While it’s highly likely that you’re thinking this phrase in your head and restraining yourself from saying it outwardly in the face of your ex, that’s not the intention this minute. In fact, I’m quite literally referring to getting out of the house and into the woods, so to speak. If you have the option to hike, walk, bike, or explore the outdoors in any other variation, you may find just how invigorating it can be, especially if you’ve been cooped up inside and worrying about life.
Life. Its issues may feel like they’re suffocating lately, and before you panic, you have to realize that it’s likely normal and easily overcome with some time and action. I mean, despite the fact that the world is in the middle of a pandemic, there’s every other avenue causing stress, too. Finances, relationships, virtual learning for your children, work demands, other areas of stress, etc. You aren’t sure how you’re keeping it all together, and I certainly don’t blame you. However, the fact that you’re here and reading this is great news - and with any luck, you’ll begin to breathe a little easier if you take the advice in this article!
Wait! Before you click away thinking this is going to be a lecture on exercise in general, give me a chance. I’m here to tell you that while I think some physical exercise is important, it’s not the purpose of this post. You should know that I am not a fan of exercise. I feel like between work and raising children, there are simply not enough hours in the day to get outside and go for a run. Forget the local gyms, too. I don’t have the money budgeted for that. You with me? Okay then, mama. Let’s just have a little conversation about the many benefits of fresh air, smelling the roses, and having the ability to use nature to our advantage!
There was a time in my life, and maybe you can relate, when nothing seemed right in the world. Every road led me to a dead end. I’d spin my wheels and when I’d think I had things figured out, I’d end up doing a little dance and end up right where I started. My ideas to get out of the rut I was in were proving pointless. I was at my wits’ end.
What did I do to conquer it? Well, I turned to Google, of course. Doesn’t everyone do that? What I learned, tried, and continue to do has changed my life. Curious yet? It’s simple. So simple, in fact, you’re likely wondering why I had to rely upon the great and powerful Google. My research told me I only needed two things - a few minutes alone, and a pair of walking shoes.
Sure, I could go on and on and tell you all about the plethora of articles that pointed to exercise. I’ll save you some time. You’ve heard it, too, I’m sure. Join a gym, they said! Find a running club! Rigorous exercise is a great way to clear the mind according to several health gurus. I didn’t want the rigor. I didn’t want a membership at the gym. I wanted a way to work on myself at the pace I wanted to work at it. Let me introduce you to the answer - the outdoors.
I told you it was simple, didn’t I? Now, I love being outside. I always have. This plan to start using that to my advantage sounded pretty spectacular to me. While I had spent much time outdoors in the past, life wasn’t allowing it lately. Without a doubt, there were rarely times I was alone and able to sit in peace. This was problem number one. I had to carve out a time in the day that was just for me. I’m an early bird, so at first, I chose the morning hours. To begin, I had a little heart to heart with myself. I’m someone who needs a little pep-talk before committing to something. At the end of my little chat, I decided that I could commit to this at least 5 days a week. I gave myself a little grace early on and committed to spending no less than 20 minutes on those mornings.
The first few days of this only proved that I was a morning person. I would get up before the kids, make some coffee, and sit outside on the deck. What I found was that I did enjoy the peace, but I got bored. I ended up thinking about all the same things that stressed me out and I needed to change something. On the fourth day, I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. I spent my 20 minutes looking at new things, and while I did that, I realized that my mind was not thinking about the things that triggered stress! Amazing, isn’t it? That’s what I thought!
To make a long story short, my 20 minutes, 5 days a week turned into a new routine. I soon began waking up a few minutes earlier and could spend up to 45 minutes outside. Most of the time, I would walk. If I felt super ambitions, I’d pick up the pace and jog for a little while. While observing my surroundings, it allowed my mind to be completely free of the heavy thoughts I had been harboring.
Weeks of this turned into months. I had developed a routine and it became a part of my day that I looked forward to. For me, it gave me an opportunity to ‘escape’ reality for a short while and at the same time, start my day on a high note. I learned that I became more patient with my children and our morning routine and my mind appeared settled as I’d begin my duties for work. All in all, it was a great thing. I’d even walk again in the evening, if circumstances allowed it.
As I continued to implement this brilliant suggestion of Google’s, I began to understand all the other benefits that I never noticed before. Mental clarity and inner peace were my main goals. But do you know what else happened? I physically felt better than I ever had and I was even losing weight. This wasn’t necessary, but a definite added bonus! It was almost as if I was creating a lifestyle change, inadvertently. I kept it up, and though weather and life sometimes interferes, I’m still getting outdoors as often as I can. The kids tag along sometimes, too!
Just for fun, let’s take a quick look at some of the benefits of walking on a regular basis. The following list has been gathered from several reputable health resources. Obviously, there are many more benefits that I have listed, but these are some of my favorites.
In a nutshell, I’m a lazy lady. I don’t subscribe to fitness gurus. Gym memberships aren’t my thing. I don’t want to over-exert myself in any given situation. I don’t want to join a program where someone tells me what I have to do. I don’t have time or money for those fancy and sometimes expensive endeavors. What’s more, the introvert in me doesn’t mind being alone. That’s why I enjoy this new routine. I can walk. I can find time in my day to take a solo stroll. I enjoy the feeling of calm that it provides me and I’m confident that you will come to the same realization.
If you’re looking for a way to begin your day with the right foot forward, just step outside your front door. Walk a block. Keep adding to it. Before you know it, you’ll have your own little routine started. Who knows? You may even enjoy it! Rest assured, if you’re looking for an easy, free, and manageable way to calm those crazy overwhelming thoughts that life throws at all of us, give walking a whirl. You really have nothing to lose, right? Right! Start small. Start slow. Start somewhere.
by Lyric Anders, writer and hiker