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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.
Every now and then I pick up my phone and say into the voice-activated search “how many days ago was September 1, 2017” and it gives me the answer. Sept. 1 2017 is the day I started my outdoor habit and it’s kind of fun to track big milestones for my daily outdoor time. On my 1,000th day my friends and I hiked to the top of a local tiny little mountain and had cupcakes.
For a long time every day mattered. Getting out there every single day was a milestone worth marking. It’s why I first focused on a year. It’s why when I tell you about the Humans Outside challenge we talk about creating a goal of heading outside every single day for a year. It’s because 365 days is a lot of days. It represents consistency, dedication. It is simply remembering that this is something you want to do every day. It’s overcoming the inertia of simply staying on your couch. It’s disrupting your long-help rhythms to insert something new every single day.
It’s being willing to do something that’s often hard and pretty unpleasant. I mean enduring cold rain for 20 minutes is still not my favorite thing AT ALL.
So, yes, every day matters. And I like to keep track of them and celebrate them all so that I can give myself those high fives when on a particularly terrible day I don’t just make it outside for my 20 minutes, but I do so because that will NOT be the day I break my habit. And because doin g things that are healthy and just for you is worth celebrating.
Which is why it is very unlike me to have hit a major milestone and not noticed. Imagine my surprise when I recently picked up my phone, asked my question and learned that I had recently passed 1,900 days without even knowing it happened.
One thousand, nine hundred days is, well, it’s a lot days. If I only went out for 20 minutes each time — and I don’t, this week alone there were four days that I was out for over an hour despite the cold — that’s over 633 hours, or over 26 continuous days of time. See? It really does add up.
I like marking my days, noticing how I spend my time and taking a beat to celebrate having the willpower to keep a habit even when doing so is kind of sucky. But after 1,900 days I’m wondering if I’ve simply hit the spot where my challenge is more often than not actually not a challenge at all. Instead it’s just a part of who I am.
The truth is that I actually cannot imagine my day without spending at least 20 minutes outside. I don’t even know what that would be like anymore. It’s become a little like brushing my teeth or the medication I take every morning without even thinking about it. Not doing it feels like removing a part of my body or soul and planning not to notice. How could that even be?
Spending time outside in the air and with the cold in the winter or the warm in the summer is a part of my very being. I talk all the time about the benefits of that — the way it’s made me happier, healthier, more creative, better at problem solving, improved my relationships, given me the space to be a better version of me, helped me make friends, taught me to love where I live, made me not just more open to challenges but better at taking them in stride whether I want them or not, more patient in boredom and so, so much more.
And of course you can have these things, too. But building a new habit and waking up with it so a part of who you are that you don’t even notice how it fits in most days doesn’t just happen. It takes purpose. It takes dedication. And for me, apparently, it took somewhere around 1,900 completely wonderful, worthwhile days. Yes, sometimes it’s still hard. But so is brushing your teeth when you’re very tired, and I bet you do that anyway.
You can have this feeling too, by the way. If you need a little help getting started or keeping going, the Humans Outside 365 Challenge kits are waiting for you on HumansOutside.com. And you can see a photo of all of my outdoor time on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram — one photo a day!
Until next time, we’ll see you out there.