Movement and Mindset with Jessica Carey

Transcript from the podcast “Speak Out Loud: Stories of Strength from the Southern Downs”

SEASON 2: EPISODE 12

GUEST: Jessica Carey

PUBLISHED: 4th April 2022

Jessica Carey at Girraween

[00:00:00] Jessica: When we work on our mindset, when we work on our emotional resilience, when we’re connected to nature and when we’re moving our body, it actually shifts energy. It moves and creates change. And I think within anything to do with movement, it is creating change not only on a physical level, but with your mental health, also with your emotional wellbeing, which are all part of being a human, like when we’re very multifaceted and it’s not a one size fits all thing. It’s about choosing what works for you and, what makes you feel good. And I think that’s really important.

[00:00:42] Kathryn: My guest today is Jessica Carey. Jessica’s deep connection with the Southern Downs Region goes back six generations. In our conversation, we chat about the cycles and the seasons in nature, and that by choosing your mindset and your actions, you also choose to build your personal strength and resilience and this positions you in a much better place to manage the changes, the cycles and the seasons in life. Jessica also shares in this episode, her love of physical activity and sport, and the many opportunities across the region for joining in structured activities like sport, as well as unstructured leisure activities such as bushwalking that gets you connected with nature. Our conversation reflects many of the themes that we’ve explored in Season Two and I’m sure it will inspire you to get out there and get active.

Hello, Jessica. Welcome to the podcast.

[00:01:46] Jessica: Hi Kathryn. Thanks so much for having me.

[00:01:48] Kathryn: Can you tell our listeners what your connection is with the Southern Downs?

[00:01:53] Jessica: My connection with the Southern Downs is very much family-based. So I’ve grown up in the region and I have six generations back, uh, on both sides of my lineage and family line in the Yangan and Emu Vale area.

[00:02:08] Kathryn: During the drought which we had over several years, and that was followed up by the bush fires in 2019 and 2020, I spoke with a lot of people about their experiences. And some words that were commonly used were devastation, hopelessness, and despair. And so clearly for many people, those were really tough times. But at that time, I also recall having some conversations with you too. And you had a slightly different perspective, I’d have to say, which I really think must’ve helped to boost your resilience. You were speaking about the cycles and the seasons in nature and in life, and there are purposes and benefits to each of those cycles and seasons, even though they can be challenging. Could you share some of your thoughts on that perspective with us a little bit more?

[00:03:00] Jessica: I would love to. So in my profession I have a lot of conversations and I hear a lot of stories, uh, from really beautiful and happy memories to really hard times, um, being a hairdresser. Yeah, people are really vulnerable with you. So feelings of devastation and hopelessness and despair were definitely very common during that time and how I look at it from a psychological perspective and a cycles of nature perspective is that we have a life death life cycles. And that happens in nature, that happens within our bodies, our life, our inner world. So when we went through that really, really tough time, which many are still in, it was reflected back to us within what was going on in our internal world. It was really hard to see the devastation that the drought bought just like right now, the land is very fertile. So those cycles of nature are continuous. I have a lot of conversations with farmers and a lot of them are just very connected to those seasons, those cycles in nature. And I really like hearing those stories because it actually teaches us that there is always a time for these things, um, that nothing ever stays the same, that we are cyclic beings. And that what’s really important is to learn how to become resilient through some of those harder times, some of those tougher times in life, um, that we will all face at some time.

[00:04:23] Kathryn: So our thoughts and our attitudes can really have quite an impact on our resilience as well as the actions that we choose to take. Now, I know that you’re someone who highly values health and vitality and resilience. What are some of the choices that you make every day that keeps you feeling strong?

[00:04:45] Jessica: I love this question, Kathryn. Health is one of my highest values because I believe without it, that we can’t actually make the choices from a really clear and vibrant space. So, uh, eating really well from the land from the earth is really important to me, whether that’s growing your own food or going to local farmer’s markets and sourcing locally and seasonally. Really good sleep cycles. I believe that’s really important in how I show up in the world every day is sleep is how our bodies heal. So that’s really important. Movement, so physical activity, whether that’s team sport, getting out in nature, doing a yoga class. Being still for a period of time within that movement is important as well. Being aware of your body. Having really nourishing relationships and being social is part of that as well, whether that is on a hike or team sport, or simply saying hello to my neighbour as they walk past. And having really clear desires and goals are another part of my life of working towards being a really, just the best version of myself in this life. I think that’s really important and I’m really connected to nature. I think we live in an incredible region where nature is at the forefront and I love being connected to her. I think it’s probably the thing that I love the most is, um, it connects to all those other things and it creates a really incredible foundation for the rest.

[00:06:12] Kathryn: And you’ve been involved with lots of different physical activities over the years that you’ve lived in the Southern Downs and even when you’ve gone abroad Jessica. What opportunities are there for people to get active on the Southern Downs?

[00:06:28] Jessica: Ah, where do I begin? There’s so many. I was brought up playing a lot of team sports, so I was involved with netball and touch football um, in particular. I was into athletics and swimming as well. And I’ve always done some type of gym work. So, there is just so many depending on where you want to start. You can pick your team sports, you can pick your individual sports. You’ve got incredible gym facilities in the region. You’ve got, um, some of your unstructured sports, like you’ve got your mountain biking, orienteering so many, so it really depends on the way that you want to move your body, but we are an incredible region, that offers so much for getting outdoors and yeah, just seeing what we’ve got on offer.

[00:07:10] Kathryn: So with so many opportunities out there, how can people find out about what’s out there if they are starting from not doing anything, they don’t know what’s available to them, how can they get connected?

[00:07:27] Jessica: I would say first port of call is talk to people. I think within anything in a small country town, it is asking the right questions and asking around. Secondly, using your social media apps. I think that everything is on there now uh, whether that’s your unstructured or your structured sport. I think, uh, using your hashtags is really powerful, especially on Instagram. So if you’re like hashtagging Southern Downs or Granite Belt, there’s a lot of people who explore this region that are tourists that love coming out here who share pictures and who share what they’re doing to get outdoors. It’s actually how I found a hiking group that I’m now involved in for 25 to 35 year olds in the Southeast Queensland and we do hikes and outdoor activities everywhere, but they also come here. So it’s how I found them. I found them through Instagram and I wanted to meet like-minded young people. Um, yeah, so there’s, there’s so many opportunities if you put yourself out there and aren’t afraid to, aren’t afraid to get a little bit vulnerable and put yourself out of your comfort zone. And the council website has a great foundation on there as well for a lot of facilities and a lot of ways that you can get connected in the region. And also just going to some of the like asking local businesses, go down the main street of any of the parts of our region and ask locals. Locals know what’s available. Um, you’ve got your outdoor sports shops. You’ve got your camping shops. They’re like they’re owned by locals. Locals love this region. They explore and get out there. You’ve got so many ways to find your resources, to get outdoors and love this region.

[00:09:01] Kathryn: What are your favorite ways to get active and why? What motivates you with those activities that you love to do the most?

