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.

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.

Bushwalking in Goomburra, Main Range National Park

Regardless of your level of fitness there are plenty of options for bushwalking in the Goomburra section of Main Range National Park on the Southern Downs. As with many National Parks, it is a privilege to be able to share in the natural wonders and history of the area. There are varying stories about the meaning of the word “Goomburra” taken from the local Aboriginal language. The European history of the Darling Downs area relates to transport routes between the east and west, the logging industry, and frequently violent conflict with the Traditional Custodians of the land.

About Main Range National Park

Main Range National Park covers over 30 000 hectares in the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area in south east Queensland. With an amazing diversity of plants and animals and unique terrain, Main Range is a popular place for people to picnic, bushwalk, camp and venture into the more remote areas of the Park.

Main Range National Park is divided into 3 sections including Queens Mary Falls, Cunningham’s Gap, and Goomburra. Let’s take a closer look at the Goomburra section. 

Are you new to bushwalking? Read some tips and hints on how to get started bushwalking.

Goomburra Section

bushwalking Goomburra 3
Explore the wide variety of habitats when you go bushwalking in Goomburra

The Goomburra section of Main Range National Park is about 170kms south west of Brisbane by road or about 55kms north east of Warwick. The Park offers spectacular scenery with rugged mountains, scenic lookouts, open dry forest, and rainforest. The Park habitats provide shelter to a variety of Australian flora and fauna including some endangered species.

Accommodation

Camp sites with composting toilets are provided in this section of the Park, and other private camp grounds and accommodation options are located nearby.

Access

Hidden away from the highway, access to the Goomburra section of the Park is along Inverramsay Road. Travelling along here reminds you of where your food comes from. The road meanders along the beautiful Goomburra Valley, home to grazing, dairying, vegetable and crop farms, as well as recreational enterprises such as 4WD parks and private campgrounds – very popular destinations for long weekends and school holidays.

The final approach to the Park is unfenced and unpaved so be aware of cattle wandering across the road. At times you may need a high clearance vehicle to navigate the unpaved sections. After rain there can be several water crossings as you enter the Park.

Kurrajong Picnic Area is on your left near the intersection with Lookout Road and a nearby information sign. Driving straight ahead you’ll discover two campgrounds with toilets and access to some of the walks from the car park where the road terminates.

Driving along Lookout Road you’ll wind your way up a narrow unpaved road which gives access to more walking tracks.

Bushwalking Tracks

There is a variety of walking tracks in the Park ranging from short and easy walks to steeper and more

bushwalking in Goomburra 1
Rock pool on The Cascades track

challenging half-day walks.

Dalrymple Circuit (1.2kms return) is a Class 3 walk with interpretative signs which winds through the forest and creeks. This walk is suitable for families or anyone looking for a short walk that gives you a taste of what Goomburra has to offer.

Cascades Circuit (6.5kms return) is a Class 4 track that’s a bit longer and more challenging. Wind your way up through the rainforest crossing the creek numerous times to sit by the rocky pools at the upper reaches.

The Ridge Track (5kms return) is a Class 4 track that takes you through quite steep terrain with dry forest and rainforest. Take care on the steep fire road and walking tracks as the gravel can be quite slippery whichever direction you go.

North Branch Track (7kms return) is a Class 4 track that begins off Lookout Drive near the Kurrajong

bushwalking Goomburra 2
Lush ferns growing on the Ridge Walk track

picnic area. From the picnic area, walk to the other side of Lookout Drive and cross the creek. On your left you’ll see the start of the North Branch Track which takes you through mostly dry open forest until it reaches the edge of the rainforest which is a perfect spot to rest and have a snack before returning the same way you came.

Araucaria Falls (3.6kms return) is a Class 4 track that takes you through rainforest to the base of the falls. Access to this walk is along Lookout Road.

Sylvesters Lookout (940m return) is a short and beautiful Class 3 track that can be accessed from Lookout Road. The walk takes you to a spectacular lookout.

Mount Castle Lookout (960m return) is another short, beautiful Class 3 track that can be accessed from Lookout Road. Walk through rainforest and be rewarded with amazing views below.

Winder Track (12 kms return) is a Class 4 track that goes out-and-back from the end of Lookout Road. This track is vehicle-width leading you through the forest to ‘the winder’ which was used in the bygone days of logging and timber cutting in the area. Although listed as a Class 4 track, the walk undulates fairly gently and does not generally have much in the way of obstacles. At the start of the walk keep an eye open on your right for views across the valley.

