8 Reasons to Get Back to Nature

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In a world that expects us to be efficient, effective and resourceful, we risk letting go of those things that sustain our energy, health and creativity. One of these things is time spent in nature. Here are 8 reasons why time spent in nature is never a waste of time.

1. Nature is a sanctuary from the pressures of modern life

We live in a world that expects us to deliver outcomes and meet deadlines. We have constant pressure to be productive and to not waste time, energy or resources. Many people feel increasingly stretched and strung out with our outcomes-based society. Nature provides a sanctuary from the pressures of modern life. When we step outdoors into the forests, mountains, deserts, beaches and waterways, we immerse ourselves in a bigger world. We are at play, not at work.

Nature setting - beach

2. Nature gives your brain a break

Brains are like busy factories mass producing thoughts, decisions, predictions, reflections, assessments, judgements, assumptions and beliefs all whilst keeping our hearts beating and our lungs breathing. There’s a lot going on inside our heads whether we realise it or not. Getting outside into some green space gives your brain a much needed break from the type of thinking it does all day. Nature is a trigger for your brain to switch modes and operate on a different level – a bit like a mini holiday!

3. Nature restores and re-energises

When we’re busy we tend to cut back on things that seem less important or urgent at the time. Usually this means we cut ourselves short on self-care. We run ourselves into the ground working harder and faster whilst putting less priority on how we are going to sustain the pace. Half an hour outdoors can be enough time for your mind to begin to reset and for your body to feel re-energised. It’s an investment you can’t afford to miss.

Nature - mountain view

4. Nature refocuses your attention

Modern life runs at a pace requiring us to be thinking and doing multiple things at once. Research shows this isn’t necessarily the most efficient (or joyful) way of living. When we focus on one thing at a time, we tend to operate more efficiently and effectively. Although it might feel slower because you’re used to being in the fast lane, it’s actually more productive in many situations! Regular time in nature can teach you to bring your attention to your immediate surroundings. This helps you to let go of your stresses, gently engage all your senses, and refocus your attention when you’re back in your everyday routine.

5. Nature shows you how to slow down

Do you find yourself reacting to a pressured lifestyle by working even harder, hoping that when you get to the bottom of your ‘to do’ list you’ll be able to relax? Sorry folks that isn’t a strategy that is sustainable over the long-term unless you give yourself regular breaks to slow down and switch off. Your ‘to-do’ list will never go away. There will always be something else that demands your attention. When you prioritise time in nature, you learn to slow down – in a good way. Your brain has a much needed rest and you come back to your ‘to-do’ list with a fresh perspective and new energy.

6. Nature stimulates creativity and innovation

You don’t have to be an artist to appreciate the special gifts that nature has on offer. Any one of us can savour the creativity and innovation that often comes with time spent in nature. Perhaps it’s associated with the opportunity to slow down and refocus, I don’t know for sure. But what I do know is that some of my best and most successful ideas have come to me when I’ve been out walking or riding.

7. Nature gets you active

A major contributing factor to chronic disease, including depression, is inactivity. Nature is the natural antidote to a sedentary lifestyle. With so much space to stretch out and explore, so many wonders to be discovered, so much fresh air to breathe and trees to hug (well, maybe that’s just me), what more incentive do you need to get out and get active.

Natur

8. Nature improves efficiency and effectiveness

Have you ever gone in search of the perfect time management technique, tool or app hoping to be rescued from the stress of managing multiple roles and responsibilities? Despite the numerous time management tools available to us, time management is actually all about managing YOURSELF, not time. If you really want to improve efficiency and effectiveness, invest part of your day, everyday, outside in nature. If you’ve read all the other reasons why time spent in nature is not a waste, then it will be obvious to you that it’s one of the best investments you can make to improve your effectiveness and efficiency at work, home and in your relationships with other people.

Let's sum up!

Time spent in nature is NEVER a waste! Oh let me count the ways ….. (well, at least 8 of them anyway!)

