Get Outside!: Outdoor Activity for Self-Care

It’s officially spring here in the northern hemisphere! The days are getting longer and warmer, and life is starting to wake up from its winter slumber. Spring is my favorite season, and always has been. It might be because I’m a March baby, but there’s something so pleasant about the gentle, warm days and the smell of blooming flowers!

Winter officially lasts from mid-December until mid-March, even though “winter weather” doesn’t always listen to the calendar. Here in Colorado, we usually get a large storm in October, and possibly another one or two before the year is over, but the majority of our snowstorms occur in January, February, and March. This year, that was especially true, with several feet of snow over the last two months! Technically, we’re not fully out of our winter weather here in Colorado, but we’re getting close. (Our official “planting outside is safe now” time is the end of April.)

With daylight savings time, and the days getting longer, it’s light outside until after 7pm here (near Denver, Colorado). Our high temperatures during the day have even been up into the 60s several times (60 degrees F is about 15.6 degrees C)! Which leads me to this month’s self-care challenge: get outside!

I understand that not all my readers have the same physical ability levels, so I’ve come up with a lot of different ways to take part in this challenge! I also understand that allergies can severely hamper the ability to go outside. When the grass starts blooming, I can’t even have the windows open in my house without negative effects. At the end of each section, I’ll have some notes on how to participate while limiting exposure to allergens.

Be sure to get a free Health Storylines account, here. Then download the app! Each section below will have a suggestion on how to use the app to help you track your progress.

(If you’re in the southern hemisphere, and heading into autumn, check out my autumn self-care challenge!)

Low Activity Level

Find a place to sit outside. If it’s sunny, be sure to put on sunscreen (or at the very least, set a timer so you aren’t outside too long). I love to sit on a blanket under a tree at a park, the dappled sun and fresh breezes feel amazing! My porch also has a lovely little pergola to sit under, and since it’s south-facing it’s about ten degrees warmer than the “in the shade” temperatures – a perfect option when it’s chilly outside!

A very fashionable way to protect yourself from the sun!

You can either sit and observe nature and/or the people around you, or you could do a simple and relaxing activity. Coloring, reading a book or magazine, a puzzle that can travel (or is designed for outside use), or some sort of logic puzzle are all great activities that can be done outside. The idea is to get some fresh air and unplug. Try to avoid using your phone, tablet, or laptop. (If you work from home and have a deadline coming up, it can be invigorating to work outside for a little while.)

Try to be outside for thirty minutes. I have personally found that spending thirty minutes outside is about the amount of time it takes my brain to quiet down and the feelings of peace to settle in. If you can, try for an hour or even longer! People/nature watching has many of the same benefits as meditation, but is generally considered “easier” than a traditional meditation session. Use the “My Journal” tool in the app to record how you’re feeling before being outside, and how you feel after.

Allergy adaptation: Instead of sitting outside near grass/plants, try to see if you can find a park with benches away from the grass if you can still be outside (I know airborne allergens can make this difficult). You can also sit in your car in the parking lot of a park, with the windows up, and enjoy the sun and observing the world around you. If you can’t leave the house, try to sit by a sunny window and observe the world around you. All these modifications can still help to banish seasonal depression and calm the mind.

Middle-Range Activity Level

Go for walks when the weather is nice! It doesn’t have to be a walk, it can be a roll if you use a wheelchair, or whatever form of “let’s go wander” you can do (including being pushed around in a chair or pulled in a wagon). Getting outside and getting your blood flowing has tons of health benefits, too many for me to list here, including improving mood and reducing the risk of cardiovascular events.

If you can’t go for a walk, doing an easy/gentle stretching routine outside has similar benefits. I will sometimes take my physical therapy exercises outside, and find it makes them feel less like a chore. Try to go outside and do some form of mild exercise to encourage your heart to beat a little harder than it does when you’re at rest. (This can even include something like spending time with loved ones that make you laugh so hard you can barely breathe.)

Use the “Exercise Diary” in the Health Storylines app to track your activity. You can also use the “My Journal” tool to track how you’re feeling before and after activity outside, to get a better idea of the benefits. (If you’re not “exercising” in a trackable way, use the “My Journal” tool instead of the “Exercise Diary” tool.)

Allergy adaptation: If you can, try to do some light activity outside while wearing a mask. I find that walking around neighborhoods, on paved sidewalks, gives me less allergy problems than walking around a park (even on paved sidewalks) surrounded by grass, and significantly less allergy problems than walking along dirt trails. Sometimes, the allergen counts are too high or the allergies are too severe. If that’s that case, see if a local rec center or gym has treadmills or stationary bikes near the windows, and do an easy walk/ride while looking out the window. Under desk pedal “bikes” are great if you can’t leave the house; they can be put on tables and used with the arms, or put on the floor and used with your legs. Try to get your blood flowing while observing the sunshine and outside world, and you’ll still get many of the same benefits!

High Activity Level

Go for a bike ride, go rollerblading, rock climbing, or go for a hike! Get outside, get your heart beating, and breathe hard! You can go for a run, take some music outside and dance your heart out, play a sport with some friends (or see if people at the park want to join you), or go for a swim in an outdoor pool if they’ve opened near you (our pools don’t open until Memorial Day).

If an activity requires work, gets your heart rate up, and requires you to rest afterwards (or makes you want to), then it falls into this tier! I don’t have a lot of modifications, since there are so many activities that fit into this category! Experiment until you find what you can do and enjoy.

Use the “Exercise Diary” tool to track your activities. As you continue being active, you’ll probably notice your exercise sessions are getting longer! The more regular the activity, the more you’ll start to notice a difference in your stamina.

Allergy adaptation: A lot of local rec centers and gyms are offering more sports and group exercise classes now that the weather is warming up, and not only outside ones! Find some indoor classes or “free play” times at your local activity center, and go have some fun. Experiment to find what works for you! There may even be some that are outside in such a way that you may be okay with a mask, so look at the offerings frequently! If you can’t get out of the house, find some exercise videos on YouTube (or somewhere else) and do what you can. The exercise will be beneficial even if you don’t get the “being outside” or “seeing outside” benefits.

I’m looking forward to sitting on the porch to read again, or hanging out with Dan outside in the evenings. The warmer weather also has made my kitties happy, because even though they’re inside-only cats, they love the fresh air that comes in through the windows and the sunbeams!

Don’t forget to share your progress on social media using the tag #FLSSselfcare! Sharing your progress motivates everyone else participating in the challenge, and allows us all to cheer for each other. Have fun!

*DISCLAIMER* I am in a paid partnership with Health Storylines to produce these monthly self-care challenges. All opinions and recommendations are my own. I do not get paid for any links contained in these Health Storylines posts.

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