[00:09:10] Jessica: My favourite ways to get active is I really enjoy hiking. I love experiencing nature in a way, uh, that I’m moving without actually feeling like I’m exercising. So it’s just comes naturally. And like, I can enjoy it with friends. I can also enjoy it solo. I feel really connected when I’m with nature, when I’m in immersed in nature. And when I can experience what what’s on offer there. So for me, it’s, that would be my foundational one. And then I also really enjoy team sport because it’s social. I really, really, I think team sports are really great, great way to flourish. And, um, couple of nights a week for that for me is, um, gives me a good people fix and I can move my body, do some cardio and head home.

[00:10:00] Kathryn: Those places that you like to go hiking, Jessica, could you tell us a little bit more about them?

[00:10:06] Jessica: Oh yes. So my favorite place to go hiking in this region is Girraween National Park. I that’s my local stomping ground. Anyone that I meet in hiking groups, that’s they’re like, Oh, you’re so close to Girraween. And I’m like, yes. Yes I am. And there’s something about that granite in that region in Stanthorpe that has so much on offer, not only for just hiking, but so many other outdoor activities. Yes so that is an incredible part. I also love just going out to Killarney. Leslie Dam’s got some really incredible spots as well. I love watching a sunset out there and, uh, yeah, there’s just so many snippets of this region, but definitely Girraween National Park is something that is very much sought after by most people I meet in a lot of parts of Australia.

[00:10:57] Kathryn: For people who are living in town or maybe don’t have that transport to get out to some of those National Parks, some of those big open spaces like that, what would there be for someone say who’s in Warwick or Allora or in Stanthorpe?

[00:11:15] Jessica: Well, we have really incredible waterways in each of our towns and we have incredible walking tracks that are paths. They’re concreted and at the moment the water’s flowing beautifully. So there’s some really incredible river walks that are really flat, really accessible for children, for anyone who maybe their fitness isn’t up to going on a mountain. So I think our waterways in Warwick, Stanthorpe, Killarney, even, and, um, the centre of Stanthorpe are really incredible ways to start.

[00:11:43] Kathryn: Jessica, you also teach sport. Could you tell us a little bit more about that role that you have?

[00:11:51] Jessica: Uh, yes. So on through the summer I teach swimming. So I swam for a number of years and I believe it’s a life skill that everybody should have, whether that’s swimming in a pool, the beach, or skiing out at the dam, whatever it is, it’s one of those life skills that I believe are really important. So yeah. I love teaching kids swimming. It’s really fun. It’s, I love seeing their development. And I love seeing how they grow in confidence and build body awareness. And it’s something they can take for the rest of their life, which is really fun.

[00:12:25] Kathryn: And I imagine that even for adults who may want to learn to swim, that there are opportunities for them as well. Or it might not be swimming. It might be adults who want to have a go at a new sport that they haven’t done before.

[00:12:39] Jessica: Oh, absolutely. Most of the clubs in town, like most of your team sports or even your local gyms are always providing opportunities for you to move your body and get active and meet people. And yeah, I think you just need to ask around and find one that suits you. And there’s always incredible, incredible ways that you can get moving, get outside and umm move your body.

[00:13:01] Kathryn: For somebody who maybe doesn’t move a real lot, maybe isn’t really physically active, perhaps they have some pain or they haven’t had as many opportunities as somebody else to get involved with sport, or maybe they find it really hard to find the time to do that, what advice would you have for that person?

[00:13:23] Jessica: I would say start small. I think with anything with movement over my entire life, it’s been about setting a goal and slowly working towards it and being really kind and compassionate with yourself because all things take time. And I think resilience is a part of that. It’s nothing happens overnight. So you’ve got the river walks, as I mentioned earlier. And then you’ve also got some of the tracks that are in our region, whether that’s Queen Mary Falls or you’ve got a beautiful track at Girraween called Granite Arch, you know, they’re, they’re very gentle tracks for beginners and a way to move your body in a very short amount of time. But a lot of it’s mindset. A lot of it’s working towards something, knowing why you do it and being intentional about it. I think intention behind anything that you choose to do is really vital.

[00:14:13] Kathryn: Jessica, is there anything else that you’d like to share with us about that power of mindset or choosing to be active and getting connected with our community?

[00:14:24] Jessica: Absolutely. So whether it’s our mindset, how we choose to move our body or getting connected with others, it’s all about how we choose to show up in the world. You know, when we work on our mindset, when we work on our emotional resilience, when we’re connected to nature and when we’re moving our body, it actually shifts energy. It moves and creates change. And I think within anything to do with movement, it is creating change not only on a physical level, but with your mental health, also with your emotional wellbeing, which are all part of being a human, like when we’re very multifaceted and it’s not a one size fits all thing. It’s about choosing what works for you and, what makes you feel good. And I think that’s really important. If you’re flogging yourself to do something, it’s not sustainable. And I think like anything in nature, things need to be sustainable. So again, coming back to connection with nature and connection to cycles, it’s really important that we treat ourselves with love, respect, and compassion. And when we do that, that’s reflected around us as well.

[00:15:27] Kathryn: We mentioned before that you had travelled abroad. Could you tell us a little bit about what you were doing when you were overseas and how that’s relevant for us here on the Southern Downs?

[00:15:40] Jessica: Yes, I would love to. So a couple of years ago I went and lived in Canada for a short period of time. And I worked at a summer camp in BC. So I was working with children in the outdoors doing structured and unstructured movement and leadership. And it was an incredible time in my life. I believe this region is so similar to parts of BC in Canada. Every time I come back through Stanthorpe after being at Girraween, I just, my heart just takes me back to that time. We have so much opportunity in this region and for what’s available to explore, get out doors, be connected, go mountain biking, hiking, not just your team sports. We just have an incredible resource here in, on the Southern Downs. And I’m very passionate about getting people out doors, getting people moving and showing what is on offer in this beautiful region we call home.

[00:16:38] Kathryn: And we started putting together a list of those sports and those unstructured activities which we have access to here on the Southern Downs. And I’m sure that there are many more that we haven’t even thought of but that’s quite some list, isn’t it?

[00:16:51] Jessica: Oh yeah. There’s oh, from orienteering to tobogganing, soccer, netball, volleyball, water polo. You know, we’ve got our gyms, Pilates, yoga, National Parks. You can walk the dog, basketball, like it just, the list goes on whether it’s trials, whether it’s team sport or whether it’s individual, there’s literally something on offer for everybody, especially in a, in a beautiful country town.

[00:17:16] Kathryn: How can listeners contact you if they’d like to find out a little bit more about what you’ve been talking about today?

[00:17:23] Jessica: So I have a website. It is www.jessicacarey.com.au. I have a contact email that is accessible there, and I have social media. So I have an Instagram account, which is underscore Jessica Carey and Facebook is Arise with Jessica Carey. You can find me pretty easily. So yeah.

[00:17:44] Kathryn: Thanks for listening to the Speak Out Loud Stories of Strength podcast with me, Kathryn Walton. I hope this episode inspires you to get involved and to get connected with your community. You can find the transcript and any links mentioned in this episode, in the show notes and please share the podcast with your friends.
We acknowledge and pay respect to the past, present and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual, and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Series Two of this podcast has been jointly funded under the Commonwealth and State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements 2018.

