Outdoor Diary: The Value of Getting Outside Without Self-Judgment

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Outdoor Diary Humans Outside

What are your expectations for yourself? For how you get outside? For what you find there? For what you do there?

As the weathers changes into spring and summer, it’s easy to look outside and expect yourself to want to be there more or experience certain things when you get out there. But what would happen if you simply listened to yourself instead?

In this Outdoor Diary episode, Amy talks about getting outside without self-judgment and how hard it is for her to do so.

Some of the good stuff:

Connect with this episode:

[:45] The deal with expectations

[1:10] What the real problem is

[1:29] What I can control

[2:04] The balancing act

[3:13] Start listening

[4:37] Why spending 20 outside is perfect for this

[5:22] What I’m working on

[5:40] What I’m doing outside now

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

Here’s an edited transcript of this installment of Amy’s Outdoor Diary.

I am a person with expectations. Most of them are for myself. Someone told me when I was kid that if I didn’t have any expectations I’d never be disappointed. But that’s terrible advice. Of course we should have expectations. They give us something to look forward to in the world. They motivate us to keep going, and reach higher and do more. I love having expectations.

The problem isn’t expectations, the problem is inflexibility. For me, expectations are only bad when I am so tied to them I lose the ability to bend and shape what i am looking forward to with the world around me. The problem is in thinking that I can have specific, immovable expectations for the world around me, when the reality is that the only thing I can actually control is myself. I cant control what happens to me — I can only control how I react to it. I can control whether I put myself in a situation where something bad might happen. I can control how I react to that situation. But I cannot control whether something bad happens or not.

I’m pretty good about living up to my own expectations of myself, although that’s definitely not always true. If I want to do something, I can do it. That I am able to make that happen is only true because I’ve learned to have reasonable expectations of myself and set reasonable goals. And it’s a balancing act, right? The reason I set a goal of 20 minutes outside a day instead of 45, for example, is that I knew 20 minutes was something that I would actually do. It was something that I could actually make happen. It was a reasonable expectation.

Over the years of spending time outside each day, I’ve learned to anticipate how I’ll feel about any given season. In the winter, I dont expect myself to want to be outside very long because it’s cold. But as the weather warms, I feel a pressure to be outside all of the time. After all, this is the season I’ve been waiting for, right? I’m supposed to want to be out there in the sunshine. I expect me to get out there and do it. I expect me to rise to the occasion the weather is offering me, leave my indoor responsibilities and go have a great time. It’s sunny! Get outside!

As we head into mid spring and summer, leaving behind my own expectations of me is my greatest challenge.

What if I dont want to spend hours outside? What if I just want to sit inside and chill in front of a movie for the evening? What if I am tired? What I’m hungry? What if I have a lot of work responsibilities that are keeping me from going outside? Should I beat myself up about this stuff?

When I try to force myself into feeling one way or another about being outside, what I’m doing is failing to listen to myself. Instead of listening to what I need, I am telling myself what I SHOULD do or feel. I am judging myself for my reactions and needs and only trying to set an expectation and keep it.

And that’s why it’s so important for me to always keep in mind this guiding truth: getting outside daily is what matters. How I do it, how much longer than my 20 minutes I am out there and where I do it are fluid factors that should be based on need not expectation. And to find out what I need, I have to dismiss self judgment and listen to myself.

When it comes to being outside, there is no should.

Really, one of my favorite things about nature is that it meets you where you are. If you’re feeling pressure to be one way or another in it, that’s from you — not the outdoors. Heading outside will always provide you what you need. It’s when you expect yourself to feel one thing or another, experience something specific or find a certain benefit that you will feel like a failure. And that’s what self-judgement brings in my experience: a feeling of failing.

Instead, what if you go outside with an open mind, waiting to find how you will feel or what you will see there? What if you are intentional about noticing and receiving, verses doing and acting? What will you find there if you head outside with openness instead of expectation?

To me, this is the beauty of my 20 minutes daily habit and the Humans Outside 365 Challenge. 20 minutes is not long enough for you to expect yourself to do, create or experience anything sizeable outside. It’s enough to go for a mile walk or a twoish run if you’re feeling spicy. It’s enough to observe birds in park. It’s enough to sit on your porch and eat lunch or read a book. And, most importantly, it’s enough to see the benefits of viewing and interacting with nature.

It’s long enough to receive and do a little, but it’s not long enough to actually accomplish much of anything. It’s not long enough for huge expectations. In some ways, it’s not enough time to create something to feel self judgment over. And that’s the benchmark — just heading out there to receive in a space that isn’t big enough for big expectations.

My work is to convince myself that keeping my standard is enough, to listen to my outdoor cravings, to understand what is something I want and what feelings are me pushing myself to live up to misguided, self-imposed expectations, and then to proceed without self-judgment. I’m working on it.

It really has been pretty nice here this week, rising temperatures with that great, warm sun that is baking the snow into slush and warming my bones when Im in it. Im still nursing that sprained ankle — please send all the good vibes that it would just stop being swollen because that’s really what I’m waiting for over here — which means a lot of just sitting outside and a little bike riding. I’m not going to lie: i’m completely over it. But at least it’s sunny! You can see photos of my daily outdoor time on Facebook and Instagram at Humans outside and, as always, share your outdoor time with me by tagging your photos #humansoutside365.

Until next time, we’ll see you out there.

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