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.

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.

Stress Management: The Bucket of Life

Managing stress is something we all need to give attention to. In this article I’ll share with you one of the techniques which many people find useful for managing stress. It’s a technique that I often demonstrate at workshops, seminars and with my individual clients. It can be used by anyone at any time, and in fact I often use it myself to review my priorities when I’m feeling stressed. It helps me to adjust my thinking and change my actions so that I focus on the most important things in my life. I hope you find it useful too!

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Life is a Bucket of Rocks

Life is like a bucket filled with rocks of all shapes, sizes, colours and weights. And just like that bucket, life can sometimes feel overloaded, lop-sided or empty. We notice our stress levels rising. When this happens, it can be helpful to have a look at what rocks you are carrying around in your bucket of life.

The Big Rocks

Think of the MOST IMPORTANT things in your life. Write them down in a list. It’s a very personal thing, so be sure to list whatever is most important to YOU. These things are the BIG ROCKS in your life. They are your priority. You need to make sure you have time, space and energy for them. For example, some of my big rocks are daily exercise and meditation, being home after school hours, home cooked food, mountain bike riding on weekends, getting to medical appointments, spending time connecting with family, spending time alone, and developing new and exciting work projects.

The Medium-Sized Rocks

Now it’s time to think of the other things in your life that are FAIRLY IMPORTANT to you, but not quite as important as the big rocks. They are special, but not as critical to your happiness and satisfaction in life as the big rocks. These are your MEDIUM-SIZED ROCKS. Write them down in a separate list. Some examples of my medium-sized rocks (at this point in time) are socialising with friends, housework, sewing, weekends away camping, completing training courses, and replacing the curtains in my office.

The Little Rocks

The LITTLE ROCKS, or pebbles, in your life are those things that have some significance, but they are NOT AS HIGH PRIORITY as the medium-sized or big rocks. They are the things that you can ‘give or take’ somewhat. It wouldn’t overly worry you if you put these things off to deal with another day. You like having them in your life, but when it comes to the crunch, they simply don’t rate as high in importance. Write your little rocks in a separate list. Some of my little rocks include going to evening meetings, going to concerts, and washing the car.

The Grains of Sand

The next list you create is of all the things that have LESS IMPORTANCE AND MEANING in your life, but they need some attention and time. There are usually lots and lots of these, and sometimes we get them mixed up with the bigger rocks without even realising! These are your GRAINS OF SAND. Some of my grains of sand include tidying the coffee table, doing the ironing, going to the post office, and selling my old tent.

Place Your Rocks in Your Bucket

Now it’s time to put your rocks into your bucket of life. It’s really important you do it in the right order because if you get it back-to-front you’ll end up with a lop-sided, top-heavy, or overflowing bucket. You’ll feel overwhelmed, stressed and pressured. You won’t have enough time and energy for the important things in your life, and you’ll find yourself racing around or stressing over the things that really don’t matter so much.

PebblesSo first of all, make sure you GET THE BIG ROCKS IN YOUR LIFE FIRST. They are your priorities so take steps to make sure you allow plenty of time and energy for them. Next put in your medium-sized rocks. Your small rocks go in after that and will be able to settle into the spaces between the bigger rocks. You can be more flexible with how they fit into your life. Next comes the sand. These things will be able to flow into the spaces that you have left. If there isn’t time and energy for them right now, that doesn’t matter. When things settle, they’ll have a place in your bucket once again.

Check Your Bucket Now and Again

You might even find that by doing this exercise there are things consuming your time and energy that you can let go of completely – some rocks that you choose not to put back into your bucket. Perhaps you found big rocks that are actually small rocks, or maybe you’ve discovered some small rocks that you’d like to become bigger rocks in your life. Have fun experimenting to see what works for you. And don’t forget that at any time you can dig down to see what you’re carrying around, and rearrange it so that the big rocks always go into your bucket of life first!  It’s one of the most important actions you can take to manage your stresses effectively. 

Take a Minute for Your Mind

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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. 

 

8 Strategies for Handling Unease During an Adventure

Daisy Spoke BannerHaving been on the road with my daughter now for over a week on my April Adventure road trip throughout central, northern and western Queensland, and heading north through the Northern Territory to Darwin, I’ve managed to settle in and really enjoy myself despite feeling unprepared and unorganised when we started. I’ve fairly easily challenged some of my underlying fears and assumptions about travel including leaving half my family behind, not researching details about the route and destinations, not planning my return flight home when I leave my daughter in the tropical north to start her new job, being female and camping in out-of-the-way places and driving on remote roads, and the list goes on. 

