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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.
Amy Bushatz: You know that feeling you get when you spend even a little time outside? No matter how challenging it is to get out there, spending time in nature is always worth it. I’m your host, Amy Bouchat, and this is another episode of Humans Outside. Join me as we hear from fascinating outdoor minded guests and use the Humans Outside 365 challenge of spending time outside every day no matter what.
to push us outside daily. I’ve been a journalist for two decades and I love asking questions, but I also love going outside. So why not combine the two? Ready to hear from experts and outdoor lovers who make heading into nature just a part of who they are while we work to do the same? Let’s go.
It’s that season again, friends. It’s habit time. Habits are often top of mind around here at Humans Outside, but out in the real world, they tend to come in waves, riding the annual idea of fresh starts and self improvement.
If you’ve been listening to Humans Outside for a while, you’ve heard this song and dance before. You might even be great at it. But you are probably also someone who is interested in constantly finding ways to make your life just a little bit more fulfilling, always full of just a little more fun, just a little less drudgery or things you don’t love. I mean, same.
And if you’re newer here, that’s probably you too. It’s just what humans do. We want to build lives that make us feel good.
Here at Humans Outside, we know that such a life includes getting outside more. Easy, right? Maybe even the end of the conversation? Hmm. Wrong. Because life happens. There’s always going to be things we can work on more, ways to make life just a little better, and self work we want to do.
And then there’s the matter of habits we all hold that we want to get rid of. Why are they so, shall we say, sticky and hard to break out of? And how do we develop a mindset that lets us address those kindly while still working through them?
To answer those questions, we have Sarah Hayes Coomer, who we’ve adopted as our very own annual habit expert joining us now for the fourth year in a row I can hardly believe that for an episode to talk this time about habit breaking just as much as habit building.
Sarah is a Mayo Clinic and nationally board certified wellness coach author of the Forbes column Hey health coach a personal trainer and author of the book “The Habit Trip: a fill in the blank journey to a life on purpose.” Sarah, welcome back again, again, and again, as many times as we need to keep talking about this to Humans Outside.
Sarah Hays Coomer: Hi Amy. Thank you so much for having me. I’m so happy to be back.
Amy Bushatz: Well, I appreciate your time and your expertise in this stuff. It is so useful every year to get a refresh on this. We start all of our episodes talking about our guest’s favorite outdoor space. Like, if we were going to go somewhere with you and hang out with you, where would we be today?
Sarah Hays Coomer: Okay, so I had a, I’ve discovered a new outdoor space this year that absolutely blew me away. We went to Sedona and it was kind of expected to be sort of an offshoot of a Grand Canyon trip that I took with my family. And it was just sort of, Oh, where can we go that it would be a little bit warmer after the Grand Canyon. And we went down there and it just. it just floored me. It just really took my breath away. Those rock formations and the way that you can climb sort of free climb rather than, following a very specific narrow path, which is a lot of what we have here in Tennessee. So you can just like climb these giant rock formations and go all over the place. It was, it just, it was absolutely stunning. So that’s my new, that’s a new favorite place.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah, I, you know, as you know, I spent some time at the Grand Canyon this year for the first time ever, and On the drive back from the North Rim, driving through the, various reservations out there, and then these red rock areas, whoa. Unlike I anything I had ever seen, and just, it bo the mind boggles, let’s just say.
Sarah Hays Coomer: No, I think that’s right. It really is a landscape unlike anything else. I really, I, I did, I was not prepared for how incredibly stunning it was. It is well worth the trip.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Oh, great. Oh, well, we are going to imagine ourselves there. It is very rocky, but it’s going to be fine, and warmer than what we have right now, which I’m actually okay with. Good. Okay. Um, we also love to hear our guests outdoor story. You’ve shared yours before, but if you don’t mind sharing it again for maybe people who haven’t heard those episodes, how did you become someone who likes to go outside?
Sarah Hays Coomer: sure. Yeah, so, yes, you can listen to past episodes for a more in depth explanation, but basically I was in my early twenties and I was living in Los Angeles. I was working in a corporate job and I was really struggling with depression and anxiety and some really, really rough eating disorders. And, I started studying to become a personal trainer.
I was taking nutrition and physiology and sports psychology and things like that at UCLA. And, started to realize that I didn’t want to work with people who were athletes. I wanted to work with people who were struggling with their bodies in some way or another, because that’s how I felt about my own body.