1. Nature is a sanctuary from the pressures of modern life

2. Nature gives your brain a break

3. Nature restores and re-energises

4. Nature refocuses your attention

5. Nature shows you how to slow down

6. Nature stimulates creativity and innovation

7. Nature gets you active

8. Nature improves efficiency and effectiveness

 

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

THRIVE for Women Online Group

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” — Maya AngelouDaisy Spoke Banner

I’m so incredibly excited to announce that registrations are now open for my online group program THRIVE for Women! Dozens of women have participated in the face-to-face version of this group over the last 6 years and now at last I’m able to offer it online so you can participate in the comfort of your own home (or anywhere else)!

THRIVE for WomenWho is it for?

Women often have many roles to fill at work, home and in the community. Self-care often comes last on our list of things to do. Yet there are many actions we can incorporate into our day to strengthen us, help us to be more efficient and effective, enable us to think more clearly and make better choices. When we routinely use these actions, we begin to THRIVE – not just survive!

Are YOU ready to take action? To be consistent with the habits that help you to feel strong and capable? To function at your highest level? To get on top of your stresses? To achieve your goals? To develop mind and body strength? To think like a winner? If so, THRIVE for Women is for you!

What topics are covered?

After many years of working with people one-on-one, I’ve created this group program addressing the issues women often share:

  • How can I sleep better?
  • How can I maintain a routine of exercise and nutrition that I love, and that is good for my mental health?
  • How can I choose and stick to goals?
  • How can I get unstuck when things don’t go to plan?
  • How can I juggle the priorities in my life?
  • How can I best manage the stresses in my life?

THRIVE for WomenHow does THRIVE for Women work?

THRIVE for Women includes a weekly group video call on different wellness / mental health topics, handouts on everything we cover in the calls (plus more!), a private discussion page, and a BONUS one-on-one session for participants at the end of the program!

** The live group video calls will be held weekly for 6 weeks commencing Monday 23rd July 2018 from 7:30pm to 8:30pm (AEST). You’ll need a device with a web cam or inbuilt camera connected to a reliable Internet connection (eg tablet, IPAD, computer). We’ll be using a safe video conference platform called Zoom for the video meetings – it’s easy to use and all instructions will be given to you before THRIVE starts!

Why join an online group?

I’ve run face-to-face women’s groups for many years now, and they’ve been so successful that it’s time to take them online! This way you can join in from the comfort of your own home. No more child care issues. No more transport or parking hassles. No more juggling work responsibilities to get to the group.

What are the benefits for me?

There are so many benefits when you join THRIVE for Women:

  • discover the latest PROVEN strategies for MIND and BODY health
  • CONNECT with other women and learn from each other in a CONFIDENTIAL and FRIENDLY atmosphere
  • grow RESILIENCE, INNER STRENGTH, SELF-COMPASSION and WELLNESS
  • develop a range of SKILLS for living a life that THRIVES
  • explore a different topic each week through LIVE ONLINE VIDEO meetings (a recording will be available if you are not able to make it to a live session)
  • PROBLEM-SOLVE the real issues that get in the way of self-care routines
  • access INFORMATION SHEETS, CHECKLISTS and a PRIVATE DISCUSSION GROUP
  • OVER 6 HOURS of access and support in a group that would cost you hundreds of dollars one-on-one
  • guidance by an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker using EVIDENCE-BASED approaches
  • participate in a BONUS one-on-one session to really make the biggest difference in your life!

THRIVE for WomenHow much does THRIVE for Women cost?

To celebrate the launch of THRIVE for Women online, you can currently register at the SUPER-SPECIAL PRICE of $175 with the added BONUS of a one-on-one session at no extra cost. (The total value of this program is over $1000, so it really is amazing value for everyone who registers for this first launch! That’s over 7 hours of contact with an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker guiding you towards a life that THRIVES, plus all the written material and resources for future reference, plus the connections made with the other group members!)

How do I register?

Registrations are easy! Simply click here to go to the booking site where you can make a secure payment online and provide your contact details. Once registered, you’ll receive an email from me with more details about how we will connect together.

What women are saying about Kathryn’s face-to-face groups

100% of past participants have strongly agreed that the group assisted them to develop new knowledge and / or skills in managing their mental health.

