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Here’s an edited transcript of this installment of Amy’s Outdoor Diary.
Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.
When was the last time you paused during your outdoor time to look around?
In 2017 when I started my challenge, spending at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every day for a year, it was to build an outdoor habit. I had to actually set the building blocks and create the actual habit of getting outside daily, no matter the weather. There’s a certain level of box checking that comes with that since you’re actually building doing something into what you do. Sometimes you might actually need it on your physical to-do list until it becomes second nature.
Now I’m almost 1,300 days into my habit, and it is second nature. Heading outside daily is just something I do every day. Most days I don’t even have to plan for it — it just naturally finds its way to fit into my day.
But now I have a new problem. Since it’s just something I always do, it’s lost some of the wonder and now, instead, it’s been made into something I do mindlessly, without intention or sometimes without even noticing.
I’ve been challenged lately with the idea that I’m letting my outdoor time become box checking of a different sort. I do it, get it out of the way, and move on. But if I’m not being mindful about my actions, does heading outside have any benefit?
The answer is that of course it still has benefit – fresh air, exercise, getting away from my desk and breaking up my indoor routine. All of that stuff happens when I head out the door whether I’m being mindful or not. But I’m also letting an opportunity to get more benefits from it slide right on by when I’m not paying attention to what I’m doing.
One of two things is happening when I experience mindless outdoor time. First, I might be just trying to get it done, moving robotically through the motion like another item on my things-I-do-each-day unwritten checklist. I know it takes me about 20 minutes to do a certain loop in the woods, and I have 23 minutes before I have to leave for the next appointment or get a kid from school, so out I march to get the whole thing over with. Wham, bam, done. Snap my picture, march through the snow, call the whole thing good. I don’t stop to notice anything. I barely feel the air on my face. And my mind is probably going a million miles an hour with the other things I’ve got going on in my day.
The other way I experience mindless outdoor time is that I head outside while doing something with my electronics. Now, I’ll be the first to confess that sometimes during great weather my outdoor time is on my porch for an hour or so while I’m getting some work done. Whew, that glorious sun is a thing. I still think there’s a benefit to being outside that way that, no, isn’t mindfully noticing the birds but is a different kind of benefit. And that’s just fine.
But even that is different from what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the times I go through the trouble of heading into the woods for a walk or getting in my hot tub for some peace of mind, and then whip out my phone and mindlessly scroll through social media off and on over the whole experience. I’m not doing anything with that — I don’t have a reason to be on there — I’m straight up plugged in when I should be making a practice of unplugging.
We’ll talk more about the act of unplugging in a second, but let me challenge you with something that I’m challenging myself with: getting outside with intention and actually experiencing what is out there — actually seeing the trees, actually hearing the bird, actually smelling the air.
Because when you do you might notice some stuff you otherwise walked right by. Most recently for me? When I paused my hustle to look at the mountains and take a long glance at some trees, do you know what I saw on a February Alaska day? Growth and buds starting to peep out just a little on some trees — I’m for real on this. It’s cold as crap and things are still growing out there. Winter is slowing its roll, and Spring is right around the corner — and the trees know it.
Had I not stopped? I never would’ve seen that. And I can’t tell you the hope it’s given me for the last few very cold days.
On the subject of unplugging, I’m really excited to this week have on my full Thursday episode Sebastian Slovin and Sonya Mohamed, unplugging experts and author of a new book on unplugging in nature. In the episode they give us some really practical tips that I’ve actually started using, and we’re going to launch a little challenge next week and a giveaway of their new book. So what’s the challenge? Sunday, Feb 28 to Saturday March 6 we’re going to challenge ourselves to spend 7 days outside tech free over your outdoor time. I’m going to completely leave the phone behind or in the car, and not get it out or look at it over my outdoor time. Sure, that means no photo of what I’m doing. Instead, I’ll snap a picture after I’m done. I know that will be a week of pretty boring photos, but if it means a week of breaking my look at my phone while I’m outside habit? Awesome. I’ll spend the week focused on what I’m experiencing instead of being distracted by my phone in my pocket. I hope you’ll join me — and sign-up for our newsletter to get a free downloadable 7-day unplugging challenge tracker. Of course, if you already are a newsletter subscriber, just watch for next week’s newsletter to find a link to it and all of our great, free downloadables.
Now, we’re back to our theme this week of talking about what to wear in cold weather. You probably don’t remember where we were on that, but I do – we covered boots, socks, base, mid and top layers — and now I want to talk about the neck gaiter or Buff. This is a tube looking piece of cloth that can go around your neck to keep it warm or to keep snow from falling and going down your jacket or shirt which, I must say, isn’t very comfortable. Buff is a brand of these, although smartwool and many other sellers make them. But the most important thing is the many, many ways they can be used that have nothing to do with your neck. Handkerchief, hair band or tie, hat — I’ve even heard of someone using one as a tourniquet. I love my Buffs, and, as many of our podcast guests have pointed out, it’s truly an essential piece of outdoor gear — and of course it’s this week’s outdoor hero.
I do hope you join me listening to this week’s episode on unplugging and then enter for the book giveaway and, of course, join me for the unplugging challenge. It’s going to be a great way to refocus my own outdoor time. For this week I’ll be posting my regular photos, though, and I’d love to see you do the same — tag them with #humansoutside365.
And until next time, we’ll see you out there.