And I just. I discovered hiking and I discovered that these sort of city urban hikes that were available right outside my door within a five minute drive from my house were a form of therapy and that the days that I wanted to go the least were the ones that I usually needed to go the most so I would just kind of put my sneakers on and even if I only got out there for five minutes, it was a success.
But most of the time, once I got there and got through that five minutes, it usually would turn into at least a two or three mile loop that I had there up in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. It, it, it literally became a form of therapy. And now it’s something that it’s just part of who I am. It’s part of my day. When I’m traveling for work, I’m always have my AllTrails app out and I’m always trying to find local, whether it’s urban or outside of the city, hikes that I can find and explore.
Amy Bushatz: I love that you took a urban environment and created a nature perspective out of it. I think it’s really easy to see urban spaces and feel like they have no nature to offer. And many of them, the nature is, I mean, we talked about the Grand Canyon and I always like to use that as an example, like there’s places you go that are just jaw dropping. But there is nature around you and it is objectively not equivalent, but it is still nature.
Sarah Hays Coomer: Yeah. Yeah. And I’ve yet to discover a place that doesn’t have access to something, you know? And so, and, and, and, and it does the trick. It really does. It, it’s, it can sort of drop your shoulders and, it’s just, it’s, it’s really impactful even in the city.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. And I noticed , like, as you were going out there to break you out of these other patterns that you weren’t liking, you were habit breaking, which is something we’re going to talk about today. and heading outside helped you see the potential for change. So we’re going to circle back to that.
First though, let’s talk about habit creating. Walk us through the nuts and bolts of a habit, like what makes a habit? We’ve talked about, this before, but what makes a habit? And how do you create one?
Sarah Hays Coomer: Okay. So, you know, a lot of people have read the book Atomic Habits, or The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, which was kind of the original pop culture habit book that came out over a decade ago now, I think. So there are really three fundamental parts of a habit. There is the cue or the trigger, which is the thing that signals you that it’s time for the habit.
And there’s the behavior or the habit itself. And then there’s the reward on the other side of it, which is what you’re getting out of it. So for most people, the trigger is the, often it’s a time of day people get into rhythms with, for example, having their snacks on the couch after dinner, after work, after the kids are in bed, or you can have habits, habits that are around, kind of a mid afternoon lull, you know, when you’re getting tired in the middle of the afternoon, people will go and get a coffee or they’ll go and get a donut, or there are, of course, good habits, things that really nurture you and like for you, getting outside every day or, you know, drinking your morning coffee or if you have a stretching ritual before bed or even brushing your teeth.
or remembering to put on your seatbelt when you get in the car those are all habits. They’re basically shortcuts, that make life, you don’t have to think about them. That’s part of the definition of a habit is that it’s happening without too much conscious thought. It’s just something that you do when x, y, z.
So that’s the cue or the trigger, then there’s the behavior, and then there’s the reward that you’re getting out of it. So, you know, if you’re putting on your seatbelt, then you’re knowing that you’re safe and you’re taking care of yourself and your family. And if it’s it’s an evening habit like having snacks, before bed, then that might be some stress relief, or just straight up pleasure, you’re just enjoying yourself and relaxing for a little bit.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. And when a habit is really ingrained, you feel weird when it doesn’t happen.
Sarah Hays Coomer: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. So when I’m talking to people about either habit breaking or habit building, it’s really important to understand that,, that idea of it becoming automatic and non negotiable, the idea is we’re trying to build things that are new. that are in that non negotiable in that same way.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. So give us an example of habit building. First like a practical example, and let’s just use going outside every day. Just because, you know, it’s an available topic.
Sarah Hays Coomer: So um most important thing with people want to build something new, it’s usually because they’re feeling a little bit out of sync with something. Something is not feeling right, whether it is a psychological problem or a physical problem or, they’re just feeling kind of dull and they want to spice things up a little bit.
So there’s a lot of reasons my, why you might want to do it, but what you’re hearing there, I like to call them squeaks, right? So your body or your mind is talking to you and telling you that you need something new or different. So, recognizing those squeaks as kind of crucial, really important clues rather than nagging, Oh, this is what’s wrong with me. I’ve got to break it kind of thing is really important. For some people, having a big long term goal is really important. We were talking just before we went on air about how I have a group of friends who is now planning a group to. group trip to the Grand Canyon to do the full hike, rim to rim.