Recreation in National Parks with Jolene Nelson

Transcript from the podcast “Speak Out Loud: Stories of Strength from the Southern Downs”

SEASON 2: EPISODE 7

GUEST: Jolene Nelson, Acting Senior Ranger – Visitor Management
South West Region, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service & Partnerships
Department of Environment and Science

PUBLISHED: 14th March 2022

Jolene Nelson Girraween National park

[00:00:00] Jolene: I guess what any National Park, or any protected area brings to people is that chance to reboot and reset and disconnect from everything, you know, the busy life that you might have come from. You’ve just got the sights and sounds of nature to enjoy. And it’s just a very simple and nice, easy way to just connect with yourself as well as with nature.

[00:00:34] Kathryn: Today’s episode is with Jolene Nelson, who is the Visitor Management Ranger for the South West Region. Jo chats with me about the National Parks in the region, the activities that are on offer, and she shares with us the recovery journey that she’s seen following the bush fires, particularly at Girraween National Park where she’s worked for over 20 years. The region has some incredible green spaces. And I really hope that this episode inspires you to get out there, to get active and to connect with nature.

Welcome to the podcast Jo. Can you tell us what’s your connection with the Southern Downs Region?

[00:01:13] Jolene: Well, I have pretty much been connected with this region for half of my life. I moved here when I was 28. I’ve worked out at the National Park at Girraween for the last 25 years. So yeah, I’ve kind of grown up here. I’ve had a family here. I love this community. I certainly found my niche. There’s so many different flavours in the region, as far as the environment and the culture and arts and food and wine and so on. I really do love this area. It’s something that I don’t hold back sharing with people.

[00:01:46] Kathryn: So you mentioned Girraween, can you tell us a little bit about the National Parks that are in the Southern Downs Region?

[00:01:52] Jolene: Yeah. So I probably talk about Girraween a lot because it’s kind of my favourite. But we are very lucky in this region. We do have a few different National Parks. We’ve got Girraween and Sundown National Parks on the Queensland side of the border. And then just a little bit across the border out of our region, of course is, Bald Rock and Boonoo Boonoo National Parks. But then we also have state forests as well. So where I live, I actually back onto Broadwater State Forest. And then just a bit further north is Passchendaele State Forest. So lots of protected areas, lots of places to play, lots of recreational opportunities, camping, walking, hiking overnight, mountain biking, a lot of bird watching, nature, just places to reset and enjoy and experience nature and in beautiful environments. And our climate is perfect, all year round, really, you can go walking, it’s not too hot. But there’s lots of places to swim if you do. So. So yeah, that’s what we’ve got around our region. We’re very lucky.

[00:02:48] Kathryn: In 2019 and 2020, there were some bush fires that came through the region. And that happened after several years of drought. And more recently, the region has had some flooding and we’ve seen lots of regrowth since then, but in general, how have all these different weather and climatic events impacted the National Parks in the region?

[00:03:13] Jolene: Yeah, look, I guess it’s the nature of our business. We do work in a natural environment and it’s shaped by, you know, what’s going on in the big picture. So the weather will definitely shape what’s going on down on the ground. In my time, like I’ve been there for many wildfires. We had a big one back in 2002, another one in 2005, another one in 2015, but the 2019 one was certainly odd being February. It’s not generally when we have our wildfires and it was kind of cold, like we were actually rugged up on the fire line. But that unfortunately was because we just had so much fuel because of the drought that, you know, leading up to that wildfire. And then Broadwater State Forest, was the big fire that impacted on Stanthorpe more so. That was also pretty crazy. Unfortunately it was, it occurred or started on an extreme fire danger day. Actually it was catastrophic, I should say. Yeah, it was, it was just horrible when it happened and, we knew that at some stage there would be a fire in Broadwater, but we just didn’t know to that extreme and threatening town like it did. But as far as these environments, yes, we do have these extremities. We’ve got the fires and I’ve also experienced a few floods in the region, 2011 and then again, last year, and even this year we’ve had the little sort of flash floods. And then drought. To experience the two year, 2018 to 20 drought, you know, that was the biggest for our region. Like they’re hard, you know, you fall in love with these environments and then I guess it’s like seeing a friend stressed and, and not at their best, you kind of, um, it touches your heart. You know, I would go out to Girraween to work and I would see ridges of trees dying. And yeah, it was, it was heartbreaking. And then I’d come home and I’d see my own backyard, you know, stressed. You would see populations reducing. It was really hard times, but I guess the recovery of these things is amazing, you know, and that’s nature is that you hope in the long run, yes at the time things might look terrible, but in the long run, you hope that they’re going to recover to some state where, you know, you can still go out and not see the ridges of trees dying and so on.

[00:05:29] Kathryn: You mentioned those fires that you’ve witnessed or, you know, are aware of in the last 10, 15, 20 years as well. So I’m imagining that you’ve seen recovery taking place from each of those over the longer term?

[00:05:46] Jolene: Yes, definitely. I mean, I guess after a fire, you do start to see the epicormic shoots and the regrowth starting to happen. It was a bit of a slower recovery process because of the drought. We didn’t have the follow-up rain that would generally help recover the bush. But eventually it has got there. I’ve had a few days where, I’ve kind of had a little cry, but of joy. And one of those was actually, it was exactly this time two years ago. I was at, down The Junction and finally seeing the creeks flowing. And it was like, this rain is pumping life into Girraween again. So, you feel really warm and fuzzy and hopeful that things are going to come back. And I can tell you that two years later, the bush is looking definitely healthier. We’re seeing species recover. I think we just had one of our best wildflower seasons. We’re seeing orchids that we hadn’t seen for a couple of years you know, come back out. We’ve got naturalists doing field studies, finding quolls. We’ve seen wombats on cameras. The bird life, the reptiles, everything seems to be coming back. So that’s, yeah, a really good sign of, um, better times ahead. Hopefully.

[00:06:54] Kathryn: That must be really exciting to see those changes.

[00:06:57] Jolene: Oh it is for me personally, um, yeah, beautiful. Like I go for a walk in the bush now and I’m not so kind of worried and stressed out. I just am now just back to enjoying it and getting back to discovering things about why I love being out where I am.

[00:07:12] Kathryn: Preparation for natural disasters like fires and, and drought and the floods as well can be really valuable, not just for survival, you know, surviving that particular disaster, but also for the longer term recovery for the land and the people. How do you prepare and plan for bush fires in a landscape such as Girraween?

[00:07:37] Jolene: Yeah, look a huge component of our jobs as Rangers is we’re fire managers. So it’s not just about being there as a firefighter. It’s about the years and months ahead, where you’re actually putting your thoughts and your learnings and your training into coming up with fire strategies. Now we develop fire strategies for our National Parks up to 10 years. Um, and then we’ll you know, narrow that down. It might be a year burn plan that you will come up with about where the best places need to be looked at at that time. We work with other agencies as well, so that we can at a larger level, look at our landscape and see what we need to do, to protect our communities as well as our environment. Through the year, like winter there’s a lot of work that goes into the preparation for the coming fire season. So that’s anything from slashing your fire trails to making sure your neighbours’ contacts are up to date. Your roads are maintained, so they’re ready and doing those prescribed burns, working with our First Nations People. Cultural burning and prescribed burning can be a little bit different. So combining the two definitely is more productive, uh, more effective we’ve found. And then I guess you go into the warmer seasons and it’s about being prepared and ready and trained and having resources and just waiting for those horrible extreme fire danger days and making sure your work plan is revolving around what’s going on out in the environment and you’re ready. And yeah just once you get those calls, just getting onto fires wildfires as soon as we can. So yeah, there’s, there’s a lot that we can do and that we do do, but there’s also, you know, nature that sort of will take its toll and determine how our days turn out.