View from car windscreen

My latest challenge came only last night. Arriving at Elsey National Park near Mataranka I felt somewhat unsettled. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was about. The environment was not like any I’d spent time in before. It looked like a combination of wetlands and dry scrub with earth that appeared to be recently wet with rain but had since dried to a fine powder as silt does after a flood. There was a plethora of wildlife. The insects were very diverse, big and plentiful. I saw some grasshoppers that reminded me of the vivid yellow plastic toy grasshoppers you can buy in cheap toy packs from the dollar stores. The sounds of the bush here also seemed strange and haunting. I couldn’t tell the difference between bird and insect calls, or perhaps even other animals yet unseen. It was eerily quiet with only one other campsite inhabited by humans and the campgrounds extended well beyond sight in every direction. The facilities buildings were half fenced off and I was curious about this but couldn’t think of any rational reason why they would be fenced in this unusual way. 

We decided on a campsite with some shade, green grass and a picnic table, andCampsite at Elsey NP before we even set up camp we had a short walk around the area. A sudden loud rustle in the bushes next to us startled me. Turning around and expecting to see a wallaby, my daughter tells me I wouldn’t want to know what made that noise. On further enquiry she tells me it was a rather large snake, and I began to seriously wonder about moving our campsite further away from said snake. 

Roper River, Elsey NPMy uneasiness only increased as the evening rolled on and in particular when we came face to face with another snake only a few metres from our tents. Still, I wandered why the uneasiness was there in the first place. Was I sensing a spiritual presence? Was it simply that everything seemed strange and unfamiliar? Or perhaps the absence of other humans? Was I simply tired and misreading my intuition? Was it FEAR welling up and testing my inner strength? 

But how to handle this uneasiness? I decided to take some of my own advice and implemented these strategies:

  1. I chose to “be” with my uneasiness. I acknowledged how I truly felt instead of denying or avoiding it. 
  2. I shared my feelings and concerns with my daughter, getting them out into the open instead of hiding them away and pretending they didn’t exist as I would have in the past. 
  3. I listened and looked, tuning into my surroundings in the present time, focusing on grounding myself to the moment rather than flying off into a fantastical and irrational anxiety about what might happen. 
  4. I set an intention to be open to possibilities and new experiences. Instead of being closed-minded and putting up barriers to enjoying myself, I chose to embrace the experience and adopt an adventurous mindset. 
  5. I intentionally invoked a relaxation response when I noticed my anxiety rising. I brought my attention to my breath and let go of the physical tension that I felt. 
  6. I used rational and logical self-talk such as “Just because I’ve seen a snake (or two) close to camp doesn’t mean I’m in any greater danger than if I hadn’t seen them”; “Not all snakes are deadly”; “We have a snake bandage on us at all times and an emergency signalling system if we need to use it”; 
  7. I immersed myself in the sounds of the night as I went to sleep, setting an intention of getting to know them better; an intention of curiosity, wonder and awe. 
  8. I also created an action to take during the night that however irrational it was, it really helped! It may seem funny to anyone else, and in fact it does to me now too! Whenever I stirred during the night and noticed that I’d rolled off my camping mattress or that I was touching the sides of the tent, I rolled back onto the mattress telling myself I can go to sleep safely now because no snake can bite me through the mattress even if does manage to slither its way under my tent!

Kathryn at Elsey NPAnd so I survived. In fact I thrived and had possibly the best sleep so far on my April Adventure. I awoke before dawn, spent a couple of hours silently meditating, embracing my surroundings and feeling entirely captivated by what seemed so haunting and difficult the day before. I feel an immense sense of satisfaction that I didn’t allow my anxiety to rule and limit me. I chose to respect it but also to stand up to it. In doing so I’ve come to know an amazing spiritual aspect of this sacred land which I may not ever understand, but I can accept it and embrace it. And when I do that, I also accept and embrace myself. 

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. 

 

 

 

Nine Powerful Mind-based Strategies

This post is all about using powerful mind-based strategies to boost your resilience and enhance your sense of wellness. In my last blog post I stepped you through how to create your own recipe for success and happiness that grows from a base of action-based strategies. Your recipe included actions that enhance physical and mental strength such as meditation, exercise, socialising, nutrition and sleep among others. Today we’re adding to your mix with powerful mind-based strategies!

