adventures DON’T have to be physically demanding, world record-breaking feats although that’s what we generally think of when we hear the word. These sorts of activities make for dramatic headlines but there’s much more to an adventurous life than that.

Adventures stretch you outside your comfort zone

An adventure is anything you do that challenges yourself in some way. It usually involves an element of RISK (eg physical, emotional or social) and stretches you OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE either a little bit or a lot – and that’s different for everyone. If it makes you feel nervous or excited and is outside your comfort zone, then it’s an adventure! How cool is that! No comparisons with anyone else (or your younger self) shall be entered into! So, no matter your age, gender, time available or what other responsibilities you have in life, there’s a suitable adventure waiting for you.

Every single day is chock full of opportunities for you to choose your own adventure. So let’s get going!

Choose your own adventure!

people looking up at a waterfall
Hiking to a waterfall is a favourite outdoor adventure

We’ve established that adventures don’t have to be crazy headlining stunts, and that there are opportunities in our everyday lives to experience adventure. Now it’s time to discover some adventures that are just right for you – no matter your age, fitness level, areas of interest or ability. Remember, you need to choose your adventures based on what makes you feel a bit excited or nervous and that’s slightly outside your comfort zone. So grab a notepad and pen, and as you read through the list below, allow yourself to be inspired to create a list of adventures you’d consider taking on this year.

Social Adventures

Contact an old friend
Join a club or social group
Invite someone over for a cuppa
Go to a class and learn a new skill
Connect with an online group
Research your family history
Volunteer at an event or fundraiser
Organise an outing with friends
Meet a friend at a cafe
Go to a conference or community event
Go to a festival you haven’t been to before
Organise a meet-up of extended family, friends or colleagues
Throw a party or have a family picnic

Physical Adventures

Learn a new sport
Join a sporting or exercise club or group
Climb a mountain
Go on a multi-day hike
Try white water rafting
Enter a race
Participate in a charity walk
Explore a National Park
Take up a new hobby

Spiritual and Cultural Adventures

Go to a meditation class
Take up a daily mindfulness practice
Visit a new place
Travel to a place that speaks a foreign language or volunteer with an ESL (English as a second language) class
Eat at a restaurant that serves food you are not familiar with
Prepare a meal using ingredients you don’t usually use
Plant and nurture a garden
Visit a place of worship that you are not familiar with
Help a charity

Mental Adventures

Join a chess or card club
Make or create something new or from repurposed materials
Teach yourself a new skill (eg crochet, painting, whittling, programming, video editing)
Experiment to create your own recipes or designs
Set up an online business
Take a class or sign up to a course
Get a new hobby that uses your brain in new ways
Become a mentor for a new worker
Write a book or start a blog

art and craft materials spread out on a table
Creative adventures can include art and craft at home or at a workshop

What inspired and do-able adventures have you written down on your list?

I’d love to know! Send me a message.

Be your own boss and get that adventure started!

And now it’s time to get started – be your own boss and take the actions you need to sprinkle an adventure or two into your life today.

You can listen to Adventures are for Everyone on the “Outdoors is my Therapy” podcast!

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.