Outdoor Diary: I Just Hit 5 Years Outside. Here’s What I’ve Learned

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Humans Outside episode 232

September 1, 2022 marked five full years of Amy’s 20 minutes outside daily habit, and it has her reflecting on some of the life skills she’s gained spending that many days — 1,825 to be exact — outside experiencing all nature has to offer. What can building a daily nature habit give to you, too? Listen now to find out.

Some of the good stuff:

[:45] FIVE YEARS.

[1:04] My daily habit by the numbers

[2:45] Lesson one: my superpower

[3:55] Lesson two: I’m one tough cookie

[4:45] Lesson three: gratitude

[5:35] Yeah there’s other stuff too

[6:10] OK one more gift

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Listen to this episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

On September 1, 2017 I started a little experiment: what would happen if I spent at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every day for a year?

I think we all know by now that it was anything but a little experiment, and it most certainly didn’t last a year. In fact, on September 1, 2022 I hit five years of this daily habit.

Five years.

Five years is 1,825 days. I often spend a lot more than 20 minutes outside each day, but if I only spent 20 minutes, that would be 36,500 minutes or over 608 hours over the 5 years. That’s a lot of time adding up in just those incremental amounts.

I don’t count my hours in total or add up all of my minutes. Instead I just make sure I hit my 20 minute benchmark and then move on from there. But if I did I’m sure it would be several thousand hours, at the minimum. That’s because when you start a habit like just 20 minutes outside daily, you find that 20 minutes becomes not that much or not nearly enough — especially when the weather is good or you’re really enjoying the activity you’re doing. Other times, especially when the weather is really challenging or you’re not feeling well, 20 minutes feels like plenty, thanks.

But those 5 years and 1,825 days of outdoor time is definitely enough to learn a whole parade of lessons from getting up close and personal with the nature around me. And while I’m never without takeaways, they grow and flex over time, depending on what’s top of mind.

Around my recent 5 year anniversary I’ve been thinking a lot about the things heading outside has taught me that are applicable to my inside life, or applicable beyond just the muscle creating and keeping any given habit can give. So here’s a few of those.

First, tackling this daily challenge has taught me that I can do things I don’t necessarily want to do. While most of my outdoor time is absolutely wonderful, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes the weather is bad. Sometimes I’m doing something outside that is challenging, when I’d rather do something that is NOT challenging, like sit in my hot tub. But because I’ve gone outside so much when things weren’t always perfect, because I’ve practiced this skill day over day for 5 years, I know that I have a super power: I can make myself do things that I don’t really want to do. I can power through and find the benefit on the other side. And when I get there, I can take it for what it’s worth, and use it as an additional reminder next time.

Inside life is full of things I don’t want to do be they chores, or work tasks I don’t like or challenging interpersonal stuff that is just easier to avoid. But I cannot tell you how often I feel like avoiding things and then remember that I can do things i don’t want to do, and it turns out just fine.

Second, I’ve learned how tough I am. This is about more than just doing things I don’t want to do. This is about knowing that when I face challenges — less than ideal circumstances, major disappointments, feelings of loss, people letting me down and all of the other stuff far outside of my control — I have the skill to come out on the other side, still optimistic, still finding the good, acknowledging the bad and my feelings about it, and moving forward. I know that things don’t always work out the way I want them to. The weather alone faced any time I walk out the door is enough to remind me of that. But even when things outside of my control fail to follow my plan, and boy am I good at having one of those, I can shift direction and try something new. I can hunt for and seize the good and know that everything will work out. I cannot tell you how much peace learning this gives me. It’s truly a gift of heading outside daily.

Third, it’s taught me gratitude. Every day that am able to get outside and see this beautiful world is an absolute gift. I get to do this. I get to head into nature, whatever that looks like wherever I am in the moment be it the sidewalk outside my hotel while I travel for my job, my backyard or a mountain peak. I get to approach every moment in nature with curiosity. I am gifted with wonderful sunny days for exploring or frigid, windy, challenging weather to see this wide world in a new light. I get to experience the way it helps me think and feel. These things are gifts — yes, even the objectively not that fun challenges are opportunities for new things. And I am grateful for them all.

Of course there are many, many more things that I’ve learned from spending time outside every day for five years. And honestly I cannot believe it’s already been five years. Where has the time gone? Today’s outside time will look like yet another day at a community event with my family and, hopefully, a visit to a lake with my paddleboard. Those are both things I probably would not be doing today were it not for these five years of experiences. Simply being interested in those activities are gifts, too.

And of course you listening to this is also a gift. No outside habit, no Humans Outside podcast — and I am so grateful that you have joined me on the journey.

You can see photos from literally every day I’ve been doing this since 2017 at Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram and please, as always, share your own photos with #humansoutside365. Until next time, I’ll see you out there.

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