How to Get Outside and Ease Your Mind
Getting outside and moving your body has big benefits for your mental and physical health.
3 Min. Read | Home & Backyard
Physical activity and time outside are two wonderful gifts for your body and mind; studies have shown that they decrease stress, reduce anxiety and offer a greater sense of well-being. Our partners at Mental Health America suggest 10 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity twice a day, providing quick boosts to your energy, mood and state of mind.
It's easy to find ten minutes, right? Maybe, maybe not – especially when you’re trying to fit it into an already-packed schedule, or if stress and anxiety make it hard to give yourself time for self-care. Here are a few tips to make it easier to get out there, so you’re ready to seize those moments when they come up and make the most of your time outside.
Get Ready to Get Out There
Set yourself up for success.
Anything you can do to make the transition from indoors to outdoors seamless will help you jump into action when you have a few minutes to spare. Think of those moments when you know you’ll be energized, and prepare for them ahead of time: if you get the most of morning walks, for example, get everything set the night before, so you don’t have to think about it in the morning. Leave your walking shoes and active clothing right by the door, or in a bag at your workplace, so you can grab-and-go when you have ten minutes free. The same thing goes for headphones, a water bottle and any other gear that makes it easier for you to mix a little outdoor movement into your day.
Treat it as a treat.
This isn’t a chore, or an obligation; it’s a well-deserved break in your day. You’re treating yourself to fresh air, more focus, a healthier body and a better mood. Put together a playlist of your favorite tunes, or a podcast or audiobook you’ve been looking forward to listening to. Think of the things you’ll experience when you go outside, whether it’s the birds and plants in your backyard or a quick chat with your neighbors as you stroll down the sidewalk.
Give yourself a goal.
Maybe you want to try a new yoga flow, walk a new trail, or just get a sweat going in your backyard. That’s plenty to focus on for now! With any long-term goal, there’s a big picture (in this case, building a routine) and a little picture (this particular trip outdoors). Just making this time for yourself counts as a win, so relish that feeling and focus on this one 10 minute workout. When you go into your exercise with intention, you’ll have something to work towards – and feel a sense of accomplishment when you get there.
Step Outside and Start Moving
The entire outdoors is your playground.
Step outside and take in all the possibilities. If you want to stay close to home, you can do yoga or strength exercises right on your front step or in your backyard, with the sun shining down from above and fresh air in your lungs. If you want to go a little farther, you can let your feet and inspiration lead the way for a walk or jog around your neighborhood. Or, if there’s a nearby park with playground or exercise equipment, you can head there and go through a more targeted workout. Wherever you go, time outside is time well spent.
Do what feels good.
“Moderate or vigorous activity” can mean a lot of things – and it definitely doesn’t have to mean running a marathon or hitting gym equipment. Moderate activities could be things like walking the dog, doing yardwork or leisurely biking; vigorous activities are things like jogging, running, swimming laps, jumping rope or hiking. You can even turn everyday tasks into opportunities for physical activity: walk a bit faster to the post office, park a little farther away at the store, or dive into that backyard project you’ve been putting off. If it’s getting your blood pumping and your body moving, it’s getting you towards your goal.
Safety tip: If you don’t regularly exercise, you may want to talk to your doctor before starting a new routine. And regardless of how often you exercise, make sure to start by warming up, end by cooling down, and stretch the muscles you’ve worked out.
One of the great benefits of time outside is that it arouses a feeling of awe – a sensation of being in the presence of something bigger and more powerful than us. When you’re exercising outside, lean into these sensations. Be present for the taste of air on your lips, the warmth of the sun on your skin, the feeling of the ground beneath your feet.
Make Outdoor Time a Habit
Notice the benefits.
As you cool down from your activity and get ready to head back inside, notice how you feel. Is your head clearer, your focus sharper? What about your mood – are you less stressed, with a new perspective on any issues you’ve been dealing with? Did you achieve your goals? Any answer is okay; the important thing is to focus on where your head is at this moment, so you can fully absorb the benefits of the movement and think about what you need to do to make it most effective.
Change it up if you need to.
The easier it is to step outside and get your heart rate up, the more likely you are to make it a habit, so think about what worked and what didn’t. Are you too tired at the end of the day to head outdoors? Next time, try it first thing in the morning. Are you having trouble staying focused or motivated? Team up with a friend so you can keep each other on track (and keep each other company). Keep a journal of your accomplishments to see them stack up, or put time on your calendar to step outside and reenergize.
Have patience with yourself.
If you didn’t manage to hit your goals, or you haven’t quite turned twice-daily time outside into a routine, that’s not a big deal. According to Mental Health America, it takes an average of 66 days for a behavior to become automatic – so if it doesn’t feel natural or routine for you right away, you’re not alone. Every time you go outside, you’re doing something good for yourself, and taking care of your physical and mental health. Hopefully, with these tips, it will get easier to get out there the next time, and the next time, and the time after that – until you develop a practice that nurtures your body and helps ease your mind.