The art of not-bushwalking

If you’re not feeling up to the challenge of bushwalking in Goomburra, or maybe you have young children to care for, simply have a wander or a quiet sit-down in the campgrounds or picnic area. There’s always so much to see right on the edge of the forest, with birds flitting in and out, echidnas, wallabies and kangaroos, reptiles, and frogs and other water-based creatures along the creek. Take a book or some binoculars or a pack of cards and enjoy the peaceful surrounds as you reconnect with the natural world around you.

Things to watch out for

There are the usual things to watch out for whilst bushwalking in Goomburra including snakes, ticks, leeches, flies and mosquitoes. You may also see some stinging trees depending where you walk, so be careful not to touch these. Check the parks site for ‘alerts’ of bushfires and park closures. As always the recommendation is to be prepared with first aid knowledge, a snake bandage, sun and insect protection, wear long sleeves and trousers, slip on a hat, and take plenty of water with you as it can be quite hot and humid on the walks. Let someone else know where you are planning to go and let them know when you’ve returned so they don’t unnecessarily send out a search party. Mobile service is very poor throughout the area.     

It’s time to stop dreaming and start bushwalking in Goomburra!

bushwalkingSo….. enough reading and dreaming about it! It’s time to get organised and get out there for real!

WHICH TRACK WILL YOU BE BUSHWALKING IN GOOMBURRA?

Walking Track Classifications

This article refers to the Australian Standard for classifying the level of difficulty of walking tracks. The Goomburra Section of Main Range National Park has Class 3 and 4 walking tracks which are defined below:

Class 3 Walking Tracks

  • Well-defined, distinct tracks, variable in width. Muddy sections, steep grades and steps may be encountered. Some exposed roots and rocks.
  • All junctions signposted and may include interpretive signs.
  • May be partially overgrown; hazards such as fallen trees and rockfalls may be present.
  • No formed creek crossings; cliff edges and lookouts generally not fenced; appropriate caution required.
  • Reasonable level of fitness required and ankle-supporting footwear recommended.

Class 4 Walking Tracks

  • Distinct tracks, surface likely to be rough with exposed roots and rocks.
  • All junctions signposted. Markers may be used where necessary (e.g. at creek crossings).
  • Variable in width; muddy sections, steep grades and extensive steps likely to be encountered.
  • May be overgrown; hazards such as fallen trees and rockfalls likely to be present.
  • No formed creek crossings; no fences on cliff edges or lookouts; high level of caution required.
  • Moderate fitness level and ankle-supporting footwear strongly recommended.
Daisy Spoke

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

Bush Adventure Therapy and Deep Listening

What do bush adventure therapy and deep listening have to do with me? Well, here’s my story…..

Last week I really struggled. Everything seemed heavy and I simply wasn’t motivated to do many of the tasks I usually do each day. I know exactly why this happened, and with hindsight it all makes sense. But honestly, I did not see it coming until it hit me.

The Power of a Fantastic Conference

I blame it all on the AABAT (Australian Association for Bush Adventure Therapy Inc) conference that I’d been to the week before. After all the anxiety leading up to the conference and the pre-conference expedition, I never imagined having a more awe-inspiring experience surrounded by the friendliest, most welcoming, positive yet realistic people I’ve ever had the privilege of being with. After nearly a week spent camping, hiking, conferencing and in deep listening with the natural world around me, I found myself back at work surrounded by painted walls in the midst of the worst drought on record and isolated from my new-found tribe of bush adventure therapists.

Connection to Land, People and Myself

I sense that the lush and rugged terrain surrounding me while I was at the conference was also my protector and connector. Having heard some of the stories held by this land, I felt like I became part of it and part of the stories to be told in the future. Incredible things happen when we connect with nature and with each other. We come to know ourselves. We learn the art of deep listening, feeling and responding.

At the conference I learned bucketloads about the science of sensory awareness, the future for social work in bush adventure therapy, healing trauma, writing grant applications for projects, and the value of story-telling. I discovered the real-life stories where bush adventure therapy had made a difference in the lives of people including women following domestic violence, young people in the care and protection and justice systems, and people wanting to rediscover who they are and what life is all about.

