For All Indoor Women: A Guide to Getting Outside
I'm typically an indoor kind of lady. I'm very good at staying home, curling up under a blanket with a cup of tea and a book, reading the day away. As a kid, our family vacations were to Amway Conventions, where my sister and I were mostly stuck in hotel lobbies, waiting for my parents to finish being lectured at. I was never in Girl Scouts. I was never taught how to navigate through the woods or start a fire.
But I loved watching the fireflies in my backyard during the summers, and marching around the oak in our front yard, pretending I'd run away on some great adventure with my mini-backpack on.
Now, as an adult, I crave the outdoors. I know I need to be out there, my lungs inhaling the fresh air, my feet firmly planted in the dirt. But all too often this desire gets lost among the piles of to do lists, lesson plans, social plans, and, well, books and writing.
I want to see the view from the mountains and navigate the woods on my own, but as someone who has been conditioned to stay indoors, I have to train myself to put the book down and get my ass outside. So, little by little, I'm trying to do just that.
If you're anything like me, you'll need a little push. Here are some quickie tips that will help you put the book or computer or phone or whatever is distracting you and get out the door. Here's a step-by-step guide to creating a habit that regularly gets you out into Mother Nature:
1. Make time for it
Clear space. Clear a block of time on your weekly agenda, and write in “Hike” or “Walk by the river.” For disconnecting. For being who you naturally are: a daughter of the earth. You've got to spend time with the Big Mama, even science says so: studies consistently show that “Being in or viewing green space has been shown to reduce physiological measures of stress including blood pressure, heart rate, skin conductance and muscle tension.”
When you go outside, you probably feel all of this. The way she makes your stiff bones lighter and your mind feel like a bedsheet fresh out of the wash. The beauty of nature, how it benefits your well-being, and simply how it makes you feel warrant scheduling time for it. Writing it down will also help you commit to it more. Delegate what you need to. Or even intentionally procrastinate. The dishes can wait.
2. Start small
At first, doing an entire hike up a mountain alone was a scary thought for me. I'm also an expat in the town I live in and was afraid I'd get lost, miscalculate how long the day really is, and have to find my way back in the dark. I'm lucky enough to live next to a river, so I started with small walks near it. Then I went a little further than that to a park just outside my town. And then I went again and found a trail in that park. And then again to discover what was at the end of that trail: more of the river to jump into with ropes tied to tree branches and big rocks to sunbathe on.
Both walking the path and discovering the end of it paid off. So, start where I did: a block away from the house. Walk around your neighborhood as if it were new. Go into that patch of woods you've always walked past but never went into. This is as much exploration as traversing through a jungle or reaching the highest mountain peak.
3. Find an accountability partner
If you're not ready to go at it alone, having someone there will help. Leo Babuata of Zen Habits insists this is surefire way to help you stick to your new habit because “having someone to report to means you are much more likely to push yourself past resistance when it comes up.”
And just like walking in green spaces makes your body react in a more relaxed manner, so does walking in nature in a group: a study from the University of Michigan has proven that “Group nature walks are linked with significantly lower depression, less perceived stress and enhanced mental health and well-being.” Perhaps it's because we're social beings, and the combination of walking through our home planet and being together allows our bodies and minds to be at ease.
4. Take photos or write
Creating something of substance might help you feel like the whole day wasn't wasted galavanting aimlessly around. I try to disconnect from the screen at least once weekly, but sometimes posting a lovely photo of the flowers or the mini-waterfall I came across onto my Instagram profile solidifies that yes, I saw that. I also enjoy taking photos, playing with filters and composition, toying with light and color.
On the days when I really want to have nothing to do with the screen, I take my notebook and a pencil and jot down what I see, what I hear, what I smell. I return from my walk with a renewed sense of nature, of the world, of myself.
Create something. Go into it with a playful attitude and you're more likely to associate going outside with all those beautiful things.
Because this world is filled with tiny, beautiful things that need to be appreciated and enjoyed. In these times of heightened newsfeeds and the urgency to keep up, sometimes just getting out the door and putting your feet in some dirt is all you really need.