Click here to read my last blog post “Recipe for Success and Happiness: getting the mix right!”

When you have a solid routine of action-based strategies enhancing your resilience, you’ll be ready to make effective use of mind-based strategies as well (the psychological jargon is ‘cognitive strategies’). These tend to be a little bit trickier than the action-based strategies because they deal with things we can’t see, like our thoughts, feelings and attitudes. But mind-based strategies can be incredibly powerful so they are definitely worth practising.

When you combine helpful actions with powerful mind-based strategies, you’ll create a deep sense of wellness and inner strength. You’ll be better equipped to manage stresses and will be able to bounce back more quickly when life throws those curve balls. As a result, you’ll know what it is to experience success more often and your satisfaction and happiness will soar. BUT the key point is that you need to PRACTISE them. All of them. Repeatedly. Don’t give up. New habits can take weeks to gel, so stick at it!

Mind-based Strategies

1. Keep a bagful of helpful questions handy – “I ask myself …”

  • Am I using black and white thinking? Where’s the grey?
  • Am I exaggerating the situation?
  • What does this situation look like from other perspectives?
  • Will this matter in 5 years time?
  • What’s the worst thing that could happen?
  • Am I filtering out the positives / negatives?
  • Am I really to blame? Is it my responsibility to fix?
  • Is this label / judgement helpful?
  • Am I jumping to conclusions?
  • Where is the evidence that what I’m thinking is true?
  • Am I assuming I know what the other person is thinking / feeling?
  • Are my expectations realistic?
  • Am I focusing on things outside my control?
  • What would my older wiser self advise me to do?

2. Work towards goals – long-term, medium-term and short-term

Break them up into little steps and focus on one little step at a time. A personal example of mine was when I registered for “Chicks in the Sticks”, a 3 hour women’s only enduro mountain bike event. I had months to prepare myself physically and psychologically which was a good thing because I’d never been in a bike race before and was terrified at the idea! I broke my goal down into smaller goals such as joining regular group rides, developing a training plan with increasing ride lengths and levels of difficulty, and having some coaching sessions.

3. Don’t give up when things don’t go as expected

Use a problem-solving technique to brainstorm ideas (even the crazy ones!), evaluate your options, choose one option, implement it, review how it’s going, and repeat this process as often as necessary.

4. Give yourself words of affirmation, reminders that you are ok

Many of us talk down to ourselves in critical ways, we tend to notice our shortcomings and weaknesses, but there’s a whole lot more to ourselves that needs some attention too! For example, tell yourself “You did great!”, “You are enough”, “Wow you’re getting stronger all the time!”

5. Gather a store of mantras, statements, quotes or ways of being that you intentionally choose to live by

You can collect them from songs, poems, books and social media in addition to listening to your own inner wisdom. Write them on sticky notes, in a journal or diary, print out visual reminders to stick around your home or workplace, or even use them as screen savers and wallpapers on your electronic devices. Some examples include “Just do it”, “One drop raises the ocean”, “Keep it simple”, “Just breathe”, “Stand tall”.

6. Get yourself a playlist of mentors and role models

They might be people you know and admire personally, or they could be people you’ve read about, or even characters from movies or books. When you find yourself feeling anxious or angry, ask yourself “What would [insert name of someone you admire] say or do in this situation?” One of the tracks on my personal playlist is a mountain bike coach I went to a couple of years ago. I sometimes hear his voice when I’m riding technical terrain on my bike “Get down low. Lower!”, and “Look up. Higher!” These words have been invaluable as I’ve learned to manage my fears about riding.

7. At any time you can call upon 5 seconds of courage

That’s all it takes to pick up the phone, make an assertive statement, click on a button or walk away from a situation. Think what YOU could do in YOUR five seconds of courage!

8. Develop a mindful approach to living

Notice more of your inner world and the subtleties of the world around you. Really get to know yourself, your patterns, thoughts, reactions. With this powerful knowledge you can then make conscious choices to do things differently, or the same. You’ll be in charge of your responses instead of the other way around.