With over 170 people at the conference, I wasn’t going to have the opportunity to meet and get to know everyone. But the real treasure for me was going on the pre-conference expedition when I spent a couple of days and nights with a beautiful group of adventurists as we challenged ourselves with plenty of uphills and downhills (READ: very-steep-scrambly-sliding-on-your-butt downhills), navigating the terrain the best we could, and giving each other a practical hand and oodles of encouragement. So by the time we rocked up to the conference venue ever so weary and dusty and sweaty, I never felt alone or isolated. I had the beginnings of my tribe. And with this sense of belonging and connection, my confidence and comfort grew.

bush adventure therapy expedition
AABAT Pre-Conference Expedition August 2019
CREDIT: AABAT

Coming Home and The Aftermath

All these things I held gently in my heart as I made my way home after the conference, excited for all the wonderful projects across the globe that connect people to nature, and super-excited for the part that I hope to play in the future. Full of stories and inspiration, I joyfully shared the highlights with anyone I came across.

And then unexpectedly it hit me. With the realisation that I was back to the ‘same-old same-old’ I felt the slump growing bigger as I listed off all the things I ‘should’ be doing but wasn’t. My yearning to be outside was incredibly strong, but I ‘should’ go back in and answer those emails and phone messages. I wanted to scream out that it’s not fair it’s so dry here and so green somewhere else, but I thought I ‘should’ just get on with life and stop comparing. And I wanted to be surrounded by my comrades even though I ‘should’ be grateful that I get to work for myself.

Life Goes On – Struggles Included

Here I am at the start of another week, still spurred on by everything bush adventure, still struggling somewhat. And I think to myself “How human am I? How human is it to feel the struggle?” We all have struggles even when life is going well. And from the struggle, when we can step back and look at it with love and support, comes strength, inner knowing, and intentional action.

Bush Adventure Therapy and Deep Listening

That’s what I’m working on this week. Identifying my strengths and especially what I’ve come to discover over the past couple of weeks. Finding that place deep in my heart that knows what I need to do, and being able to trust it to guide my way forward. Deep listening with the land and all that it nurtures (even in drought), deep listening with my community. And deep listening with myself.

That’s what bush adventure therapy means for me – deep listening to land, others and self. Belonging. Connection. Trust.

Daisy Spoke

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

 

How to get motivated to exercise

How do YOU get motivated to exercise? It’s cold, blustery and misty outside today. I spent most of summer yearning for the cool Arctic breeze to greet me so I can go walking or riding any time of the day without feeling like I’m going to pass out from the heat. After our long, hot, drought-ridden summer, winter has finally arrived. And here I am, huddled in my flannelette pyjamas, fluffy dressing gown and hand-knitted knee rug dreading the thought of going outside.

It’s a tricky head space to be in – knowing that I advocate for an outdoor adventurous lifestyle, and yet here I am, cocooned in my layers, inside my house, and trying desperately to find another thing to delay me before I go outside.

Being very conscious that my actions and values are simply not in alignment, I’ve given myself a stern talking to this week. Motivation is a pretty fickle thing. You can never rely on it. It’s a feeling that comes and goes and is affected by many different things – both positively and negatively. Sitting around waiting for motivation to arrive is fruitless. You need to take ACTION, and motivation will follow in its own good time.

motivation is fickle

I figured I’m probably not the only one who’s struggling at the moment (tell me that is so!!), so I’ve put together a list of tried and true strategies to get us exercising, no matter the weather, and no matter our motivation levels!

