Let’s face it, many peoples’ lives resemble an ongoing tale of Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. You spend the majority of your time doing things routinely. These are things that you’ve done hundreds and thousands of times before. You wake up around the same time, have the same breakfast, rotate the same set of clothes to wear, attend the same meetings and live life on autopilot. Very seldom do people go out of their comfort zones to experience something new, but you definitely should!
One of my favourite forms of self-care is “Adventurous Self-Care.” Adventurous self-care is spicing up your life and awakening the mind, body and soul with a new or rare experience. Adventurous self-care can range anywhere from taking a painting class, getting a massage, throwing axes or jumping out of a plane!
Did you know that breaking out of your predictable, safe routine has amazing health benefits for your brain and body!?
Here are just a few reasons why OUTDOOR Adventurous Self-Care needs to be thrown into your monthly routine!
Unless you’re being chased by a grizzly bear (which is extremely rare), then nature is one of the most serene surroundings you can be in. David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist, has conducted multiple studies of nature’s calming effect on the brain and human stress levels. “Our brains aren’t tireless three-pound machines; they’re easily fatigued. When we slow down, stop the busywork, and take in beautiful natural surroundings, not only do we feel restored, but our mental performance improves too.” Strayer demonstrated this with a group of participants who performed 50 percent better on creative problem-solving tasks after three days of wilderness backpacking.
Usually, when you intentionally dive into an outdoor adventure, the quality of cell phone reception drastically decreases. Which is perfect! Throw your devices in the lake (or just turn them off for a less dramatic, cost-effective approach)! When you are hiking, out on the water, or climbing a mountain, your focus is on the task at hand, but also the nature around you. It’s amazing the beauty in nature when you take the time to notice it. Practice mindfulness and be present in the moment. You’re able to process thoughts and think in a new sense of clarity you wouldn’t experience in the city attached to a distracting device. Enjoy being “off the grid” and learn how to just BE in the moment!
When is the last time you felt an inner rush!? That feeling of a child pumped up on three bags of Skittles or finding out they’re going to Disney Land. When the brain is stimulated by seeing or trying something new, this stimulus releases a rush of the motivation chemical dopamine. (https://lifehacker.com/novelty-and-the-brain-why-new-things-make-us-feel-so-g-508983802) Dopamine, in healthy doses, makes you feel alive! When doing something new you’re also firing new neurons! Your brain is learning something new and possibly using dormant parts of your brain for the first time. According to Andrea Kuszewski, a behavioural therapist, when you learn something new, several things are occurring. “First of all, you are creating new synaptic connections with every new activity you engage in. These connections build on each other, increasing your neural activity, creating more connections to build on other connections- learning is taking place.” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2014/10/14/the-power-of-pause/#e94b6db73682)
Science has proved numerous ways that being in nature while simultaneously being active increases your health and levels of happiness! It could improve your short-term memory, reduce stress, reduce inflammation, eliminate fatigue, fight depression and anxiety, protect your vision, improve focus, lower blood pressure, increase creative performance, help prevent cancer, boost your immune system, improve mental health and physical health, just to name a FEW! (http://www.businessinsider.com/why-spending-more-time-outside-is-healthy-2017-7/#it-could-improve-your-short-term-memory-1 ) Not to mention that you’re getting fresh air! Fresh air cleans the lungs, improves the cleansing action of your lungs and helps to bring more oxygen to your cells!(http://www.yourstandardlife.com/archives/5-enjoy-fresh-air-for-better-health.html) Now go out there and take a deep breath of fresh air, it’s FREE!
A “30-day wildness” challenge asked participants to engage with nature every day for a month (feeding birds, planting flowers, going for a walk or hike). The results found statistically significant increases in reported feelings of happiness and healthiness. “Our findings suggest that connection to nature may provide people with resilience to meet the challenges of everyday life, while also facilitating exercise, social contact and a sense of purpose.”(http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0149777)
That’s right, engaging in new experiences makes you more interesting. Why? Because you become more relatable to more people. You’re out discovering new lands, learning new skills, experiencing new feelings and thoughts, and creating an arsenal of stories to tell when you return to civilization! The key component with this is that you are more equipped to engage in conversation with more diverse communities. Next conversation at a cocktail party? How about the time you went overnight caving in Tennessee? Or rode a bobsled down an Olympic course in Utah? Or the time you simply climbed to the top of a mountain, watched the sunrise and journaled uninterrupted for hours? You never know how your experience, your story, will inspire someone else to break out of their mundane routine and spark a healthier lifestyle!
It doesn’t matter what you decide to do, but I highly recommend you get outside and explore at least ONCE a month! Make it a priority in your hectic schedule to prioritize time for yourself, your health and your well-being. Go on a solo retreat or be in community with friends. No more Groundhog Dayroutine for 30 days straight! Break-up your robotic tendencies and shock your brain and body with an outdoor self-care adventure!!
Erica Ferguson is the founder of Prioritizing You, a service teaching how to manage stress and avoid burnout. Erica works with both organizations and individuals to teach simplistic ways to implement self-care and personal growth practices into their everyday lives. Having been in the health & wellness industry for over ten years, she is a fitness fanatic that loves to explore and try new things. Lover of puppies, witty remarks, helping others and anything with almond butter on it!
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