And that’s a big goal for them. And so a lot of them are building the habits, the training habits that they need to make that a safe and fun adventure. So a goal can help for some people. If, if, if you’re setting a goal of like, I need to lose 50 pounds, that might be a little counterproductive cause you’re not able to, feel some of the progress along the way and it can feel so far away and frustrating to reach.
So you just have to kind of work with yourself and see whether a long term goal or a big goal is going to be useful and helpful for you. If not, you can focus more on the immediate short term things and ways that you can start to bring things in to enrich your life and to answer that squeak, to respond to it.
OK. So you’re listening to the squeak and then you want to recognize what’s happening in your environment. This year for me has been, I’m so aware of my clients and the incredible stress and strain and pressure that so many of them are under. so I think it’s to try, a lot of wellness plans or whatever will give you lists of rules of what you’re supposed to be doing without acknowledging that we are, none of this is happening in a vacuum.
We are going back to old habits that we might not want to have anymore because they have offered a sense of relief for us in the past, in some way or another, they have served us. So it makes sense that, that they’re sticky, like you mentioned before, that it’s, it’s hard to break them because they’re kind of on automatic, like we were talking about.
Right? So recognizing the circumstances of your life, the pressures that are going on around you, some of which you may be able to tweak and mess with, some of which you may not, but it’s really important to see the lay of the land with that. And then you just want to become aware of the rhythm of it. When is it happening? Why is it happening? Is it a constellation of events? Is it a certain person that sets you off? Is it a time of day? What it, what are the things that are, impacting you? Where, what are the friction points that are making it difficult to do a new thing, and what are some ways that you can make that easier?
So you’re just looking at that really objectively, without judgment, just kind of recognizing what it is. And then we’ve talked before about a tool that I use with folks, which is, it’s called the AID Approach, and it’s an acronym, and it stands for Awareness, Interruption, and Decision.
So, if you want to go outside, and you want to, let’s say, first, so first you would want to look at what time of day you want to do that, if there’s a rhythm with that, or if you want to give yourself options.
You want to say, I can do it in the morning when I’m having my coffee, or I can do it after lunch when I need a break after work, or I can do it in the evening before I’m cooking dinner. Pairing it with some sort of rhythm that’s something that you’re already doing as as part of the day can be really helpful. So that awareness piece when you pair it with something like that It’s a lot easier to become aware of what’s happening. And then you can give yourself those options about when and how to go outside and do it If you need an interruption, which I like to make physical, so that’s kind of physicalizing the awareness.
So, for example, if you’re used to getting your coffee and going to the couch in the morning and scrolling on your phone, and instead you want to get your coffee and go outside and sit or stand in the yard and take a few deep breaths and be out there for a little bit, get some vitamin D, then if you need something to kind of interrupt the flow of grab coffee mug, go to couch.
It can help to have something that I call a gap ritual, which means it can be any kind of physical gesture. So, you can, I’ve, I have some clients who go into a plank position or who do a specific stretch. They class their hands behind their back and kind of open up their chest, and then pick up the coffee mug and then decide are you going to go to the couch or are you going to go outside?
So instead of like, I have to follow a rule and I’m going to white knuckle this situation, you’re actually pausing and putting yourself in a position where you are in power and you get to choose what you want to do next. And if that new thing is really something that’s been calling to you, then you’re going to be likely to want to follow through.
So yeah, so piecing those things together, one step at a time. And then hopefully pretty quickly, those little tools can kind of disappear because these things do start to happen on autopilot and gets much, much easier.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that the things that work for you over time with something, at least for me, change. So I, I’m at the point where if I don’t go outside every day, I feel weird. It’s like brushing my teeth before bed. It’s just something that I do. Right. However, one of the things I’m dealing with right now as we’re recording this in the deep dark winter is that my outside habit is best for me if it’s in daylight, I feel significantly better if I go outside consistently when it’s light outside. A couple times a week I have plans to go out in the dark for a group run in the evening, but if I’m always doing stuff at night, I don’t feel as good. However, the times where the daylight is available have shrunk something, somewhat dramatically.
And so my Should we say summer habit of, Oh, I have time at 7pm at night to go for a walk. If I, you know, if my day got busy and I didn’t have time to go outside, that works really well in the summer. In the wintertime, I could do that, but it gonna be dark. And so I have to get much more purposeful in the wintertime about carving out what I have to say is like an inconvenient time in the middle of the day, stopping my work day and going and doing something outside, whether that be a simple walk in the woods or participating in the ice capades on our street. I have to be very, very purposeful about it, and it’s hard. It is, like, legitimately hard to almost, like, create a new habit within my old habit of changing when I’m doing it.