[00:09:22] Kathryn: Natural environments like our National Parks are really valuable spaces for lots of different reasons. And from a mental health perspective, they give us the space to get active and have social gatherings and get connected with the natural world. What are some of the activities that people can do when they visit the National Parks such as Girraween and Sundown?

[00:09:46] Jolene: We’ve got many different types of recreational opportunities available in the different areas. So Girraween, it’s obviously very busy. But that’s because we’ve got the walking tracks that will cater for those numbers. We’ve got the small half-hour walks through to, you know, six hour walks if you’re prepared and want to, um, there’s the overnight hikes. We’ve got remote camp sites and we’ve got our camping areas as well. So, they’re kind of the main things that goes on. Lots of walking and camping. But then you’ve got rock climbing, you’ve got mountain biking, there’s orienteering. There’s a lot of birdwatching people. Naturalists love Girraween because it’s kinda like a little biological island. We’ve got a lot of species that you won’t find further north, south, east, and west. So it’ll bring a lot of your bird watchers, people that love reptiles, spotlighting at night for possums and gliders. You know, many go looking for wombats, but you gotta be lucky to spot one of those. But then you have Sundown, which is only an hour or so away from Girraween and it’s way more remote. So you’ve gotta be really prepared there. You can do remote walks and hikes. There is the Severn River, so you can go paddling, have a swim, you can even fish. And four wheel driving of course, because of its remoteness and ruggedness. So yeah, different opportunities, but I guess what any National Park, or any protected area brings to people is that chance to reboot and reset and disconnect from everything, you know, the busy life that you might have come from. You’ve just got the sights and sounds of nature to enjoy. And it’s just a very simple and nice, easy way to just connect with yourself as well as with nature. And yeah, I, I personally get a lot of calmness out of being in the bush, whether it is a ride or a walk or a climb or a swim, just to focus on yourself and just what’s important in life, I guess, you know, about looking after yourself.

[00:11:43] Kathryn: If anyone’s listening is interested in coming along to one of the National Parks and doing any of those activities, camping, for example, or bushwalking, where can they go for more information or to make a booking?

[00:11:57] Jolene: You can either just Google Girraween, and it’ll come up as the number one website, but for any of our National Parks, if you just go to the Department of Environment and Science and look for camping or booking online, you’ll just follow the links and you’ll find it.

[00:12:10] Kathryn: Jo, is there anything else that you’d like to share about the National Parks?

[00:12:15] Jolene: Girraween in particular again, the jewel of the crown, for me, it’s one of our iconic parks in Queensland. It’s actually going through a facelift at the moment. So yes. Had some hard days, but it’s having some funds injected into it to up grade our camping areas. So we’re closing Castle Rock, and that’ll be the first one to receive the facelift. And by the end of June, we hope to have three camping areas in Girraween that will cater better for the groups that we have coming. Big things happening for us, and I guess, with COVID we’ve seen that a lot of people have the need to go to these beautiful open places and be with nature. And, so I’m hoping that this is going to be a lovely way that we can get past this pandemic.

[00:13:01] Kathryn: Lots of opportunities for people to get out there and get active and nurture themselves.

[00:13:06] Jolene: Exactly, exactly. And yeah. Leave those gadgets at home. Bring some marshmallows, sit around the campfire with the kids and then just enjoy nature.

[00:13:16] Kathryn: That sounds beautiful. Thank you, Jo.

Thanks for listening to the Speak Out Loud Stories of Strength podcast with me, Kathryn Walton. I hope this episode inspires you to get involved and to get connected with your community. You can find the transcript and any links mentioned in this episode, in the show notes and please share the podcast with your friends. We acknowledge and pay respect to the past, present and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual, and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Series Two of this podcast has been jointly funded under the Commonwealth and State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements 2018.

How to Connect with Nature

I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on how valuable nature is in my life and this article is to inspire you to think about how you can connect with nature to enjoy the many benefits that are freely available for your health and wellbeing.

You might be called to connect with nature by going on epic adventures off the beaten track far from the cities and towns. Or you might connect with nature in ordinary everyday ways such as the choices you make about what to eat for lunch, how to relax in the evening, how to spend your time with a friend, or how to decorate your sideboard. It’s entirely possible to connect with nature in ways that will improve your health and wellbeing that don’t even require you to be outdoors. And it’s important to remember that the way you connect with nature might be different to how others in your family or workplace or group of friends connect, and that’s completely okay.

Nature has always been essential

Throughout time and all over the world, nature has played an essential role in human health and wellbeing. Think about the lifestyle that your grandparents, great grandparents and previous generations lived.

In our modern way of living, many of us spend our days, and nights, inside buildings with straight edges, artificial light and air conditioning. Of course there are many advantages to this. You’re protected from the sun, rain, storms, heat and cold. We feel safe in our homes and workplaces (mostly). But it does lead us into a lifestyle that’s largely disconnected from nature unless you make conscious efforts to reconnect. I believe it’s vital to be connected with nature because we are, essentially, an integral part of nature.

The Adventure Therapy Project Nature Walk

The natural world has an amazingly holistic way of supporting humans

PHYSICALLY you can move and breathe deeply in the outdoors. There are physical challenges that support your growth as children and as adults – trees and mountains to climb, rocky or sandy ground to feel beneath our feet, fields to run through, places to play hide and seek, dirt to dig in, water holes to splash in. All these activities help your co-ordination, body awareness and control and sensory development. And then there are the other aspects of physical health like fresh food grown in the soil – that’s so important too!

MENTALLY nature presents interesting challenges that keeps your mind active with problem-solving, creativity and reasoning. There are opportunities to focus attention in nature and opportunities to relax and de-stress.

EMOTIONALLY nature is an ideal space for many people to feel nurtured, to experience a sense of renewal and emotional healing. There are many studies on nature that have identified some of the reasons for this and we’ll explore some of these in other blog posts. But it’s worth noting here that bringing an attitude of mindfulness to your time in nature opens up a whole host of benefits for your emotional health.

SPIRITUALLY nature supports you to make connections between your external and internal worlds. When you spend time in nature and intentionally bring your attention to your surroundings, something wondrous happens. You experience a sense of awe and respect for the natural world around you and inside you. It changes your relationship with the world you live in and with yourself.

Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually we all benefit from connecting with nature. But there are other ways you can benefit too.