9. Visualise how you would like things to be

Picture yourself doing something you want to achieve, or being the sort of person you’d like to be. Visualisation can be used for relaxation (eg visualise yourself lying on the beach, your stresses trickling away into the sand beneath you) or to help you progress towards a goal (eg visualise yourself speaking in front of an audience, feeling confident, upright posture, smiling, relaxed). When I’m feeling nervous about riding my bike on a particular section of track, I stop for a few moments and picture myself riding it the way I want it to go, as if I’m watching a short video of myself successfully negotiating that section. It truly is a powerful mind-based strategy and one you can use in every area of your life.

Free printable to keep your powerful mind-based strategies in play!

So there you have it – some really powerful mind-based strategies to throw into the mix. And to help you keep your strategies in play, I’ve created a free printable for you. “I ask myself …” is a beautiful keepsake of the helpful questions listed above. You can download it for free from my website, ready to print and display. This will be a valuable tool to keep your powerful mind-based strategies present everyday.

Each month you’ll have access to a new FREE PRINTABLE on my website that will guide you on your journey of wellness. To make sure you don’t miss out, sign up for my email “Grounded Inspiration”. You’ll be the first to hear about my latest offers, news and inspirations. When you sign up, you’ll also have EXCLUSIVE ACCESS to a mini-workbook “Success & Happiness”, a unique guide to creating your own recipe for happiness using action-based strategies that beautifully compliments my last blog post.

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 Three Best Things About Mountain Biking

The three best things about MTB. Hmmm ……. only 3? Okay, well ….. let’s see how this goes!

1. It gets you outdoors.
There’s a recognised association between wellness and outdoor activity. Simply being surrounded by nature is a step towards feeling more relaxed. With the sunshine stimulating our brains and enhancing our mood, there’s no better all-natural way to manage stress. Even just a few minutes outdoors is beneficial, so if you don’t have enough time for a long ride ….. have a short ride! With a bit of fresh air and sunshine, you’ll blow away the cobwebs in your mind and reconnect with those things that bring you joy.

2. It gets you moving.
Sedentary behaviour is considered a modern danger to our health with risks so serious that the problem has been compared to that of smoking. Physical activity refers to general movement throughout the day, so it has a broader meaning than ‘exercise’. Bike riding is a low impact activity and therefore a great choice for people of all ages and abilities. MTB in particular gets your whole body moving as you navigate rougher terrain. You can jump on your mountain bike to commute to and from work on paved surfaces, or hit the trails that are purpose built for recreational use. Cross country, downhill, enduro, freestyle, trials, or whatever is your preference ….. the main idea is to get your body moving.

3. It’s meditative
Formal or structured meditation practices are very helpful for developing skills of attention, concentration, relaxation and mood management. Some people find it very challenging to stay still enough to engage with this process. Whether you meditate in this way or not, you can still reap the benefits of mindfulness practices by fully bringing your attention and awareness to your bike riding. Visualise your attention as a narrow laser beam and focus on your actions and your surroundings using your senses – in particular notice what you see, hear, smell and feel. Notice the fluid movement of your body in response to the terrain, the smell of the pine trees, the breeze on your face, the physical features of the trail in front of you. When thoughts about work or other issues arise, simply refocus on your ride. Before you know it, you’ll have let go of some of those things you’ve been worrying about and given your brain a well-earned rest.

What are the 3 best things that you’ve discovered about mountain biking?

Spring Cleaning My Life

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Why wait for spring??? Spring cleaning can happen at any time of the year! I love the feeling associated with cleaning out the house, office and car, de-cluttering my environment, and letting go of those things that have accumulated over the past months, year, or longer. This action of making space also adds to my sense of renewal, of making a fresh start. And it’s energising and satisfying.

Spring cleaning contributes to a sense of order, healthy attachment, and organisation. It gives us renewed energy, like a gentle breeze on a hot day. We’ve cleaned out the cobwebs and feel fresh and clean again.

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And it’s not only our houses, gardens, offices and cars that need regular spring cleaning. Our minds need de-cluttering from time to time too. We can unpack our inner lives, re-organise our thoughts and attitudes, simplify our lives, and reach a new understanding of everything and everyone around us, including ourselves.

A great way to de-clutter the mind is through regular exercise – running, boxing, swimming, cycling, and so on. Some people find it beneficial to spend time alone gardening, listening to music, painting, reading, meditating or simply ‘being’. Even spring cleaning the house can be a fantastic way to clear the cobwebs of the mind!

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What works for you? How do you de-clutter your life, your mind, your surroundings?

Logo 2 shorter hairRemember …. no matter what the season, there is always an opportunity and many benefits to spring cleaning!