But the reward -Like, how much better I notice I feel, and I do have to stop and say, do I feel better now? Yes, I do. The reward of that is so outsized to the difficulty of making that happen, it is completely worth it. And I really wonder if other people don’t experience that as well, and in a variety of habits, that the way you did something is no longer working for you, and you gotta stop and figure out why, and that is super hard.
Sarah Hays Coomer: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you’re really talking about two different things. You’re talking about environmental influences on what you have to do and the different seasons that you’re actually, you’re actually talking about seasons, but there are also
Amy Bushatz: environment and seasons in this case.
Sarah Hays Coomer: Yeah, and there are also seasons of our lives, you know, when you’ve got small kids or you’ve got, you know, a brand new super powered job that you have to learn on a very steep learning curve, or, you know, there are different seasons of our lives.
And that’s what throws people off so much of the time is when things change, they, they have an idea about what they’re supposed to do and what they have to do. And if they are unable to do it, then they feel guilt and frustration, and then that just sort of sends them spiraling and they abandon the whole thing altogether, which leads us to the second thing you’re talking about, which is flexibility, and the willingness and the interest in finding new ways of doing things that, you know, that, that wouldn’t have worked before, or that you’d rather not do them that way. But you recognize that in the winter, taking those breaks in the middle of the day is just crucial. It’s just crucial to your health and well being and probably to your work as well. I would imagine.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. It is a cruel irony of life that those of us who are super good at consistency are not super good at flexibility.
Sarah Hays Coomer: Right. Yes.
Amy Bushatz: It’s just mean.
Sarah Hays Coomer: I know, right? And those who are super good at flexibility may not consider themselves good at consistency. But it really can be, flexibility in and of itself can be a practice. So, you can be consistent in your flexibility. Which is a really fun and important thing to develop.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. So we’ve talked a little bit about habits that are helpful, that we want to create. You mentioned interrupting things that you don’t want to do as a part of that, but there are also habits in our lives that are not helpful. And and you and I have talked before about, avoiding saying that a habit is bad versus not helpful, because I mean, there are definitely habits that we could categorize as bad.
But most of what we give that label to isn’t bad or good. It just isn’t helpful to me or to you. So I really, I love that because I see I think it’s really important to avoid in a world of very black and white polarizing things to avoid casting ourselves in negativity if, if there’s not an actual reason for that.
And so anyway, okay. So why are some of it’s that are not helpful, hard to break or sticky? What makes these things harder to get over than others? Hmm. Hmm.
Sarah Hays Coomer: So, one of the things that I feel like when I’m talking to people and I tell them this, they just kind of wake up and light up, which is that bad habits are not flaws. They are coping mechanisms. They are responses to stress or, or they are pleasure seeking. And so it makes perfect sense, you know, our bodies know what has worked for us in the past, or what has felt in quotes good, to us in the past, and it brings you that immediate reward, that immediate sensation of relief, and that’s why they’re hard to break.
When things get stressful, or when we are in need of that relief or that pleasure, they, your body and your mind knows exactly how to get it, right? So if that has been happening in a way that’s not helpful, as you say, for, for long term health, then it’s really important not to say, this is bad, this is wrong, I have to break it.
No, we’re not going to break it. We’re going to replace it. We’re going to identify alternative responses to that stress. And then, find find ways to merge wellness and pleasure there, starting to replace, make those other choices a few times. And once you’ve done it, it gets easier to do it again, if you really genuinely enjoyed it.
And so then you can start to build on top of those habits as you go. And they, they, they should be enriching your life. They shouldn’t, you shouldn’t be trying to build habits into your life that make you miserable. There are versions of health that can both feel good and be healthy.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. And I think that for, those really depend on a person. for me, one thing may not work well for me that, you know, that is a great habit for somebody else because I know myself. Like, so you could even say with going outside that putting a rule around how much time you spend there is going to become a point of obsession or something that’s not for any reason not helpful to you versus just saying. I’m going to create a habit of doing this thing that is helpful with, with no parameters on it. And we’re just going to see where it goes, which just gives me the freedom to really experience it and enjoy it versus whipping myself into a frenzy over doing this. Do what works for you and know what’s going to be helpful for you and have that, what we’re really talking about here is a growth mindset.