The Adventure Therapy Project MTB

Nature’s lessons

When you take the time to reflect, even the hardest life lessons are mirrored in nature. There are opportunities to learn about and incorporate the strategies you need to manage challenging times. After bushfires there comes new growth. At first it’s incredibly small but it’s there and it gradually grows. You can learn about patience, persistence, commitment and hope. Grief and loss is intimately connected with birth and growth. Things that don’t make sense in your logical mind can make sense when you experience them in the outdoors for yourself.

Be active or be still … nature doesn’t judge you!

One of the things I love most about nature is that she doesn’t judge anyone who ventures into her world, but she does give your inner child permission to run, skip, climb, jump, twirl, dream and ….. to be still. I challenge you to try it for yourself. Spread your arms wide and look up at the sky with a big smile on your face, breathe deeply and move your body just as you want to.

Or be still. So still that you can feel your heart beating and your breath at the tip of your nostrils. Still enough that you notice the delicate aromas around you, hear the trees whispering to each other and feel the breeze in your hair. Do you notice any judging from the trees or the birds or the breeze? Where else do you experience that kind of freedom? Nature truly is a place to feel fully alive whether it’s through stillness or activity.

Nature talks to you

I also believe that nature has ways of talking to you. Not in the usual way that you’re reading my words right now or if you were to listen to my podcast. Nature has a symconect with nature - fern unfurlingbolic language that needs no spoken or written words. You simply need to be there, immersed in a natural environment or in the presence of one of nature’s many gifts to feel supported, connected, understood and process your inner and outer life. As you observe, listen, smell, taste and touch your natural surroundings, you’ll discover wisdom there that can’t be explained with words. The rough bark of the tree reminds you of the tough shell you show the rest of the world. The pebble symbolises the strength and resilience you have. And the wispy clouds blown across the sky remind you that nothing stays the same.

How I connect with nature

For myself nature has a habit of calling me into her arms each day, reminding me that I’m part of a much bigger world. I spend some time most days walking, bushwalking, riding a bike, in the garden or simply pottering around the yard. Sometimes I have wonderful adventures on multi-day walks.

Some days I stay mostly indoors because I’m too hot or the flies irritate me too much. But I can always be with my pot plants on the verandah, watering them, talking to them, and nurturing them. I have sea shells and potted plants in the bathroom that remind me of the vast oceans and the rainforests. My big windows let the natural light in and capture my attention when the cockatoos fly over or a storm is on the range. I hear the birds setting off their alarm calls in the neighbourhood as a goanna prowls the paddock. And the poem about nature that I listened to in my morning meditation repeats its calming words in my mind as I go about my day.

create a habit of getting outdoors

How do you connect with nature?

However you connect with nature, whether it’s time in the great outdoors or with nature’s gifts indoors, you can be reminded that you’re never alone and that nature’s embrace is always there for you.

You can use your imagination to visualise yourself in nature even when you can’t physically be there. Picture yourself at the beach breathing deeply in and out, being one with the waves as they glide across the sand. In the forest in your mind you can reach out to touch the rough bark of an iron bark tree, and recognise your own strength and resilience. Or you can find yourself walking across a dry pebbly creek bed and know that the challenges of today will become a strong path for you to walk on tomorrow.

You are nature

You are part of nature. I am part of nature. And nature is in both you and me.

I invite you to take a moment to think of the ways that you already connect with nature in the outdoors as well as indoors.

And what new way would you like to connect with nature this week so that you continue to strengthen your health and wellbeing – your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health?

Connect with me!

I always love to hear from you. Join my Grounded Inspiration newsletter or send me a message.

We’re sharing more ideas over on our private Outdoors is my Therapy Facebook Group so I’d love to connect with you there too!

You can also listen to the podcast episode that goes with this article!

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

Slower Living

There’s something that’s been on my mind more and more over the past few years – living life at a slower pace, with greater simplicity and with moments of stillness. It’s something that I used to scoff at but it’s increasingly been something I’m drawn towards.

Living life in the fast lane can be very satisfying. Running on adrenaline keeps you energised and buzzing. I know. I’ve been there! But it has lots of drawbacks too. In the hectic pace of living a busy life, even one you love, your stress hormones are circulating constantly through your body and this can have a significant impact on your longer term health. Yes, you might not feel it in the moment, but over time the impact can affect your health including your mental health. There can be silent wear and tear going on in the background affecting your gut, your nervous system and other systems in your body.

Bringing a slower pace to your life, even for just a small part of your day, can invite a healthier balance for your body and mind. Just a few minutes a day is a perfect way to start a new habit of resting, re-energising and restoring your inner balance. I often encourage people to do this in nature if they can.

Nature has some amazing effects on the human nervous system which benefits your overall health and stress levels, and can also help improve your sleep. If you can’t get outdoors into a relaxing natural environment – maybe you’re in the city or the weather is wild outside or you’re in quarantine or you’re not able to move about – whatever the reason, you can spend a few minutes looking outside through a window, snuggle up to your favourite indoor plant or hold a shell or river pebble while you take a few deep slow breaths.

orange flowers
Slower living in nature – spend some time in the garden

Choosing moments of slow living each day, whether it’s for a couple of minutes or a couple of hours, is a valuable treasure in your day. Remember, something is better than nothing, and your mind and body will thank you for it.

You can read more about my efforts towards slower living as well as other people’s actions over on my friend Margy’s blog Simple Slow Still.

If you’d like more handy little tips to connect with the outdoors for mind and body health, you’ll love my newsletter Grounded Inspiration which comes out about twice a month. For a limited time I’m giving away “Your Guide to a Perfect Nature Escape Day” to new subscribers. This is a super-easy-to-use checklist that will help you easily and effortlessly plan a day of escape in nature where you can relax, rejuvenate and rediscover inner peace and calm. I have very regular escape days and I highly recommend them! I’ll tell you more about them in an upcoming blog.

SUBSCRIBE to Grounded Inspiration and download your free guide to a perfect nature escape day!

I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which I live and work, the Gidhabal people. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

Listen to the audio of this blog post on the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast – Episode 28!

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

Cycles in Nature: Endings, Beginnings and Hope

This amazing planet that we live on has sustained life for many millions of years. It’s a world filled with incredible cycles in nature and in our own lives as humans. When we sit back and observe these cycles, we grow in understanding about our world and ourselves, and we learn that hope helps us to deal with the endings and beginnings that are part of life.

Cycles in nature are everywhere!

Cycles are part of nature. We experience them everywhere – in the animal and plant worlds, space, deep inside the Earth, the climate, the weather, natural disasters and within the human body and mind.

In the animal world

Over the past summer I watched a pair of willy wagtails go through their breeding cycle 4 times! They hastily built a little nest perched precariously above the spotlights on my shed, then suddenly there were two or three eggs in the nest and lots of back and forth and sitting on the nest, chasing away other birds, and catching insects. Then the signs that the baby birds were hatching started to show. The adults seemed agitated; not sitting still on the nest any longer.

Soon, the delightful sounds of little peeps coming from the nest heralded the arrival of the babies. The parents were busy with their harried back and forth of catching food and incessantly feeding the young. Then lots of oohing and aaahing from us as their little heads became visible above the edge of the nest as they stretched and called out to their parents to be fed before flopping with exhaustion back into a little feathered huddle again.