18 ways to get motivated to exercise

  1. Be accountable! To someone else, like a friend that you’ve agreed to meet for a walk. Or simply write your planned exercise activity in your diary and let others know ahead of time about your commitment.
  2. Something is better than nothing! Don’t get caught in the all-or-nothing type of thinking. If you’re running short on time, do what you can – 10 minutes is better than nothing.
  3. Make exercise part of your daily routine so there is little room for debate about what you’re going to do and when.
  4. Choose your reward! External rewards work well for some people – think of stickers for your exercise chart, or buying that new piece of gear when you’ve kept to your commitment. Or do you prefer to acknowledge that you feel great on the inside, knowing you’ve chosen well despite it being difficult, or noticing that you feel better?
  5. Celebrate your achievements! Be joyful for the hard work you’ve put in. But be careful you don’t self-sabotage your efforts by spending the rest of the day on the sofa or munching on a box of doughnuts.
  6. Change it up! Any activity that you repeat over and again can lose its gloss. Change your activity, route, place or even the time of day you’ve been exercising.
  7. Change how you see yourself! When you identify with a “healthy me, happy me” mentality, you’ll focus on healthy choices. Conversely if you see yourself as lazy and unfit, your actions are likely to reinforce that attitude.
  8. Break it down! If an hour of exercise seems like an eternity, then you’re going to dread it again tomorrow. Break it down into time portions, or ‘sets’. When I swim laps, I work on 10 minute sets each of kick board, freestyle, backstroke and so on. You can break your walk or ride up into sets too, aiming for a certain number of minutes, steps, mileage or landmarks in each set.
  9. Set goals! Register for an event and use it to keep you on track with your ‘training’ exercise. Or set a new goal each week, for example to walk 25 kilometres or to go to 3 classes by the end of the week.
  10. Do what works for YOU! Get a routine going that works FOR YOU. It’s your life. Your family. Your work situation. Your community. Whatever exercise routine you choose, make it do-able for you.
  11. Focus on something enjoyable! It could be the way the grass is blowing in the breeze, the smell of the wattles flowering, how awesome your new t-shirt feels, the increasing strength in your legs as you pound the pavement.
  12. Sign up! Check out what programs, challenges and memberships are available in your area or online.
  13. Pay your way! Does financial investment motivate you? Some people feel an extra commitment to get out the door after purchasing a membership, training program, new shoes or other equipment.
  14. Get expert support! Exercise physiologists and personal trainers can customise exercises and training plans that gradually build up as you do.
  15. Do what you love to do! If dancing around the lounge room to loud music is your thing, then do it! If digging holes in the paddock to put new fence posts in is your thing, then do it! If running marathons is your thing, then do it! You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.
  16. Be realistic! Know what is do-able for you and set your expectations and goals accordingly to boost your confidence, sense of achievement, and motivation.
  17. Do it for yourself! You’ll feel better, you know you will!
  18. Do it for those around you! Exercise and nature has incredible benefits for the way our brains work, the way we feel, and the behavioural choices we make. Generally, we’re nicer people to be around when we’ve looked after ourselves.

You owe it to yourself as well as others!

And if that’s not enough reason to motivate me to get outside on a blustery day, then I remind myself that I’m accountable to the community of women around me. The women who get involved with my projects, counselling and mentoring programs. I constantly encourage these women to get outside and get active, yet I also know how challenging it can be at times. I owe it to my family, friends and the community of women I work with to shut up, show up and practise what I preach.

Women exercising outdoors

In the end, a little bit of discomfort to get going will reap amazing benefits for the rest of the day. It doesn’t sound that hard, but, man oh man, that gusty wind sure is blowing away some of my motivation!

How will you manage your motivation today?

Let me know:

What are your biggest challenges when it comes to motivation to exercise?

And what strategies work for you?

Daisy Spoke

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

Calm on the outside, agitated on the inside

Calm on the outside, agitated on the inside. Does this sound like you? How is that for you? Is it working in your favour? Or is there something you’d like to change?

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Picture This

Goomburra landscape
The stunning landscape at The Grain Shed Retreat, Goomburra Valley (PHOTO CREDIT: Darling Downs Wellness Therapies)

I’d like to invite you to picture yourself relaxed and at ease sipping a cool drink as you gaze out at the rugged mountains and the ancient valleys that surround you. A gentle breeze reminds you of the changing seasons. Thinking towards your future, your confidence rises. Your calm demeanour is a reflection of genuinely feeling calm on the inside. You’ve gained clarity about your dreams and goals, and you’ve tapped into your inner strengths. In the company of like-minded women, you’ve acknowledged the challenges that have held you back. The time for change has come. You’re ready to do things differently, to make self-care a priority, to celebrate who you are, and to take actions that align with your values and purpose.

With a clear plan for working towards your personal goals, you know just what you need to do. You no longer waste your energy stressing over things you can’t change. As you focus more and more on those things you have control over, your circle of influence expands. As you become increasingly inspired by your dream, so too you inspire others around you. Despite the inevitable challenges, you stand grounded in confidence knowing that you’re never alone, that you have the inner and outer resources to maintain your momentum.

Does this sound like you? Or perhaps something you’d like to experience in life?

