#2 Get Outside in Nature

Today my only moments outside were between the backdoor and the car door.  Yet in that space I stopped long enough to watch the gentle drift of snowflakes, saw them land on my mittens and coat.  I saw their tiny shapes, adorned and ornate six-pointed stars.  I shared this moment with my children as we stood in the doorway of our van (yes, I do own a van).  Mountain Boy said “They are in your hair too!”  with a laugh.   Though my trade and training is as a naturalist, I have never been good at making time to enjoy the wilds.  Knowing that it is a good idea, for so many reasons, isn’t enough.  You have to schedule it until it becomes part of your routine and habit.

Why Go Outside?

*  It’s free

*  You will be getting a little more vitamin D – New studies are showing Vit. D is used in many more ways than previously thought, and apparently none of us have enough of it, at least none of us in North America.

*  You will get more and better quality exercise.

*  You will form connections – If you get to know your environment and develop a sense of place, you feel more connected to your home and your community.  You will begin to see new connections between yourself and your place, and others who live there.

*  You and your child will calm down – It’s mutual.  They are calmer so you are calmer so they are calmer so you are calmer.  It’s like a breath of fresh air, except it actually is a breath of fresh air.

* Your child may sleep better outside – Many people in Nordic countries believe it is healthy and ideal for children to sleep out of doors, and  use sleeping porches or cots in covered outdoor areas year round!

* Your horizon will broaden – The falling leaves, the call of birds will take you out of yourself and your experience and into the larger world going on about you.  This will help you put your stresses into perspective.

* You will find beauty – Even on the most terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day.

* Your senses will be awakened – It is easy to turn off your senses indoors, but outside you will use your whole body and your multitude of senses, including your senses of life, time, balance, warmth,

and movement (LINK to more information about the twelve senses and  LINK those senses in nature).

Lichen in Winter, by Rachel Castor

* Children who spend time in nature are better at: everything!

Studies indicate that children who play and explore outdoors are less stressed and may further benefit by learning confidence and social skills.

(Nature Rocks)

(C)hildren who play and learn on a regular basis in the outdoors … tend to have higher school achievement and test scores too! (Nature Rocks)

Research indicates that children feel respected and cared for when adults they respect spend time with them outdoors.  … They also tend to talk and communicate more, engage in conversation. (Nature Rocks)

Studies abound.  This is a hot topic right now.  If you need more information, email or comment me.  Read Richard Louvre’s Last Child In The Woods and The Wilderness Awareness School’s Coyote’s Guide.  Search the web for Children in Nature.  You will be amazed at the resources you will find.

Fresh air, fresh perspective, old idea.  You know you want to.  Put on your ski pants.  Grab those umbrellas and galoshes.  Go outside.

 

LINKS

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100603172219.htm

http://www.nwf.org/Get-Outside/Be-Out-There/Why-Be-Out-There.aspx

http://www.utne.com/2003-11-01/HowNatureHealsUs.aspx

http://wildwhatcom.org/

http://www.naturerocks.org/

http://www.childrenandnature.org/

http://www.childrennatureandyou.org/

http://www.neefusa.org/health/children_nature.htm

http://www.childrensnatureinstitute.org/newsite/

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#1 Go on a Run

image re-blogged from http://www.laskikabackie.com

Every day in my house feels like an emotional war zone, with little bombs of emotion exploding everywhere, all around me, every minute.  Whether it is my own reaction to an unacceptable behavior, or a three-year-old’s tantrum, or a one-year-old’s piercing scream for a something she wants, I feel bombarded.  Recently I rediscovered running.  Not only do I get out of the house (aka war zone), but I get some fresh air, and I break a sweat.  Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and improve your emotional landscape.  Anything that makes me sweat makes me feel better emotionally, and react more calmly to the millions of daily crisis that occur with multiple small children in the house with an imperfect woman.

If finding the time, energy, and will-power to run sounds daunting, here are some ideas to get you started.

  1. GEAR:  There is some gear you need: a) running shoes, the most comfortable you can find; b) an exercise bra or two, depending on your breast size.  I find that layering two sports-type bras gives me the support I need for this highest-of-impact sports. c) jogging stroller or childcare.  My 12 month old has gotten used to my half hour runs and sometimes even takes a cat nap!
  2. PLAN:  It’s true, doing things for yourself probably won’t happen enough anymore unless you schedule it.  Plan to run at least two days a week, and try for three.  Running two days a week you will eventually reach comfortable plateau of being able to easily complete your run.  Running three days a week, you will be able to improve, adding miles or minutes to your run each month.  I enjoy running with one child in the jogging stroller, but find it impossible to run with two.  So I run on the three mornings each week when my eldest is at preschool.  Plan an hour for each run, so that you have time to run, walk when you need to, and stretch when you are done.  If it fits into your schedule, you will find you probably have the most energy and your children are the most flexible in the mornings.
  3. ROUTE:  Choose a relatively flat route to start (especially if you are pushing a stroller) that is at least a mile long, or at least a two-mile loop.  My run is about three flat miles.  Ideally choose a route that is unpaved (better for your joints) and not too rugged (again, the stroller).  Many towns have gravel paths along old railroad grades that are perfect for runners and bikers.
  4. STICK TO IT:  Make every effort to stick to your plan.  You will feel good having accomplished even this one small thing each day.  Over time, you will feel less stressful, more energetic, and more fit.  Put on your running clothes before you make any decisions about skipping your run.  Be firm with yourself.  I have a rule that I always do the whole three-mile loop, even if I choose to walk the whole thing.
  5. DON’T JUDGE YOURSELF: No one knows whether you’re out for your first mile or your 20th today.  No one knows your history, your injuries, your story.  Don’t worry about what other people will think.  Don’t worry about how you look.  You look like you’re getting out and about, like you’re taking care of yourself, like you’re running!