I had been feeling down, low energy, and drained in every way since September. As a coach and someone who is deeply empowered to look within and help thyself, I naturally looked at the mindset and emotional things that were going on. Yes, I was stressed and began managing my stress in a different way. I wanted to be connecting with family more.
Still, I felt down and generally ‘gray’. I began seeing a therapist, thinking this was possibly related to something I needed to heal. Sessions were going well; I think just about everyone can benefit from seeing a therapist, but I didn’t feel like we were uncovering anything that was helping me to feel less ‘gray’ and more like my normal, sparky self.
Maybe It’s Not All In My Head
Then, my joints all began to ache… a LOT. I had a hard time working out at all because, with every rep and every bend of my knees or elbows, it felt like they were going to break. So, I took a two week break from the gym.
Then, my trainer texted me. “Hey, I haven’t seen you at the gym and you haven’t checked in for a couple weeks. What’s going on? You doing ok?”
Even as I responded, it dawned on me that I should probably go to the doctor. As a former nurse, this is just the LAST thing we do. Because we triage every issue on our own. My children know if they are not bleeding, blue, or broken, we just don’t go the ER and it’s almost as difficult to get me on board with a doctor’s appointment!
The next day, I went in. And 24 hours after that, I found out I was severely Vitamin D deficient. Allllll those symptoms that I’d been experiencing for over 6 months are symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency. Within days of taking supplements, I felt like a whole new human, but it also left me pondering how I could have avoided sun to THAT degree (regardless of living in Minnesota).
I simply wasn’t taking advantage and carving out the time to go outside. So, I’m writing this as a reminder and encouragement for myself, first and foremost. I’m gonna be honest. I don’t really LIKE going outside unless it’s 70 (or 80) degrees and sunny.
Now, it’s not to say I don’t appreciate the other kinds of weather. I love the look of a fresh layer of beautiful white snow, and how it sticks to the trees. How bright it makes everything look, especially in the otherwise dreary brownness of the winter months.
I love thunderstorms. The nourishing spring rain, and the cool, crisp air that perpetuates the beautiful shift in colors in the fall. I love being a Minnesotan because I get to see all four seasons, for real (nevermind that winter is as long as the other three seasons combined). And I don’t complain about the extreme cold or the extreme heat.
We DO laugh about it, like I did a couple weeks ago, when it was 72 degrees and sunny on a Sunday. Wednesday, we had sleet and snow, and school was canceled. Then it was 68 degrees 3 days later. Crazy weather. It definitely makes for good conversation.
But… I don’t like to BE in it. Now, I don’t really know why. When I’m forced to go outside, it’s fine. But gosh, I like the comfort of my home and the controlled temperature that our godsend of a heating and cooling system provides.
Therapy In A Non-Traditional Form
I also know how important connecting with nature is. To really understand just how amazing and miraculous the ecosystem is, to be a part of something so much bigger than me, the non-techiness of pure, raw nature is not only nourishing to our bodies, but our souls.
So, I thought, what would it take for me to be more proactive to get outside? What drives me? And the answers to those questions are the reason you’re reading this now.
What it would take is evidence from experts that know more than me to convince me of the pros of going outside and the cons of staying inside. And what drives me? Purposeful connection, becoming my best self, and my family. It’s important to me that I’m modeling a healthy lifestyle and if I’m not getting outside enough, chances are that my family isn’t either.
So, I went to work to figure out what is so great about this getting-out-in-nature thing. Here’s some of what I found. Research shows that being outside helps with energy levels, enhances your focus, decreases stress levels, helps pain management, enhances creativity, boosts your immune system, and just 15 minutes a day will allow you to meet your daily need for Vitamin D.
That’s a lot of things! And of course, being an efficiency-minded person, the next question is “how long?” Well… more.
How We Decided To Connect As A Family
There’s lots of studies I found that talked about a WIDE array of benefits, with the minimum being 30-60 minutes, and not just the time you spend walking from your house to the car.
The EPA estimates that the average American spends 93% of our lifetime INSIDE. And what are we doing inside? Games, phones, computers. Adults spend an average of 11 hours on screens, while kids average 7 hours of screen time/day. Yikes!
Getting outside gets us active, looking and connecting with family, with one another in real life, and away from screens. That was something that I definitely wanted more of!
So often, these kinds of articles can lay on the guilt, but not have anything actionable to sink your teeth into. I know because that’s usually how I feel when I read them. Let’s agree that guilt (or worse, shame) about this isn’t going to help and let’s see what we can do to take baby steps together!
Here’s what I’ve begun to do, and I hope you’ll join me, in your own way!
- As a family, (both our daughters, my husband and I), we began to notice how much time we spend on our phones. Each night we call it out and write it on the white board in our kitchen. The key here is that we are not restricting, we are noticing. In order for the girls to get on board and for me to release any guilt, this had to be an exercise of curiosity. It’s worked! AND, just by nature of taking notice, all of us are using our phones less (even Joel, who uses his phone ½-⅓ of the amount that we girls do). If you have an iPhone, you have a built-in app called “Screentime” that will tell you what you’re using on your phone, and how much. I have a Samsung, so I downloaded a free app called “Quality Time”. It works great!
- Everyday, I’m making an intentional effort to get outside…even if just for a very short time. My mentor and friend, Jon Berghoff, says, “there’s no crappy weather, just crappy preparation”. So, I now keep my umbrella under my driver’s seat and am “sucking it up” when it’s cold to just get out and get some fresh air every day. Sometimes you gotta start with baby steps. I have already noticed, especially when I feel groggy, getting outside wakes me right up! Of course, it’s my favorite to take a walk, or do yard work, or throw a frisbee with my family.
- I’m on the search for outside activities. One that’s interesting and kinda fun, is Geocaching. Yes, you use your phone, so it’s a little bit of a way to “ease” into getting outside, but it’s like a modern day treasure hunt! Try it out! https://www.geocaching.com/play/mobile
- I love reading, so I reached out to the person I know that loves the outdoors more than anyone else I know, the aforementioned, Jon Berghoff, for a good book recommendation. Without a pause, he said, Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature, by Jon Young. Let’s read it together!
So that’s that. When we know better, we can do better. I knew there were great health benefits to getting outside, but honestly equated them more to working out, which I do inside (I lift weights). This research gave me the kick in the pants AND the motivation (better relationships and connecting with family) to get out there and be more intentional about it.
In the months to come, I’ll be writing and sharing more about a really exciting passion project that I’m working on. Here’s the deal; I love talking about the mindset and strategy to grow your business, but without awesome relationships with the people you share your life with, what good is all that business success? Curious? Stay tuned!
And in case no one has told you today, YOU are frickin’ awesome. Now, go let all that awesomeness out!