Make Time for Two Hours Outside

Were you outdoors for a walk this weekend? The research is piling up showing that spending time outside in natural surroundings is associated with lower levels of stress hormones, less anxiety, less depression and even improved cognitive ability.

A children’s hospital in the US has a question on their discharge questionnaire: Does the child have access to outdoors and green spaces? If not, they are offered to take part in a nature program. Clinical trials show that this program increases the children’s health and decreases the parents’ stress levels.

Spending two hours per week walking in nature gives a significant improvement in health and subjective well-being. If you like numbers, a study shows that the effect increases with more time outside, reaching the maximum at 5 hours outdoors per week. That half an hour on workdays and Saturday, and one two-hour walk on Sunday. For everyone without a significant mobility impairment, that is completely achievable.

Make sure you get your two hours outside every week. That gives you the energy to work on anything else you need to change in your life.

Valentine’s Day

If you have a partner and can’t go out for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner on Sunday, make one yourself. Light some candles, find the placemats and cloth napkins, the nice wine glasses and the best plates. Even if you’re not a great chef, establish a great setting. It does make a difference.

Help Someone

To help yourself, find someone else to help. Helping others is a deep human urge and has been with us since humans first banded together to help and protect each other. When you are able to help someone, the brain releases dopamine which is a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good.

There are many ways to helping others. If nothing comes to mind for you, simply tell yourself that you are looking for someone to help. That primes your brain to look for opportunities to contribute. Even if the pandemic prevents us from meeting in person, you can answer questions online, or shovel snow for your neighbor, or do other physical tasks that don’t require proximity.

Two kids in the US decided to show their appreciation for their local medical professionals. They went to the parking lot of a local hospital after a recent snowstorm and cleaned the snow from people’s cars. There are lots of ways to help if you look for them.

Numbers Optional

Do you run your life by the numbers? Some people meticulously record their steps, their time, and their diet, and the media and the internet is full of well-meaning advice from these people. And there is of course a gadget or an app to track and register everything.

This approach works for a specific kind of people. However, if you are not a numbers person, there is no need to feel guilty because other people say you should be tracking steps, calories or anything else.

If you want to improve your life, you do need to take time to reflect on what you are doing with the days you have been given. But tracking exact numbers is purely optional.

Emotional Agility

Do you have emotional agility? If you do, you are able to respond appropriately to the challenges that life throws at you without over-reacting.

The term was coined by Susan David and Christina Congleton in a Harvard Business Review article, and it is very similar to the technique I help my clients use.

The point is to stop the automatic response that occurs when faced with unpleasant or challenging situations. Instead, you learn to become aware of your feelings, accept their existence and then take action. Breaking the stimulus-response chain is the most important thing you can do to take control of your life. Contact me if you want to learn more. Click the button in the lower right corner to schedule a free call.

Winner Mentality

They said he was too old, but he proved them wrong. Many of my American friends are celebrating the incredible performance of American football quarterback Tom Brady, who just won his 7th Super Bowl. He is 43 years old and the oldest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl, beating his own record from two years ago, when he was also the oldest quarterback to win it.

He is no longer the strongest or the fastest, but he still has the mentality to win. If he thought he was too old, he wouldn’t have won. But he goes out on the field with a confident expectation that he will do exceptionally well.

You need to meet your life with a similar attitude. There might be others who are stronger or faster, but you have a unique combination of skill, talent, and personality that will make you successful. Work on your self-talk until you believe it.

Plan 10,000 Steps

You move less than you think you do. If you don’t believe me, look at the activity monitory on your mobile device. Fortunately, the weekend is coming up, and that’s an opportunity to get out for a long walk. If you don’t have an app that counts steps, get a cheap pedometer (step counter). Your goal should be to get to 10,000 steps. That might be hard to fit into your everyday routine, but is completely doable on a day where you don’t have to work. If you haven’t been walking at all, start with a lower target, but work your way up to the ten thousand. 

Make a plan today where you are going to take your long walk. Look at Google maps and plan out a route. If you don’t live near natural surroundings, plan where you will drive to and start your walk. Making a plan today makes it much more likely you’ll actually do it tomorrow or Sunday.

Be Prepared

What would happen if you lost your purse? Or your car breaks down while you’re driving? If you tend towards anxiety, as many bullying victims do, you can spend a lot of time worrying about things that might happen.

Fortunately, there is an antidote to this kind of worrying. Whenever you feel anxiety about some possible event, make a note of it. Later, when you are feeling calm and in a familiar and safe environment, take out your note and think about what you would do if that situation happened.  If you lost your purse, there would be credit cards to cancel, and you might need to get a replacement driver’s license. Find out in advance exactly what you would need to do. Find the phone numbers you need to call or the websites you need to visit. Store that information in several places – on your phone, on paper, on your computer.

When you have thought a situation through in advance and know exactly what to do, the anxiety is much lessened. Often, you’ll that you completely stop thinking about the situation that worried you.

Speak Up Against Bullying

Ireland has taken step forward in the fight against workplace bullying with their new “Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work.” Having an official definition of what constitutes bullying can be helpful. It means that a company HR department that receives a complaint has something to compare the reported behavior to.

Rules are one part of the fight against bullying, but the most important part is yours. If you are subject of bullying, you need to report it. If you witness bullying and don’t want to step into the situation, you also need to report it. When we all speak up against bullying, the bully faces consequences and bullying decreases.

Make Food

During lockdown, many people have taken up baking and cooking. If you are one of them, you have probably experienced that you feel better during and after preparing food. Research shows  that there are many ways that baking and cooking affects our mood positively, and the ability to cook is associated with greater mental well-being and lower levels of depression.

If you are not yet cooking or baking yourself, give it a try. It doesn’t take long and being able to create food for yourself and others is a very deep human need.

When lockdown is over, don’t stop.