It’s spring and you want some effective self-care ideas outdoors. Quick. You know that wandering in the great outdoors is a great way to reconnect to nature. In nature, you can breathe fresh air, connect to the elements, to your inner voice and your higher self. You also may know that self-care is a great way to reflect on your life, liberate your mind, enjoy time with yourself as well as others and relieve stress. But, you are busy. So while you need to relax you can’t sit around doing nothing. Many effective self-care methods have proven benefits to lower cortisol and other stress hormones that drive blood pressure up, create oxidative stress and even memory loss. Many people consider mother nature to be their temple, so without getting religious here, here’s a list of 7 self-care ideas proven to be healthy for you. When done outdoors, they can deepen the effects and help you feel better on the daily. Weekends are not only for self-care, increase self-care time by trying one of these ideas at lunch, happy hour and early mornings.
It’s not for the purpose of speed or endurance, it’s a shifting of attention to the beauty of your surroundings. Walking in nature allows you to get out of your head, and focus on pops of color, and beautiful aromas. Getting into the woods, as dense as you can find, may be even better. Japanese Tree Bathing or Shinrin-yoku has been proven to lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater relaxation activity, and lower stress activity compared to city environments. These results validate the field of forest medicine, which may be used as a strategy for preventive medicine.
Some scientists argue that humans are part of nature and therefore benefit by eating in nature. Based on this philosophy we humans currently experience a “nature deficit”. Taking a picnic allows you more time in nature, to eat and enjoy the flavors of home-made food enhanced in the fresh air, allowing your senses to be increased. Picnics are also associated with relaxation, and bonding with friends and family, which promotes digestion and a feeling of leisure.
Yoga in The Park
Oxygen in the atmosphere is 20.9%. In confined spaces oxygen levels can drop within a matter of hours, particularly if there is a source of another gas present, such as CO or vapor contaminant. During exercise, your lungs expand, your bronchi dilate and and your heart pumps faster, which all require more gas exchange. In order to accomplish that you need more oxygen than when breathing calmly so it’s even more important to be in a well-ventilated space. Thus, in order to benefit most from your exercise, do yoga in fresh air when weather permits. You could also benefit from Vitamin D exposure, finding your tribe and escaping to Wanderlust.
I’ve been a forager since I was under 2 years old. At that time, my Dad was certainly showing me which ones were blueberries and which ones were bird berries, as well as gathering rosehips to put into my bottle after I was past the milk stage. In addition to the forest bathing, exercising outdoors, the health benefits of foraging wild food are numerous. First of all, wild foods may have more nutrients and phytochemicals than many cultivated foods. Their soils have not been depleted, their growing time have not been shortened, no one has picked them before they are ripe, and they represent the spectrum of eating a varied diet. Further, it’s pleasure-producing to identify edible greens, berries, flowers and shoots. A warning, be sure to have a knowledgeable guide if you are unsure about the plants you are foraging. Never forage mushrooms you are not 100% are edible. Nothing could be quite so thrilling as safely gathering your food and creating recipes, that is if you can get the berries home before eating them all.
Obviously, you want to keep your self-care activities to what you enjoy. If you hate birds, you can insert you own beneficial hobby here. I enjoy the frolicking of the cardinals and swallows; the stalking of the herrons and hawks; the pair-bonding of the ducks at the park; I enjoy fishing alternating with nest duty of the oystercatchers and seagulls gathering in groups like old men everywhere, they do it at the shore; I enjoy the little nests of the doves and antics of the robins in the backyard. I find their colors, songs, flight, fishing, their camaraderie and play thoroughly enjoyable. I could look to see if there’s research on the health benefits of bird voyeurism, but take my word for it, it’s good for me. I choose to enjoy it regardless, and for me, it’s much more enjoyable outdoors than in.
If you visit enough parks you will find someone painting, creating their own exercise sequence, taking photos, journaling and more. In Central Park you will hear plenty of saxophones, and even violins. While looking at art is joyous and creative, the joy of painting is real, even if you’re bad at it. And does the artist benefit doubly by engaging in two self-care efforts at once? Again, the more oxygen from fresh air delivered to the blood and brain, the more endorphins – pleasure and pain-reducing hormones released and dopamine released. By letting you enjoy a sense of fulfillment, creative pursuits outdoors transforms you into a more positive, well-rounded human being. Obviously, choosing a pleasant day is ideal for your competing stress hormones.
So, with the goal of spending as much time outdoors as you comfortably can, given how deprived we are of the fresh air time, doing anything in the great wide open may better than doing it indoors. Ever notice when you’re camping you get tired earlier, and sleep deeper? Even sleeping under the stars in the winter has been shown to regulate sleep-wake cycles by increasing sleep hormone production, decreasing depression and insomnia. When you sleep you breathe more deeply, more slowly, so as with the case of exercise, mother nature provides the ideal place for pretty much all self-care activities as long as you can, in the case of sleeping, find a place of your own.
Note: this list is not just for spring – so get out there!