Inner self, outer appearances

No matter how you appear to others, you are the only one that truly knows your inner turmoil, struggles, challenges, and disappointments. You might go through the motions of being a high functioning worker, mother and partner, but inside you could be experiencing agitation or distress. Lost dreams, worries, a lack of fulfilment – these are just some of the experiences women often keep to themselves. Stewing away inside they create a hot bubbly mess that has us feeling bitter and helpless. But still, we push on. Not happy or content. But we keep on going.

What if I told you it doesn’t have to be this way?

It’s true ….. it doesn’t have to be this way. I know. I’ve been there. Several times. I’ve also walked alongside many women who’ve experienced something similar themselves. We all have a different story, different experiences, but there are also many common threads. By sharing these threads, we get to weave a new story. A more powerful story that builds us up, that empowers us, instead of depleting us.

Companionship, community and connection are key factors

Companionship and community are two of the keys to writing a new story. When we’re very isolated from others we have difficulty thriving. Looking back I can clearly see the turning points in my own life when I connected with the people who became my tribe. I’ve had a couple of very special relationships with other women who truly ‘got me’. They accepted me just as I was. They lifted me up and showed me there’s more to life than the narrow window I’d been looking through. They demonstrated assertiveness and values-based action. They were friends and mentors who have had a profound impact on how I saw myself.

In recent years I’ve also had the privilege of being part of a community of women who openly encourage, inspire, embrace, love and connect with each other in incredibly meaningful ways. This tribe of women reflects many of the values so important to me – independence, connection, innovation, peace, creativity, courage, companionship, community. They’ve taught me that I am enough. Just me. The way I am. No labels. No definitions. No limitations. And that’s given me the space to be even more than I ever thought I was or could be.

I’m still an introvert, I still love my time alone. But now it’s not lonely alone-time. I am deeply connected with others and I’m part of a tribe. We don’t desperately need to be with each other all the time. But the fact that we know we’re a stand for each other, that we’re part of a supportive community, makes each of us stronger and enables us to make a difference in our worlds – both inner and outer.

Women Empowered Retreats

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This is my philosophy behind the Women Empowered Retreats. I know the benefits of connecting women together in deep, rich, meaningful conversation. I know the power of sharing stories in safe spaces. The power of connection and community. The power of knowledge and information sharing. The difference that inspiration makes to our sense of happiness, contentment, and fulfilment. The feeling of being calm on the inside, not just looking calm on the outside.

Every woman is drawn to our retreats for different reasons and will have a different experience from anyone else. Each retreat explores a different theme that weaves together elements of personal growth. But at each retreat we come with an open mind. We seek to be informed, inspired and empowered to be ourselves. We offer a gentle balance of information sessions, reflective activities, mindfulness practices, creative arts, movement, nature, and soul-nourishing food.

Whether you are simply looking for time and space to recharge, or if you are looking for a deeper meaning in your life, you will be inspired and empowered to live the life you love.

An invitation to discover calm on the inside

If this sounds like a slice of heaven to you, then we’d love you to join us for any of our upcoming retreats. This could be the beginning of your journey to discover what it feels like to be calm on the inside, or perhaps it’s an opportunity to connect with a community who will inspire you as you take action towards your dreams. Whether you’re a local or a visitor to the region, whether you come alone or with a friend, you’ll be joining a strong, growing community of women who know the value of self-care, personal growth, and connection with others.

Our upcoming “Women Empowered’ events include:

“Yarn & Yoga in the Country”
Friday 26th July 2019 during the Jumpers and Jazz in July Festival

(PHOTO CREDIT: Darling Downs Wellness Therapies)
  • Hike Your Mountain (June 2019)
  • Yarn and Yoga in the Country (July 2019)
  • Women’s Health Retreat (September 2019)
  • Spring Retreat (October 2019)

To keep up to date with details as they are released, subscribe to my emails via my website and follow me on Facebook.

Daisy Spoke

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

8 Reasons to Get Back to Nature

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

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

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

Nature setting - beach

2. Nature gives your brain a break

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

3. Nature restores and re-energises

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

Nature - mountain view

4. Nature refocuses your attention

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

5. Nature shows you how to slow down

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

6. Nature stimulates creativity and innovation

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

7. Nature gets you active

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

Natur

8. Nature improves efficiency and effectiveness

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

Let's sum up!

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

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

2. Nature gives your brain a break

3. Nature restores and re-energises

4. Nature refocuses your attention

5. Nature shows you how to slow down

6. Nature stimulates creativity and innovation

7. Nature gets you active

8. Nature improves efficiency and effectiveness

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

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.