The best part of the group was “…..meeting new ladies and realising I wasn’t alone in my feelings or shortcomings, but then learning there are ways I can improve my life.”

“To feel comfortable with the group in a non judgemental way. Learning new ways to think and put into practice stress management. And let go of things out of my control.”

“Realising there are other ways of thinking. There are some things you just can’t control…..no matter how much you worry about them.”


THRIVE for WomenI have some questions ……..

 

If you have any questions, simply send me a message or give me a call on 0455 992 419. As always, I’d love to hear from you!

Breaking and creating habits

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Have you ever tried to break a habit or create a new one? That’s probably all of us! There are some habits that are clearly unhelpful, and these are the ones we most often focus on – the ‘doing’ habits like smoking, sedentary behaviour, eating junk food, and going to bed late. But what about those less obvious ‘thinking’ habits. The ones that have us locked into a bad mood, overreacting, overthinking, leaving things to the last minute, being defensive, using avoidance tactics, personalising, blaming and so on. The way we habitually think forms part of everything we do and we’re often not conscious of it. But when we want to create long-lasting change, it’s vital to look at changing the way we think, and not only focus on the way we are ‘doing’ things.

Here are four tips to help you break an old habit and create a new one by focusing on new actions, and new ways of thinking.

1. You are never too old to change

No matter your age, you an always make a change. Don’t accept excuses such as “I’m too old”. Your mind’s attitude to learning plays a large part in how capable you are of breaking and creating habits. With an open attitude and willingness to try, learning a new trick is always possible. For example, even though I’d been riding bicycles since I was a young child, it wasn’t till I was in my middle age that I decided to have a go at mountain biking. What I discovered is that you need a whole new set of skills to ride mountain bikes compared to The Brain that Changes Itselfriding on paved surfaces. Not only did my body have to work differently, but my mind as well. Mountain biking has been one of the biggest learning curves in my life. I’ve been confronted with physical and mental and emotional challenges that would have been so easy to walk away from. But I kept going and little by little my skills have progressed and I’ve learned to handle some pretty big fears along the way. I’m living proof that it’s definitely possible for an oldie to learn new tricks. For some remarkable examples of how the brain can change and adapt to new challenges, have a read of Norman Doidge’s book “The Brain That Changes Itself”.

2. Change can take its time – often a long time!

In a world that encourages immediate gratification and demands fast results, focusing on change habits takes timelonger term goals can be seen as rebellious. Quick-fix solutions are promoted all around us – get a toned body in only 10 minutes a day, lose your baby weight in 30 days, go from a $0 to 7 figure business in less than 12 months. But the reality is that sustainable, healthy change usually takes place over a longer period of time. Quit expecting immediate results when you take up a new habit or give up an old one. Real change takes time! Research shows that when we take up a new habit we need to practise it regularly for at least three weeks, and in many cases we need to allow two to three months or more to feel the benefits, or at least to feel at ease with our new way of doing things.

3. Patience, practice and persistence – not perfectionism!

If you’re anything like me, you just want to be able to do everything perfectly straight away. And if that doesn’t happen it’s so easy to give up. We can make all the excuses under the sun about why we’re not having success, but the reality is often that if we’re patient,Patiently persist to change habits practise a lot, persist with the discomfort, and let go of our need for perfectionism, we’re much more likely to have success. Personally I’ve find it very helpful to listen to what my inner voice is telling me when I get the urge to throw in the towel. That leads me to question why giving up is so important at that moment, and what would be the value of persisting. Then I look at what skills and strategies I need to use to achieve success. Read about how I used practice and persistence to rediscover my joys of mountain biking in one of my  past blogs.  Patience, practice and persistence are definite winners!

4. Focus on what you DO want, not what you don’t want

Focus on what you DO want to change habitsOne of the trickiest things about reducing or quitting a habit (like cigarettes, chocolate, or social media) is that we focus our minds on what we’re missing out on. To demonstrate the power of this focusing technique I tell my clientsFor the next 2 minutes you are NOT to think about the green dragon behind you.” I set the timer and give them occasional reminders to NOT think about the green dragon. The same thing happens when we keep telling ourselves “Don’t think about cigarettes / chocolate / Facebook …..” It’s really, really hard to achieve success unless we focus on what we DO want – the NEW habit or behaviour that we want to develop. You could try saying Time for a walk round the block … time for my fresh fruit and yoghurt … let’s give Mum a call …” Focusing on what you don’t want is counterproductive. Focusing on what you DO want is a winning style of thinking. You can read more about looking where you want to go in my very first blog from 2 years ago.