Willy Wagtail nest fallen on the grass

After a couple of weeks the babies would stretch their wings fully and teeter precariously on the edge of their nest, and take their first flight amid their parents’ squawks and alarm sounds at anything and everything nearby. The first fledgling seemed to get all the attention and every time we thought they’d abandoned their other babies, they suddenly reappeared and steered the next baby on its first flight too.

For the next few weeks the family hustled and bustled around the garden, eating and defending, and then suddenly the parents were back to the nest (a couple of times rebuilding the nest when it had fallen from its perch!), sitting on the next batch of eggs and the cycle started all over again. Each cycle had, for me, moments of excitement, delight and extreme worry. There were lots of ups and downs for the birds as well as for me, the observer! And when you think about it, life’s like that!

In the plant world

The cycles in nature are everywhere. The more obvious ones like animal breeding seasons and flowering and fruiting seasons come to mind. I’d love to share another story about the cycles in nature. This one is from the plant world.

My son was gifted a punnet of petunia seedlings when he graduated from high school. It was springtime and he potted them out into a beautiful ceramic pot on the verandah. He watered them and nurtured them and they grew – prolifically! The flowers were abundant and brought so much colour and joy to the world.

Purple Petunias

And then twelve months later they began to die back. He wondered if he’d done something wrong; maybe over-watered or under-watered them. But as he learned, this was part of the natural cycle of life as a petunia. When he cleared away the dead stems he saw new growth in the pot. So he continued the watering and nurturing pattern, not being sure whether they were baby petunias or weeds. The extra light from clearing away the dead stems helped the plants to grow, and yes indeed, they were baby petunias growing from the seeds of the previous plants. As I write this article, the little petunias are beginning to flower again. It’s such a beautiful cycle!

the solar system, climate and natural disasters

Apart from living things, there is also the cycle of night and day and the yearly cycle of the seasons. We hear and read about the climate cycles in times gone by, such as the ice age, and we wonder how much of our current climate change is due to a natural cycle and how much has been exacerbated by industry and human impact. You can also see natural cycles at work after bush fires, floods and other natural disasters when regrowth takes place.

Deep inside the earth and in space there are cycles at work too, changing the world as we know it gradually, and sometimes rapidly.

The Human Body

There are less obvious cycles in nature too. You might be aware of the sleep cycles that we experience. We don’t tend to think too much about them but research is showing more and more that each part of the cycle is vital for health and wellbeing.

We discussed how you can improve your sleep by spending time in the outdoors back in a previous blog post so if you missed it, you might like to check it out.

Within your body you have cycles and systems for digestion, blood circulation and even the way you think, make decisions and grieve happens in cycles.

Endings are connected to beginnings

Whether they’re obvious or invisible, cycles are an integral part of nature including human life.

As one cycle completes, another begins. Nature holds these reminders for us, and they give us hope when we feel lost or depressed. Endings are connected to beginnings. And beginnings have endings too.

Outdoors is my Therapy – beginnings and the next phase

The Outdoors is my Therapy initiative began just over a year ago. In the first phase I recruited eight Ambassadors to help me share inspiration around the world about the benefits of spending time outdoors. I also launched the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast and the Outdoors is my Therapy Facebook Group. We’ve been out and about exploring and meeting people and sharing adventures and listening to other people’s stories. Recently we had a beautiful camping weekend to celebrate the completion of this phase of the Outdoors is my Therapy cycle. There is sadness but there is also a lot of excitement and anticipation for what comes next. As this phase completes, what new beginnings will there be?

Stay tuned as we continue to roll out stories, inspiration, information and adventures in the outdoors because, as my Ambassadors all agree, Outdoors is my Therapy!

Nature Escape Day GuideWould you like to soak up a little more outdoor life adventure or get connected to nature-based resources? Subscribe to my Grounded Inspiration newsletter which comes out approximately twice a month. It’s a short and sweet reminder in your inbox to prioritise your self-care in the outdoors.

At the moment, I’m giving away “Your Guide to a Perfect Nature Escape Day” to new subscribers. This is a super-easy-to-use checklist that will help you easily and effortlessly plan a day of escape in nature where you can relax, rejuvenate and rediscover inner peace and calm. I have very regular escape days and I highly recommend them! I’ll tell you more about them in a future post.

Listen to Episode 27 of the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast!

I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which I live and work, the Gidhabal people. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

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

How to use nature to relax

This article explores some practical ideas that will help you use nature to relax and de-stress. You’ll be able to take these ideas and experiment with them, practise the skills, and hopefully you’ll be able to help other people learn to use nature to relax as well.

use nature to relax

Stress Mode vs Relaxation Mode

Humans are wired to easily go into a fear and stress mode. It’s a survival trait that’s helped our species to survive. But staying in stress mode is not helpful or healthy. It’s great for short term and emergency use but if you’re always in stress mode it’s no longer helpful and it can lead to chronic disease, a shortened life expectancy and generally less joy in your day to day life.

So how do you strike the balance between stress mode and relaxation mode? An interesting fact is that your body can be experiencing stress without you even realizing it. Your brain and your body can be so used to being in stress mode that it feels normal. To complicate matters even more, some of the things you enjoy doing in life can add to you body’s physiological stress response.

Most of us have strategies that we routinely use relax but some of these are more effective than others. Some strategies can make us feel good temporarily, but in fact they can contribute to our stresses. Alcohol is a good example of this. When you drink, you may experience a temporary feeling of relaxation but it can also trigger an unhealthy response in your body that may lead to dehydration, headaches, organ overloads and an altered brain state.

Nature and Relaxation

There are many natural ways to relax, and there are many things in nature that can help you relax. Whilst this article focuses on those parts of nature that are calming and soothing, it’s important to acknowledge that there are also many aspects of nature that might increase your stress response. For myself, the flies, mosquitoes and snakes in summer definitely trigger my stress response! When I’m using nature to relax, I won’t be bringing my attention to those things; I’ll think of other things in nature that bring me a sense of joy and calmness.
We all experience the world differently so what you find relaxing and soothing could be different to me or different to someone else who’s reading this post.

Step 1 – Connect with nature

The first step in this relaxation activity is to think of something in nature that is soousing nature for relaxationthing for YOU. If you have trouble doing this, it could be useful to conceptualise nature in the three different categories below and make a selection from one of them. (These are not scientific categories, but they are a useful way to organise your thoughts for the purpose of this activity.)

  • Plants
  • Animals
  • Minerals (this includes inanimate objects such as still or running water, the sky, pebbles, breeze, rocks, boulders and sand)
Step 2 – get up close

Once you’ve identified something from nature that you find soothing, if possible, get up close to it (as long as it’s safe to do so!). For example, if a pebble is something that helps you to feel calm, centered and grounded, you can hold one in your hand. If you’re thinking of a creek, perhaps you can sit near it. You could also watch birds in a garden or run your hand through the sand. If it’s not possible to get up close, you can hold a photo or artwork that represents that thing, or have an audio recording that you can listen to.

Remember, it’s important to do this activity with something you find joy in so that you don’t get triggered into stress mode. Turn off or move away from any distractions for a few minutes including devices and other people if possible.