Adventures In the Great Outdoors

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Daisy Spoke has started some new adventures! 

Welcome to Episode 1 of The Great Backpacking Adventure in which I turn to overnight hiking to learn more life lessons through an outdoor adventure lifestyle.

My best memories and my best learning about life have come from spending weekends and holidays in the great outdoors. As a child my parents whisked us away for family holidays in our caravan or tent, taking in wonderful adventures as we immersed ourselves in some of Australia’s most iconic landscapes. We took walks in the grandeur of rainforested mountains enthralled by stories of our ancestors’ pioneering days. On secret secluded beaches we discovered ocean life washed upon the shore – evidence of another world we could barely begin to imagine. Across the deserts we drove, soaking in the wonder of the sunrises and sunsets, a land of extremes in myriad ways.

Family Beach Camping

My teenage years brought the opportunity to go camping with my Girl Guide and Ranger crews. As a restless sleeper, I knew then that my best sleeps came after a day in the outdoors, hiking, learning woodcraft skills, cooking over a campfire, canoeing, kayaking, abseiling, riding bikes and simply being with others who loved the adventure as much as I did.

Beach Adventures

It was no surprise then that at uni I met and married a kindred spirit of the outdoors. We spent our leisure time exploring all the usual National Parks trails within a few hours drive of the city, playing frisbee in the park, cycling the local roads and pathways, paddling on the bay and local creeks, and filling our lives with regular camping trips near and far.

Rainforest Adventures

As our children arrived on the scene, they too were included in our adventures which were modified to accommodate their growing needs. Nurturing their love of the outdoors has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life so far. To see their little faces eagerly joining in on walks, creek paddling and bike rides has been completely heartwarming. And to hear their excited voices asking questions, always asking questions, soaking it all in, enthusiastic about nature and adventure, curious about their world and seeing themselves as a valuable and integral part of it has been a spirited journey.

Trop[ical Rainforest Adventures with Children

Through family illness and injury, study stresses and sporting commitments, work pressures and ties to family, friends and farm animals, we’ve kept up our habit of spending much of our leisure time in the great outdoors. Sometimes our adventures have been confined to the backyard (albeit a sizeable acreage of dry bushland) because that’s all we could do at the time. However sometimes our adventures have taken us to amazing far off places – interstate road trips with the trailer packed to the brim with camping gear. We’ve camped and hiked in awe-inspiring places like the The Warrumbungles, Mt Kaputar, the Blue Mountains, Carnarvon Gorge, Atherton Tableland, Central Australia, Birdsville, Innamincka, Gibraltar Range and Sturt National Park. By the time Miss E reached high school, she’d spent more birthdays in our tent than she had at home.

Family looking over FNQ viewpoint

And now this year I sensed I was ready to take on a new challenge. A challenge that would combine my much-loved experiences of camping with the physical challenge of bushwalking – I decided that this year I was going to have a go at backpacking! Something I was never interested in at all until now. I mean, why would you want to carry a heavy weight on your back for hours to a campsite when you can so easily tow a trailer with everything you could possibly need (and more), and pull up right beside a campsite to unpack, in easy walking distance of the bathrooms, and with plenty of walking trails to choose from right where you are! But the inner self doesn’t always operate on logic, and I’ve learned to trust myself when I sense that I’m ready for something new. Back-flipping my thinking didn’t come easily though. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching and asking myself “why?” and I don’t really have that answer yet. But what I do have is a strong pull towards challenging myself, stretching my abilities and coping skills, and discovering new possibilities for myself, not limiting myself. Surprising as it may seem, even to me, the life learning in this backpacking adventure has only just begun!

The beginning of navigation and trekking adventures

Stay tuned for my next episode of My Great Backpacking Adventure as I take off on my first overnight hiking expedition!

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

Busy Head Syndrome, Weeding and Creating a Clearing

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

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

*AC85 B9345 911s, Houghton Library, Harvard University

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

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

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

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

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

5 Things I’ve Learned About Life Through Mountain Biking

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe was an unexpected bonus to the fresh air, exercise and family time that initially motivated me to jump on my bike and get into the great Australian bush. Over the past few years I’ve managed to improve my riding skills somewhat, but what I’ve truly learned is much, much bigger than how to keep the rubber side down! Here I would like to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned about life through mountain biking.