 

There are many more tips and tricks for helping you to break a habit or create a new one, but these four strategies will get you started with a powerful attitude that will guide the behaviour choices you make, and increase your chances of success!

Let's sum up habit

1. You are never too old to change
2. Change can take its time – often a long time!
3. Patience, practice and persistence – not perfectionism!
4. Focus on what you DO want, not what you don’t want

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full. 

Busy Head Syndrome, Weeding and Creating a Clearing

“The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett is one of those books that I definitely have in my basket of ‘all time favourites’. Having read it many times as a child and an adult, I well and truly relate to many of the scenes. One that sticks in my mind is when Mary secretly lets herself into the garden that has been locked up for many years, and without knowing anything about gardening, she instinctively clears little patches of earth surrounding the green shoots she finds in the ground.

She did not know anything about gardening, but the grass seemed so thick in some of the places where the green points were pushing their way through that she thought they did not seem to have room enough to grow. She searched about until she found a rather sharp piece of wood and knelt down and dug and weeded out the weeds and grass until she made nice little clear places around them. “Now they look as if they could breathe,” she said …..’

*AC85 B9345 911s, Houghton Library, Harvard University

It was only later that Mary discovered her instincts guided her wisely.

I remember the therapeutic effect of clearing weeds in the garden as a child. And as an adult I still get a kick out of weeding. The end result always improves the wellbeing of my much loved herb and vegetable garden, but of even greater consequence is the clearing it provides in my own head! Being self-diagnosed with ‘Busy Head Syndrome’, my mind is a veritable storehouse of ideas, thoughts, creations, experiences, fantasies, memories and dreams. It can get pretty noisy in there! But with each weed from the garden that I pile onto the compost heap, my head goes through a parallel process of clearing out and letting go.

Some people describe the process of de-cluttering the house or cleaning out a cupboard in a similar way. I’m often amazed at the different life lessons we can learn from our ordinary everyday activities – if we pause for long enough to think about it.

Now, with my busy week coming up, I’m off to do some weeding in the garden – to clear some space not only for my shallots and asparagus, but the inside of my head too!

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

Thinking About Thinking: the barbed nature of thoughts

Thinking about thinking is pretty hard work. It’s a fairly abstract concept so I find it helpful to use imagery and metaphors to grasp some of the concepts that are so important to a healthy mind and body.

Thoughts are a little bit like a fish hook with barbs on it. We can very easily get hooked by our thoughts, reeled in and immersed in an ever-expanding fantasy that leaves us feeling upset, excited, worried, distressed or something else. The hooking nature of thought is very powerful.

When our mind throws out a line with a barbed hook at the end, that’s our thought, we often don’t even realise that we’ve grabbed hold of it. We can become firmly attached to it and we can have difficulty letting it go. We can find ourselves stuck, squirming and wriggling with the discomfort just as a fish does as it’s reeled in from the water.

But how do we stop ourselves getting hooked in the first place? And if we do get hooked, how can we free ourselves from those thoughts that leave us feeling really uncomfortable? How do we know which thoughts to let go of, and which ones to hold onto?

Daily practice of simply noticing your thoughts as they arise during an activity helps to train your brain to notice thoughts arising at other times, and to notice that they are simply thoughts or mental events. If you find the fish hook imagery useful, you can notice the hooks (or thoughts) being cast out, and you can notice which hooks (or thoughts) you cling on to.

When you notice that you’ve been hooked into a story of your mind that’s unhelpful and is keeping you stuck and struggling, picture yourself carefully prising the thought or the hook away. As you gently and carefully extract yourself from the barbs, perceiving the thought as a small but powerful hook that is separate to you, you’ll be able to lovingly let go of it, thank it for its care and concern in your life, and set yourself free.