Step 3 – Relax body and mind

Now that you’ve made your selection and you’re up close to it, allow your body to become heavy. Allow your muscles to relax and go loose. Close your eyes if you feel safe to do so and simply focus on the feeling of your body softening and becoming heavy and melting into the ground or your chair beneath you.

When you’re in stress mode, your muscles tense up. In this activity you’ll be helping your muscles do the opposite. You’ll be helping your muscles rest and relax.

And when you’re in stress mode, your breathing also tends to get more rapid and shallow. As you relax with your chosen item, be aware of how your breath is going in and out of your body. Without forcing it, allow your breath to slow down and become deeper. Feel your breath nourishing your mind and your body.

breathe in nature

Your heart rate also tends to go up when you’re in stress mode. Your heart is pumping blood around your body to keep your muscles tight and ready to jump or run at any moment. As your muscles relax and your breathing relaxes, your heart rate will also come down a little. That’s going to be a lovely rest for your heart.

You might find as you’re doing this activity that your mind races away; this is normal. Don’t try to control it. Training your thoughts is a bit like training an excited puppy that wants to dart here and there and all over the place. Be gentle with yourself, don’t scold yourself when you notice that your mind has wandered. Simply and gently bring your thoughts back to rest on your relaxing muscles or your breath. Your thoughts will be there later, you don’t need to go chasing them now, so just let them be.

Step 4 -Focus on nature

Once your body begins to feel relaxed, bring your attention to your chosen item or feature in nature. REALLY look at it, touch it, feel it, examine it. What does it look, feel, sound or smell like? Focus all your senses on your chosen item for a few minutes and give yourself permission to have this special time to simply enjoy this relaxed experience.

If your thoughts start telling you to hurry up or that you’re bored, just let them be. Bring your attention back to your body and your breath, to how you feel in this relaxed state, or to your chosen item.

Step 6 – Repeat regularly

You can repeat this activity regularly – every day would be fabulous! And you can use different things found in nature each time if you like. As you get more and more practised, you’ll be able to relax even when you’re not up close and personal with your chosen item. You’ll be able to do it by imagining or visualising being there.

A valuable hint: Practise when you’re NOT in a state of extreme stress, especially for the first few times. If you’re very stressed when you try to learn any new skill it can lead to frustration and increased stress levels. However once you become practised, your brain and body will be familiar with the process and you can more easily make it work for you even when you’re highly stressed. You can also use this activity to help you get to sleep or switch off after a busy day.

From Stressed to Relaxed With Nature

In summary, the idea behind this relaxation activity is to develop a relaxing association with something from nature that gives you joy, and to do that with minimal distractions. As you allow your muscles to become heavy and relaxed, bring your attention to your breath and very gently and slowly, deepen your breath. Focus on the rhythmic breathing in and out and you may find your heart rate will also come down a little bit. Using all your senses, bring your attention to your chosen item from nature and stay with it for a few minutes. When your mind wanders away, gently bring it back to your body, your breath or nature.

These are the powerful actions that will help you to counteract the stress response and trigger a relaxation response. It’s a simple idea, but one that needs practise. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be able to teach other people, including children, how to use nature to relax too.

Listen to the audio version of this post in the Outdoors is my Therapy Podcast Episode 24!

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

The Adventure Therapy Project for Women

Adventure activities inspire healthy choices

The Adventure Therapy Project has been inspiring and skilling women to make healthy choices for themselves by valuing self-care, spending time outdoors, challenging themselves in new ways, and being physically active. We’ve had amazing fun and free activities on the go throughout 2019 and 2020 including:

  • bushwalks
  • gentle nature walks
  • birdwatching
  • trail yoga (outdoors yoga)
  • mountain biking
  • canoeing
  • bouldering
  • nature craft workshops
  • camping

The Adventure Therapy Project

The evolution of The Adventure Therapy Project

It’s been super fun to be a part of this Project from identifying the gap in women’s outdoor activities in the community, to developing the concept, applying for funding, organising and implementing the activities, and seeing the women enthusiastically getting involved. The Project has been funded with a grant through the Empowering Our Communities initiative which supports communities adversely impacted by severe drought. The funds were made available through the Darling Downs West Moreton PHN.

The Project has hosted about fifty different events for a few hundred women mostly from the Southern Downs Region of southern Queensland. Six small businesses provided instruction in their speciality activities, and numerous community groups and individuals shared information about the activities. Many men and women have told me that although they haven’t participated, they’ve been inspired to get outdoors and get active simply by hearing and seeing the Project in action. How awesome is that!

The Adventure Therapy Project canoeing

Outdoor adventures are a valuable part of mental health and self-care

Spending time outdoors can be incredibly valuable for almost every aspect of human health and wellbeing. The outdoors, and especially natural spaces, have a pretty unique advantage. They offer infinite opportunities for the development, growth and restoration of the whole self. Nature can both challenge and heal your physical body, mind, emotions and spirit. Spending time in nature also supports connection with others, connection with the inner self, and a greater understanding and connection to the world around us.

Having worked for many years as a mental health worker in the public and private sectors I believe that mental health deserves much broader attention than what the current medical model allows. There is a tendency to focus narrowly on formal diagnosis of specific mental illnesses and treatments which frequently include medication and/or talking therapies.

I believe that we need to examine and adjust ALL the systems that impact mental health at an individual, family, workplace and community level. And we need to do this not only when someone experiences distress, but most importantly to prevent and minimise problems that inevitably will occur in life. Healthy lifestyle choices are particularly relevant to preventing and managing general mood disturbances such as feeling anxious, ‘down’ or mild to moderately depressed, stressed and tiredness (where there is no other known medical condition).

The Adventure Therapy Project MTB

Mental health can thrive when the foundations are strengthened

Thriving mental health is built upon strong lifestyle foundations of:

  • physical activity including general movement, exercise and activity levels
  • sleep
  • nutrition
  • mind skills, and
  • connection with the world around us including the natural world and social connections

A strong foundation does not mean that an individual will always bounce happily and easily through life, but it does mean that they are in a better position to manage their life stresses and challenges.

Your bio-chemistry changes when you move and exercise. It also changes with the nutrition you take into your body, the quality and quantity of sleep you have, the way you think, and the connections you have with other people and even when you spend time outdoors in nature. We need to value and adjust each of these systems to truly make a difference to mental health. Outdoor adventures go a very long way towards supporting each of these foundations.

The Adventure Therapy Project Nature Walk

The success of The Adventure Therapy Project

Two years ago I felt I needed to constantly justify why I wanted to take small groups of women on outdoor adventures. For years and years I provided talking therapies in closed rooms and saw patterns repeating themselves. Occasionally you can convince someone to get outdoors and get active for their health. But to actually take them outdoors and be active with them, that’s something pretty special. That helps to overcome some of the hurdles that get in the way. With increased exercise, connection with nature, new physical and mental skills, and new friendships, you’ll tend to sleep better as well.

The Adventure Therapy Project bouldering

What’s next for The Adventure Therapy Project?

It hasn’t been completely plain sailing for the Project. The funding targeted the drought affected community but when bushfires ravaged the region and filled the air with thick smoke, we pushed the pause button for a few months. Likewise, COVID-19 has impacted in a variety of ways. Following these disruptions the Project was extended for another six months and now it is complete. When another round of the same funding was announced in 2020, the Project was no longer eligible due to new guidelines which excluded face-to-face activities.