So I want to know from you why a growth mindset is important, and how you can have that without beating yourself up versus doing something that’s good for you. We don’t want to focus on quote unquote small, you know, failures, right? But you want to focus on improvement. So what’s the balance there? Mmm.
Sarah Hays Coomer: Right. So, a growth mindset, you know, it’s such a buzzword and it’s such a, you know, people don’t really know what it means a lot of the time. And for me, it has become increasingly about play and exploration. So it’s really about like, you know, when kids go outside and you just say, go outside and play, they like look around and they see what’s there, right.
And they start to build a world and they just. You know, start to play with it. So that is essentially what, what, what a growth mindset is to me. So, one example I like to give is to talk about the difference between, a Rubik’s cube and playing Tetris. So bear with me here.
So a Rubik’s cube, I had a client who recently like just showed up in one of our sessions and like super accomplished, has her own business, has some family difficulties, some people that she’s having to take care of that are, it’s causing extreme stress, and she’s trying to take care of herself in the middle of all this. And she shows up in one of our sessions and she’s like, oh, you know, this fell apart, that fell apart, whatever. But I learned how to solve a Rubik’s cube this week. And I was like. What? I was like, 50 year old people can’t solve a Rubik’s Cube.
Like, you can’t, you have to be like 8 years old and a genius to solve a Rubik’s Cube. So I took it on as kind of a personal challenge. I was like, okay, it had always blown my mind how to do that. And so I went on YouTube and I looked around and I found people that are teaching how to do it. And like, everyone, I was like, what are you saying?
Like, I don’t even understand what you’re saying to me. And so I kept a growth mindset, right? I kept exploring, like looking for different people to explain it different ways and finally I found this dude who’s like, Hey, I’m gonna explain this to you. Like you’re my eight year old. And I was like, yes, I’m
Amy Bushatz: I am your eight year old. Go, go for it.
Sarah Hays Coomer: I’m your person. Let’s go. and he, I actually, I followed his videos and I learned how to solve a Rubik’s cube. And I was like, Oh, this is the same as habit building. Like there are different steps and they don’t look like they piece together at the very beginning. And once you understand what level 1, level 2, level 3 is of solving a Rubik’s Cube, then even when you are starting to learn the later levels, and you’re getting confused, and you’re getting thrown off, and it’s not working right, you can always go back to those levels 1, 2, 3, start over, and start building those layers on top of each other.
As opposed to with a game like Tetris, you know, it’s, it’s coming, it’s coming, it’s coming faster and faster and faster. Those blocks are falling from the ceiling and you have your sort of shoulders are rising and you’re trying to keep up and you’re right until it all falls apart and blows up. Right. So coming at habits with that growth mindset, that sense of exploration, like, Oh, I’m looking at it this way.
Oh, I see. Oh yeah, I see it now. And you can do it that time. And then each level gets easier and easier and easier as you go. So just coming at it with that sense of play I think is hugely important for when it falls apart and you can’t figure out what’s next or how to get going. Then you come back to the ones that are now non negotiable, that you didn’t have in the first place.
You didn’t used to have those good habits. And most of us can look back in our past and our history and be like, oh yeah, there was that time when I was depressed and I started hiking. It really changed my life and now it’s just part of who I am.
If you can look back and see that you’ve done that before then It builds confidence and a sense of self efficacy that you’re really able to start making more of those changes going forward and then continue approaching it with that sense of play to have the growth mindset.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. I think what you are also talking a little bit about is curiosity. Like, being willing to see. the possibilities for play and to have the presence to step back and ask the question about what is happening. I recently realized, like, oh, hello, seasonal depression, how are you doing? You know? And for me, you know, I was like, well, what the heck? Like, I, like, I go outside every day. Like, this should not be happening to me. You know, I still have this habit, still clipping right along. And I was able, I was able to do exactly what you just said, which is step back and say, okay, like, how, what worked for me before? What’s different about what I’m doing right now? And it was what we were talking about earlier, which is that daylight factor. And so now I am trying, you know, TBD on whether this helps, but I’m trying to make it a purposeful thing to go outside and my, when we talk about trigger or, cues, my cue is the clock.
So I considered my schedule. Now this isn’t always going to go and, and this is the case I think for all, everybody listening to this. Like you can pick a time of day that’s going to work for you most of the time and it’s not going to work for you all the time. So then you need to say. When this doesn’t happen at this time, how am I going to preserve this habit at a different time? Like have backup plan.
Sarah Hays Coomer: Exactly.
