Have you noticed any difference to your wellbeing since you started the challenge?
This started as a gratitude project. It was about appreciating everything that was in my own backyard. I do feel much happier, I get excited about each day and I know my anxiety is much more under control. But the biggest benefit was one I didn't predict. That is the time I have spent doing stuff with my kids. I have switched going to the gym and to yoga with getting out and about with them and that has been the biggest source of happiness. We just do more and we laugh more. Probably the best moment of this challenge was when my little girl said to me, "Mummy I love how you find something good in everyday."
You often see things about the importance of "me time", but I think we need more "we time" — time doing more things with the people you love that you all enjoy. Because ultimately, relationships matter most.
Would you recommend other people take up the challenge?
Yes I would recommend it. This challenge is about doing more of what you love more often. So many health challenges are based on deprivation - you can't do this or you can't do that. Say no to this, say no to that. I think we need to say yes more. Yes to giving things a go. Yes to new experiences and places.
Doing it every day takes away the decision making. You've got to make it a habit.
So your work is about helping people enjoy better health by spending time outdoors? What have you learned about the health benefits of being outdoors?
The obvious things are the fresh air and exercise and Vitamin D, which improves our mood. People who walk in nature have improvements to their mood above those who walk in urban areas, so we know it is not simply exercise. Perhaps it’s because we are less on high alert in nature and our brains have space to think clearly. Patients who have a view overlooking a natural environment heal faster than those who have no view. So perhaps there is a visual element. Or maybe it is the sense of awe and beauty that we get which just makes us feel positive and grateful and alive.
If we don't get enough sunshine (even the kind we get from a grey cloudy day), that can send our body all out of whack. As a rule of thumb, one researcher says every hour you spend outside in the middle of the day will give you 30 minutes more of quality sleep each night.
How do your kids benefit from your time outside?
My son has ADHD so getting outside is particularly important for us. Exercise has been shown to be just as effective at treating ADHD as medication in many children. Exercise is important for helping kids learn. When we are physically active, we release a substance called BDNF which, for want of a better term, fertilises our brain's memory center and plays a role in generating neurons — yes, making more brain cells! It also blunts the responsiveness of the brain's emotion center so we are simultaneously sharper, and emotionally more stable — two key ingredients for a better learning experience.
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