So, for now The Adventure Therapy Project has paused. I’m spending my time and energy this summer on creating some new online resources that I’ll be excited to share with the community shortly. If you’d like to be the first to hear about new releases and new adventure activities, be sure to subscribe to my Grounded Inspiration email.

The Adventure Therapy Project camping

Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for general information only. Please always seek individual advice from a health professional or crisis centre such as Lifeline (ph 13 11 14) if you have any concerns about your own mental health and safety or the mental health and safety of another person.

Daisy Spoke

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

Family Adventures: Tania’s Story of Travel Around Australia

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

An Epic Family Adventure

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

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

family adventure

The ups and downs of adventures

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

Awe-inspiring adventures

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

adventures in Australia

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

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

family adventure in Australia

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

making damper on the campfire

Daily life on the road of adventure

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

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

adventures in the outback

Make memories while you can

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

Grow a culture of adventure in your family

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

amazing family adventures

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

Safe travels.

Tania x

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

What does self-care look like?

I’m writing this article during the month of July in the year 2020 and I’m asking all sorts of questions to get you thinking about your own self-care. Recently I wrote about how to stress less in nature. Nature offers a rich and beautiful set of self-care tools that you can easily and affordably access. In the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast last week I shared a guided mindfulness practice that you can do outdoors – once again this is a valuable self-care tool.

But today I want to get back to exploring the true meaning of self-care including what you most need to focus on so you don’t get distracted or led up the wrong path when it comes to self-care. Next week you’ll get some tips on managing one of the most common obstacles that women stumble over with self-care, and that’s time – juggling all the things, the competing priorities and responsibilities.

self-care month

Self-care is never skin-deep

Self-care is never skin deep. If you believe the advertisements trying to sell you a glossy image of self-care, it might look like having your nails done, having a holiday in Bali or spending a whole day shopping for new clothes and handbags and shoes. And these activities can be part of self-care. But if we only focus on buying luxury and often expensive activities, services and products to make ourselves feel good, then we’re missing out on the vital aspects, the very foundations of true self-care.

Finding a common thread between Child Care, Aged Care and Self-Care

Let’s look at it another way. If I asked you what’s child care, or aged care or neighbourhood care, what do you think of? What are the tasks, the activities you actually do when you’re caring for children or older people in poor health or your neighbours?

Child Care – tasks and values

When I think of child care for example, I think about looking after children’s physical and emotional needs like:

  • providing a safe environment for them to play
  • giving them plenty of running around time outdoors
  • preparing food
  • buying the groceries and bringing them home
  • getting the house in order
  • making sure the kids have educational activities like great books and games
  • setting boundaries on their bedtimes and use of devices
  • cooking nutritious meals
  • packing their lunches with care and attention (sometimes leaving a special treat or message in there for them)
  • making sure they get to sports practice and get their homework done
  • supporting them to rise up to challenges and celebrate the joys and successes
  • helping them settle down to sleep with a good evening routine
  • listening to the children with compassion when they’re upset, giving them some gentle advice and checking back in with how they’re going later on
  • organising medical advice and treatment when they are unwell

Caring for children, aged and sick people, and our neighbours generally starts with making sure that physical and emotional needs are met. Care also goes beyond those basics because our actions align with values such as love, kindness and compassion.

Self-Care – tasks and values

When it comes to self-care how many of these tasks do you routinely do for yourself, and when you do, are you doing them with love, care, kindness and compassion?

Which of these tasks or values get left out?

Where are you at with your self-care?

Here are some reflective questions you can ask yourself to identify where you’re at with self-care right now. These questions are intended to be a prompt to identify where you might be able to focus some extra energy and attention. They’re not meant to be a judgement or comparison between yourself and anyone else. Self-care looks a bit different to each individual so there is no right way of doing it. But you’ll know when you’re doing self-care better because you’ll have more energy, attention and compassion for the other parts of your life – your relationships, the people you care for. You’ll feel like your cup is full enough to be able to share your time and energy being with others and helping others at work or in your personal life.

Self-Care Audit and Reflection QUESTIONS

• Am I choosing carefully and lovingly what I feed myself with, what I put into and onto my body – food as natural as possible, water, cosmetics, and anything else?
• Am I looking after myself by moving my body throughout the day? This is the single biggest factor that will improve your health prospects.
• Am I getting outside everyday to enjoy the fresh air, or sunshine, or rain, the garden, the clouds, the breeze?
• Am I exercising? Exercise is physical movement for a specific purpose for example to improve cardio-vascular fitness, flexibility, endurance, strength.
• Am I nurturing myself with social activities that feed my mind and soul? Am I connecting with people who lift me up and add great value to my life?
• Am I getting enough sleep?
• Am I self-disciplined with using devices and how I spend my time including getting to bed and getting up in the morning?
• Do I listen to my body and my mind and my heart?
• Am I compassionate and caring towards myself in ways that I’m compassionate and caring towards others?
• How am I speaking to myself today? Am I speaking to myself as I would speak to a friend?
• Am I spending time in nature? Do I check in every week to find my place in the natural world? 2 hours a week is good amount of nature time to aim for to enjoy its benefits the most.
• Do I gift myself time and space to reflect, to think, to pause, to just be?

self-care nutritionself-care sleepself-care move more
Are you neglecting or nurturing your self-care?

These questions dig down into the very foundations of self-care that we often neglect. These are the aspects of self-care that build your health and energy, your sense of vitality and self-worth. They don’t sound super-exciting or dazzling but they are essential. If you neglect these foundations, and spend your time, energy and money constantly seeking other activities to fill your self-care cup, you’ll never be content.

What parts of self-care do you most need to focus on?

What aspects of self-care are you currently practising and feel satisfied with?

And which ones would you like to work on?

How are you going to do that?

What might get in the way?

Share your story with me!

I love having conversations like these with the women in my communities and I’d love to hear from you too. Let me know how your self-care practices are going, what the challenges are and what’s working well. You can also request a complementary 30 minute video chat (for a limited time, maximum numbers, Australia only).

If you haven’t already, join the Outdoors is my Therapy Facebook Community where there’s lots of sharing of inspiring ways to practise self-care in the outdoors. You can also sign up to receive my fortnightly Grounded Inspiration email newsletters filled with snippets of information and inspiration to keep your self-care, health and happiness rolling along.

Listen along to the podcast episode “What does self-care look like?”

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, workplaces and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

Everyday in the Outdoors

everyday in the outdoors sunrise

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

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

GO FOR A WALK

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

Morning walk

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

Lunch time walk

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

End of the day walk

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

WITNESS SUNRISE & SUNSET

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

SPEND TIME IN A GARDEN

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

HAVE A GO AT BIRDWATCHING

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

PRACTISE MINDFUL PRACTICES

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

Sensory mindfulness

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

Mindful walk

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

FIND THE LITTLE TREASURES

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

CELEBRATE LIFE WITH A PICNIC

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daisy Spoke avatar has long curly hair and smiling mouth

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