Amy Bushatz: So wondering, I’m thinking, well, you know, like a slow time for a day for me is around 1130. I’ve done a bunch of work in the morning. I’m waiting for people to get back to me. No one’s getting back to me yet. They’re all out to lunch. Literally. Let’s do the same thing for me.
And take that time to go outside in the daylight because even here in the darkness of Alaska it is light at noon. Thank you, Jesus. And so, and so, I can go outside and get just a little bit of daylight there. It’s not going to be a huge amount of time because I, like, do I want to use my outside time to go on a grand adventure? Yes, I do. Am I going to be able to fit that in during a lunch hour work day? well, I mean, I don’t think I can fit in what I want to fit in during that time, but I kind of hesitated saying that because I have this friend here who literally runs up and down a mountain over an hour of her lunch break almost every day. Now I am not fast enough to do that but that’s, that’s something that she fits in. So could I, I mean, I don’t know, I’m asking the question and, and I’m, what I’m saying is, I think listeners could ask themselves a question.
Like, just ask the question. There doesn’t have to be an answer. The answer does not have to be, well, I just got this whole mountain over here. I could just run up and down it. No problem, Bob. The answer could be, I have 15 minutes. I know that even 15 minutes matters. I’m going to go walk around the block. It might be the ice capades, but it’s better than nothing.
Sarah Hays Coomer: Yeah, yeah. I mean, you’re talking about either micro or macro doses of, of
Amy Bushatz: we talked about last year. Aha.
Sarah Hays Coomer: Of exercise of movement, of, yeah, yeah. So, this is one of my favorite things, is microdosing wellness. So it’s this idea that you have, like, becoming kind of an opportunist. Like, you have your lunch break. There it is. So she’s, she’s running up a mountain and maybe one day that’s a goal for you.
So maybe you want to find a microdose, you know, whatever, but find a microdose of, she’s, she’s going, oh, she’s shaking her head. microdoses of, of whatever you want to do during that hour. I mean, and I loved what you mentioned earlier too. I want to touch on that about how 20 minutes, like maybe that works for you. Maybe it doesn’t. I’m currently, currently having an Achilles. problem. and I have a bunch of PT that I have to do for it. And I was for, since, since my yoga practice fell apart during COVID, I have been saying, I need to get back to my daily yoga. It needs to be at least 15 minutes. I need to like every day.
And I just wasn’t doing it. And we have a whole like room that we’ve turned into a gym in my house. And I just wasn’t going in there to do it. So eventually when the, the Achilles started acting up, I was like, okay, now my buddy is, speaking of squeaks, it is screaming at me. And so now I just put a yoga mat in my bedroom first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
I spend anywhere from five to 15 minutes doing a little bit of yoga, stretching out that heel. It’s starting to get a little better and there’s no rule. There’s no parameter. I am identifying a problem and responding to my own needs with something that feels good and is enriching to my life. And that is what it should be.
And everybody should be able to find their own version of that. And it might be a very strict thing, or it might be a very flexible thing, depending on who you are. But if you know yourself and you know what you need, then you could build those responses
Amy Bushatz: Right. And when you do that, even a handful of times, you start to realize that you feel better. And now, and now you actually want to do it because you feel better. And eventually, when you don’t do it, you will feel bad. Like, which is the opposite of, like, just admit, like, it’s, it’s not just like, oh, this didn’t happen today. It’s like, I actively feel less good because it didn’t happen. and that’s the,
Sarah Hays Coomer: Then you know you’ve gotta
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Then you know you have a habit.
Sarah Hays Coomer: And you’ve got a habit
Amy Bushatz: Yeah, no, I, I love it, so someone asked me if I have any other habits I keep, and I had never thought about this, but I do. I have this, I, I don’t know why I’d never thought about this, but every day I do this, like, mobility practice. I follow a program through an app that I pay for, and It has become pretty much non negotiable. It is about 20 minutes it’s the first thing I do when I wake up, and when I don’t do it, I feel weird.
Sarah Hays Coomer: Yes. And think about the difference in your body. If you have done 20 minutes of mobility work every day for your entire life. When you get to be 80, 90 years old, the difference in your body will be extraordinary. So, yeah, I have one where right before bed, I will just go from a standing position all the way down to the floor without using my hands, lay back, do a full bridge back bend. Sit back up and stand all the way up from the floor again without using my hands And if my knees can do that for the rest of my life and my back has that flexibility to do that Then I feel like i’m good to go and that takes me all of a minute and a
Amy Bushatz: That sounds hard.