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

The 4 Foundation Stones of WELLNESS

This blog post summarises some of the information shared in a recent ROUND THE TABLE mini-workshop. To sign up for information about future workshops, click here: https://www.condamineassist.com.au/wp/mailing-list-sign-up/ 

Buildings don’t stand up for long without a strong foundation. Mental health and wellness are no different. By strengthening the foundation stones, we create greater resilience so that when life gets tough, we’re better able to weather the storms without crashing down.

So, what are these foundation stones of wellness? There are four main foundation stones that I work on with my clients as well as in my own personal life. Each of the stones support each other – they are interlinked – and they are a fabulous place to start building or renovating wellness at any time! The foundations are based on solid evidence that is routinely used in the mental health sector.

1. Movement

The latest Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines can be found here:

http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines

Basically, people are designed to move … a lot. When we don’t move enough, we are at greater risk of switching into a depressed or anxious state. It’s simple biology. Get moving, get active, get off the sofa, and move as much as you can and often as you can. For most of us it’s recommended to aim for about an hour of moderate intensity exercise or activity each day, and limit our screen time to 2 hours per day. The combined mental and physical health benefits of exercise / activity cannot be replaced by any medication. If you are in pain, or have limited movement, injuries, or chronic disease, the best idea is to do what you can. Remember always check with your doctor or health professional if you have any concerns about your health, exercise, and resting needs.

2. Sleep

Sleep is often a problem that arises when something else (in fact, anything else!) isn’t quite right. Good quality sleep is needed for restoration of our minds and bodies. Sleep problems include too much, too little, and interrupted sleep, as well as feeling fatigued on waking. There are plenty of things you can do to try to improve your sleep, but remember that there is a huge variation of what is considered ‘normal’. First of all, there are some health issues which may be contributing such as sleep apnoea, snoring and medication. If you suspect these to be problems, check with your doctor. How much caffeine, alcohol and tobacco are you using? How are you managing your everyday stresses? Your relationships? Issues with pain management or other health issues? Is you mind staying awake when your body is trying to sleep? Are you able to rest peacefully even if you can’t sleep? What routine do you use to prepare for sleep? Are you relaxing and de-stressing during the day? The list is almost endless!

3. Nutrition

There’s some value in the old sayings “You are what you eat” and “Healthy body, healthy mind”, although I acknowledge it’s not quite as simple as that! When it comes to nutrition in the media, it can be very confusing. So, let’s cut to the evidence-based framework that’s used by dieticians in Australia. These guidelines provide clear direction about what and how much we need to eat to reduce the risk of disease and illness. Many people I work with are surprised when they realise how much 1 serve of vegetables looks like, and the proportions of the different food groups we need to aim for each day. A dietician once said to me that we should all aim to eat a rainbow everyday, if not at every meal, so this is another tip I often share to encourage people to eat a wide variety of foods. Some nutrients are thought to assist with mood management and sleep, but for most of us, we’ll be getting these simply by eating a well balanced diet. Oh, and don’t forget to limit your alcohol consumption and drink plenty of water! And check the guidelines here: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au

4. Mind

Mind health encompasses basically everything about life and living that is not visible – thoughts, feelings, spirituality, beliefs, assumptions, self-awareness, attachments to things / people / places, and inner skills to manage our mood and behaviours. And that’s just to name a few! Mindfulness skills training is a valuable component of mind health. This is something that everyone can practise either formally (eg using mindfulness meditation) or informally (eg noticing with curiosity and without judgement what you see, hear, feel, taste, smell while eating lunch). Practices such as these train our minds to pay attention to what is happening internally and externally. We come to notice the patterns of thinking and behaving that we automatically engage in. And with this knowledge comes the power of choosing something else.

So, the next time you notice you’re feeling down or anxious, check your foundation stones and make the adjustment you need. Strengthening one foundation stone will strengthen the whole structure, but to maximise resilience overall, you’ll need to work on all four of them. If you don’t have the skills to do this yourself, ask for help. Team up with your doctor or health professional to build the best YOU that’s possible!