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  • Derek Stoppels

GET OUTSIDE!

There's two things I love about being outdoors:

1) You'll never get bored
2) It reduces stress

1) You'll never get bored:


There's always something to do, something to look at, something to listen to, something to think about and something to question.


Once you're outside, you can move. There is TONS of space to move around. If you don't live in the country and have tons of room, like I do, you're never far from a park (if you live in Ottawa...one of the things I love about this city!). Walk there, bike there, try not to drive there. And if it's too far to walk, walk there anyway and turn around.


We spend so much time sitting, or even just being indoors. We have to move our bodies more. We have to move in ways that we don't normally move. Jump, raise your arms, swing them. Run, crawl, hop, balance, pick something up and put it back down. Get back to doing more natural movements, stretching and using your muscles. You don't have to do yoga to stretch. If you spend your days inside sitting at a desk or table, go stand outside and raise your arms, arch your back (but not too much), take some deep breaths and get some fresh air in your snout!


You can practice finding creative ways to occupy yourself, and to express yourself. You can prove to yourself that you only need yourself to keep busy. You will notice that you don't actually need a screen to not get bored. I can't stress the importance of having the ability to entertain yourself. Your confidence goes up, your coping skills improve, your performance increases and your ability to advocate for yourself strengthens.


There is really no downside to spending more time outside...except maybe bugs...and poison ivy.


2) It reduces Stress:


We're in the middle of one of the most stressful times of the school

year. The end of the year. We always think we should be winding down, but it seems like it's all ramping up. Summatives are due, exams are so close you can taste them, and the pace speeds up as teachers try to make sure they cover all the content they need to cover. But at the same time, hormones are going crazy, the weather is warmer, plans for summer are being made and it's nearly impossible to focus on the here and now. Some students have jobs, and other social responsibilities and at times it seems like it's going to be impossible to get through the last few weeks of the school year. Here's what I suggest:


Go outside. Look around. Take it in. Notice the things you're looking at. Say to yourself, "there's a tree, there's the road, there's a car, there's a bird, there's the clouds." It's so important for mental health to take note of all the amazing things around you.


You're probably going to think to yourself that you don't have the time to get outside with all the things you have to do, but:


Go outside, take a deep breath and pay attention to the air coming into your body, and leaving your body. Pay attention to the way your chest feels as it expands, and how your belly feels as you fill your lungs with air. Feel the air touching your face, your skin. Listen to the sounds around you. Take note of everything that is happening at the moment, around you and inside you, but don't dwell on it. Notice it, then let it go. Notice your thoughts, and then let them go. Focus on what is happening here and now, moment by moment.


When you go outside, it's nearly impossible not to be active. There is study after study that shows how being active improves not just your physical health, but your mental and cognitive health as well. The best book I've read that proves this is called SPARK by Dr. John Ratey. He demonstrates that people who perform physical activity before school perform better in class. Their mind is clearer, their thoughts are more organized, they remember things better, focus better and study better. He really proves that there is no bad reason to be active first thing in the morning.


But if you can't be active in the morning, there is never a bad time to be active. Just get outside and move around. The endorphins released during physical activity are proven to reduce stress and improve your mood. Who doesn't want to be less stressed and feel better?! Never mind the long term benefits, physical activity will make you feel better instantly. Sure, you'll be tired, maybe breathing a little heavy, muscles might be sore, but notice how your brain feels, or your chest, neck and shoulders.


One of the most important things you can do for yourself is make and take time for yourself. Get active, move around, get outside! It will only have positive effects. Everything is better when you move around and everything is better than that if you move around outside!


You'll never regret spending more time outside.

The sun set from my front porch!

Spark by Dr. John Ratey

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Ottawa, ON, Canada

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