Sarah Hays Coomer: Well, I had to get it back. It was one of those things again during the pandemic. I was like wait I am a person who can do a backbend. And if I am not a person who can do a backbend, that is a problem for me. So I had to, I had to work my way back in and, and I had frozen shoulder for a while. So I had to, you know, work through that and recognizing again, the seasons, like what are we, what is, what is the version of stretching out that shoulder right now?
Maybe when I had frozen shoulder, I couldn’t do a backbend, but that was where I was headed
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Okay. So want to know what is the best way to move out of something that we don’t want to be doing to break that cycle. Another great example could be, doom scrolling on the internet.
For example, I, I post a photo every day on Instagram of my outdoor time. Awesome. Then, when I’m done with that, I spend some real quality time with videos of people I don’t know and don’t really want to be watching. And I know I don’t want to do it, but I do it anyway. So,
Sarah Hays Coomer: why? What do you think you’re getting out of it? What’s the reward? What are you
Amy Bushatz: There is no reward.
Sarah Hays Coomer: Mmm, there must be, or you wouldn’t be getting it.
Amy Bushatz: I like, I, Sarah, I literally sit there and say, get up, Amy. Stop doing this now. And I’m like, I’m like a robot. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s not good. Okay.
Sarah Hays Coomer: It sounds like maybe it’s letting you go offline, I wonder? It’s letting your brain kind of hum in default mode, so you’re not having to actively solve the problems of your life? I
Amy Bushatz: deep, so, boop, back
Sarah Hays Coomer: know, right, right, right. Anyway, just Yeah, you’re like, just to acknowledge that there is some reward. Otherwise, you really wouldn’t be doing it. There is some sort of peace or, you know, just getting out of your own head and into other people’s lives for a minute. Something
Amy Bushatz: Dopamine I mean, we, we talked to Michael Easter a while back on this podcast in his book Scarcity Brain, which talks about the addictive qualities of doing something like that. So I’m, I’m willing to acknowledge that it’s a dopamine hit or something. Like, anyway, how do I break it?
Sarah Hays Coomer: Yes. It’s doing, right. So it’s doing something for you. So that’ll, the awareness piece is the first part, which it sounds like you already have, right? You’re already going, stop, Amy,
Amy Bushatz: Yeah, but, you know, I think a lot of people, and even with your lack of yoga habit, right, you were aware that you were doing, not doing that, and I’m aware that I’m doing this. And those, that being aware and action, not necessarily the same thing. That’s the problem. Yeah.
Sarah Hays Coomer: So what would you like to be, what would you like to be doing instead?
Amy Bushatz: I would like to be going to bed. Actually, I would love to be, I want to be in my bed reading a book for a little bit. That’s really what I, because it helps me, so I know, right? Because I’ve done that, it helps me sleep better, if I have like a little cool down time without the internet and my friends, the cat videos, before I go to bed.
Sarah Hays Coomer: Okay. So you’re already in bed scrolling and you’d rather be in bed reading.
Amy Bushatz: I actually am not in bed technical detail. I don’t take my phone into my room. So my phone is, I’m on the couch, I’m like far away from bed. The cycle has
Sarah Hays Coomer: Okay,
Amy Bushatz: The going bed pattern
Sarah Hays Coomer: That’s actually better.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah.
Sarah Hays Coomer: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. No, that’s not a small detail. That’s a huge detail so
I don’t take my phone in my room.
Yeah. So, I often encourage people to look for a ritual, something. So if, if you are on the couch on your phone and you are saying to yourself, I am aware, I would like to stop this.
If there becomes an automatic go to ritual that can get you either to put down the phone or to stand up or to get in touch with your body, like we were talking about a gap ritual earlier. So some sort of thing. physicalized ritual that is your response to Amy, stop it, Amy, stop it. Because then you’re just in a guilt spiral, right? Amy, stop it. but I want to see the next cat. I want to see the next one. You know,
Amy Bushatz: I don’t even I don’t like cats, but here I am. Mm
Sarah Hays Coomer: Here we are. Yeah. So, so, so those first few times, like you said earlier, you know, with my, with my thing getting started, , it’s interrupting and moving your body into the bedroom to get the book is a huge leap.