Daisy Field

1. Look where you want to go

When you focus your attention on something right in front of you, it immediately becomes an obstacle between yourself and your end goal. On a mountain bike this might be a rock, tree root, or a deep rut in the track. You can be guaranteed as soon as you fix your attention on it, well ….. that’s where you’ll go! The trick is to acknowledge the presence of the obstacle but stay most attentive to the line you actually want to take. It’s the same in life generally. It’s so easy to get caught up in the distractions around us, the bumps and hiccups in our day, and to lose sight of our end goal. It’s so easy to give up when those unexpected obstacles get in our way. But this lesson is a keeper! Keep your eyes looking where you WANT to go.

MTBLook

2. Lean into what you most fear

So much of mountain biking seems counter-intuitive to me. My inner child has a strong survival instinct and tells me loud and clear that if something looks dangerous, I should get as far away from it as I can. And so it happens that learning various MTB skills such as cornering and negotiating steep descents has been a big challenge for me. Leaning into the curve and getting closer to the (very hard rocky) ground that’s whizzing past just doesn’t seem to make sense. Yet it works time and time again! Acknowledging and then leaning into other things we fear in life can be likewise empowering – going to learn-to-swim classes as an adult to deal with a fear of water, accepting a work role that will extend your skills beyond your self-belief, or even going shopping alone. We all have fears and we all have the opportunity of experiencing the sensation of empowerment that comes when we confront and lean into them instead of running away from them.

3. Going slow is okay

I’m pretty much a slow-poke on my MTB. At least I am when it comes to going downhill or over the technical terrain. I’ve been very hard on myself at times for not being able to keep up with others, especially when I’ve practised hard and haven’t seen any significant improvement. But do you know what I’ve learned? ‘Fast’ is not superior to ‘not the fastest’ (unless you’re in serious racemode of course!). But really, when it comes down to it, what actually makes ‘fast’ such a desirable state of being in our society? Giving myself permission to go at my own pace whether it’s on my bike, swimming at the pool, or working on a project, seems to help me focus on moment-to-moment enjoyment which truly enriches my life. Going slow, or slower, or at my own pace, does not equate with failure or being deficient in anyway. Slowing down other parts of my life helps me to meaningfully engage with those things and those people that matter the most to me.

RiderInForest

4. Take a break when you need it

All-out fast paced riding up hills, down rocky terrain, winding through bush trails, dodging tree roots, negotiating loose rocks, squeezing between trees – it’s exhausting work for the body and mind! There’s always that one person, you know them …… the eternal chatterbox ….. who seems to be able to keep nattering on endlessly and cheerfully and looks surprised when you don’t answer because OH MY GOSH ….. my heart rate has been sitting on 172 for the past 10 minutes, my heart feels like it’s going to burst out of my chest, and my head is so light it feels like it’s going to float away! I need a break! And even if the rest of you don’t, I’ve learnt from past experience to speak up and express my needs otherwise I’m likely to run out of fuel before we get to the end. Same in life – anything and anyone runs smoother and more efficiently given time to rest and collect. Listen to your mind and body – do what you need to in order to get it done. It’s not a weakness to have a break, and in fact, others will probably be secretly very thankful!

5. Practice, practice, practice

As a child and younger adult, there were many things that seemed to come naturally to me. Anything that I couldn’t do pretty well the first time I tried it, well … basically I didn’t bother too much about it again. I never really learned much about persistence when the going got tough! I don’t recall anyone teaching me to ride a bike. It’s one of those things that seemed to come naturally. However, MTB is vastly different to riding on a road or concrete path or even your average back yard. The techniques and skills required to safely negotiate the rough and often narrow terrain of single track have often seemed insurmountable to me, the middle-aged female trying to prove her worth. So, with humility, I’ve learnt that I can practise and persist at practising, and then practise some more. And eventually, gradually I learn new skills. I figure there’s a heck of a lot of brain-rewiring going on up there as I try, retry and try again, day after day after day, and then still needing lots more practice to get it right. In my work life, this lesson of persisting and practising has enabled me to implement some much needed changes that would otherwise have never happened.

These are my first life lessons learned through mountain biking, but they are not my last. I continue to learn and grow as a rider and as a human being. Watch out for my upcoming article “Another 5 Things I’ve Learned About Life Through Mountain Biking”.

Daisy Field