Get outside

stanford dish

As a former girl scout, it may seem like I’ve been accustomed to being in the great-outdoors since my youth. Incidentally, I’ve been a self-declared cityslicker, enjoying much more the concrete jungles of NYC than the wetlands, rivers and mountains that abound across the east coast.  I actually detested much of my time in girl scouts. The cheesy songs, the easy mac and creamed corn pancakes we made on kerosene burners outside. The ‘mess kits’ we’d have to bring and then clean. Sleeping in tents and peeing in latrines has never really been my thing. The cookie-selling and fierce badge-acquiring competition were the main reasons I stayed (well that and my mom was the ‘Leader’ for a bit) but I digress.

 Lately, I’m noticing more and more a real thirst for being outside. And I’m not just talking about the perfect 75 degree summer days, but the autumn breeze, the crisp winter air, even the frigid coolness of winter that seems to be exactly what I need to calm down, reconnect, and rejuvenate these days.  I’ve decided not to resist these outdoorsy cravings but to give into them more. Layers help when it’s early January and quite frigid. But I am earnestly encouraging you to bundle up and get outside. Harvard Health touts that being outside can create and activate greater levels of vitamin D in the body (studies suggest sufficient vitamin D is essential to maintaining a healthy immune system and can help fight certain conditions from depression to cancer or even heart attacks).  You’ll also get more exercise, and being outside will work to help you 'relax and cheer up’ as ‘light tends to elevate people’s mood, and there’s usually more light outside than in’.  Some studies even suggest that exposure to natural settings can be effective in reducing symptoms of ADHD. 

Even the moonlight on your skin can be beneficial so don’t let the sun get all the credit here. Folks who subscribe to the more spiritual traditions believe that light from stars and the moon awakens our different energy centers or ‘chakras’ and can open our mind – our imagination and creativity- before sleep. Essentially allowing our creative juices to flow more freely and to ensure we have a more restful and peaceful sleep.  Whatever you believe, deeper sleep and a greater sense of intuition and creativity sound good to me!

 My husband and I were lucky enough to have a few days in the post-Christmas season to head to one of our favorite places – Charlottesville, VA. During that 2-day jaunt, we visited the lovely Pippin Hill vineyard and though the wine flight and cheese plates were delightful, the real heart of the place is the view. We actually spent very little time in the tasting room but ended up loafing around the hilly vista just in front of the vineyard barn. It was just about to be sunset and there was something about that moment – the smell of the grass, the feel of the air, the colors of the sky, it was amazing. I felt like I could stay there forever, and I felt like I was truly connected to something bigger and better than me as an individual.

You don’t need to drive to a fancy vineyard and clear your whole schedule to practice being outside in a practical way. Just take a walk. Even in the middle of a busy work day – a 10 or 15 minute walk can be surprisingly rejuvenating. So get moving, get creative, and get connected.