So what can happen in the living room, on the couch with the phone that can start to interrupt and let you make the choice. Do I want to, so you’re not just saying, stop, stop, stop. You’re actually, physically changing something and then putting yourself in a position where you’re like, okay. Do I want to sit back on the couch and start scrolling again? Or do I want to go to the bedroom and read? That interruption piece is so important because if the scrolling is genuinely causing you, you know discomfort in some way, and you really you you don’t want to continue doing that and you have good reasons for it Then if you give yourself a choice enough times you’re gonna get bored with yourself of choosing the old thing. And at some point you’re gonna get as you say curious and say well what if? What if I did this other thing? Or what if I did this thing in between that, that was sort of moving me away from that particular physical posture of where I am with the phone and toward the other one that I want to be in?
Amy Bushatz: So, in relation to going outside, I’m thinking, like, the most common excuse, like, people say, oh, I don’t have time for that, right? What they mean is they’re doing what I’m doing. I think often what they mean is that they’re doing other things. Because we all have the same amount of time. So, and it’s not a priority. And that’s fine. If you don’t want it to be a priority, don’t do it. But if you do want to be a priority, and you’re doing something else instead. So, I want reading before bed to be a priority, but, and yet I am looking. Doom scrolling Instagram. if I’m doing that instead of reading even a few pages of the book I am actually enjoying and really do want to read, I need to interrupt that and remember the thing I want to do until it becomes more and more of a memorable reward, like you’re doing yoga, it feels good, so now you interrupt what you’re doing to do yoga because it felt good, and then you remember that it felt good, so you, you know, on and on and on.
Sarah Hays Coomer: Yeah.
Amy Bushatz: Interrupt that enough times, and then not doing the thing that you actually want to do. So going outside or me reading my book becomes weird. It’s weird. It feels weird.
Sarah Hays Coomer: Yes, I think I mean that that that’s it and and and the the and keeping in mind that it can be as you mentioned a very whatever version of it you need it to be so if like when I was hiking and I was I mean I was in bad spot I was really I was- I was not in a good mental health space and getting to the base of that mountain was not an easy task, and I considered it, the success was getting the sneakers on and getting to the base of the
Amy Bushatz: mountain.
Sarah Hays Coomer: The success was not the hike itself. So for somebody who wants to create an outside habit, simply stepping outside the door and taking, we’ve talked about this in our past episodes, taking a couple of deep breaths, can in and of itself be the success. And then you build that sense of self efficacy. You build the consistency and the knowledge that you’re capable of making a change that actually feels good.
And then once that starts to happen, if that change is really going to enrich your life and make you feel better, then you’re going to want more of it. And you’ll find your own way. You’ll get curious about it and you’ll find ways to build on that.
Amy Bushatz: hmm. Oh, that’s so good. Okay.
I want to know before we close. a favorite outdoor moment of yours. We’ve talked about them before, but you have a lot of outdoor moments. So tell us, walk us out with an outdoor moment that you love to remember. And if you could describe it for us, that would be cool.
Sarah Hays Coomer: Yeah, so, I took my son this past fall break to San Francisco and we had a very sort of big city, speaking of urban environments, we went to Google, we went to Alcatraz, we did, you know, all kinds of things throughout the city that were very urban. And then we took a day and we went up to Muir Woods, which is just north of the city. It’s about a 20 minute drive and we were standing in the middle of the redwood forest.
And he just looked at me and he said, Mom, thank you for taking me here. This is amazing. And I thought, Oh, I just wanted him to understand that you can be outdoors in the middle of the city, that you can find opportunities and every trip that you take in every day at home to get outside and to really enjoy yourself.
And we were talking about how the difference between the people walking into the forest and the people walking. Out of the forest. You could see the difference in the cadence of their bodies and their energy and how they were moving. And it was really pretty remarkable. And he’s only, he, he was 11 at the time. And he saw it. He really saw it. And it was amazing.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. That’s something you and I have both experienced and it is what I want everyone who’s listening to this to experience. So thank you for sharing that.
Sarah, thank you so much for joining us on Humans Outside today and sharing your wisdom and insight on habit building and less good habit breaking we sure appreciate you.
Sarah Hays Coomer: Thank you so much for having me again, Amy. I love being here. And I’m a huge, huge fan of what you’re doing. I think this is so important.
Amy Bushatz: That’s a wrap on this episode of Humans Outside, but hey, I need your help. Enjoy the show, leave a five star rating or review wherever you get your podcasts. It makes me feel good, but it also helps others find the show too, which is cool, right? Now go get outside. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.