Tag Archives: mental health

Many Ways to Get Outside

IMG_1258 (1).jpg

As autumn approaches I cannot help but be concerned. With each passing year, there is greater and greater evidence that the lives we live in our present day culture are out of balance. Obesity rates continue to increase. Anxiety, stress, and similar mental health related concerns suddenly seem to be everywhere. Perhaps most alarmingly, opioid addiction has recently skyrocketed. It is now estimated that in the United States about 100 deaths per day can be attributed to opioids. Heck, even the fact that 90% of Americans consume caffeine, a far less risky drug, everyday is certainly a sign that something is off. For what reason are so many people dependent on caffeine, a stimulant, just to conduct a typical day’s activities?

The conclusion I have come to is that most of us spend too much time in the following three states..

  • Alone
  • Indoors
  • Seated

Many people spend most of their time in all three states. A lot of service sector jobs require that workers spend nearly all of their time at a desk, in front of a computer, alone. Outside of work, Americans now spend an average of about five hours per day watching TV, and are spending more and more time on their mobile devices. It’s no wonder 70% of the US population does not meet its daily recommended intake of Vitamin D. Vitamin D has but one natural source, the sun.

img_8124

Luckily, there are many ways to get outside! When many people think of the outdoors, they think about camping trips, long excursions into the wilderness, and other things that are far far away and require large amounts of time and planning. It is easy for those living in a major city to think of the outdoors as something only available during those special times, usually only several times a year, when their schedule permits.

However, it appears as if spending time outdoors is more important than many people realize. It may even be the answer to some of our society’s currently problems. This entry from MyWildEarth, a blog from the other side of the world that encourages adventure, outlines all of the health benefits, both physical and mental, of spending time outdoors.

In one weekend, I was able to identify several ways in which to get outside that do not require large amounts of time or advanced planning. And, as this photo suggests, these activities can be social as well.

A moderate difficulty 30-50 mile bike ride is an activity that can be fit into a weekend morning, and shared with others. For many, it does not require driving at all, just hop on a bike straight from home!

Many people are able to drive a short distance to somewhere that autumn is going to show its true beauty. The leaves on the trees here in Colorado turn a bit earlier than they do in most other places. In the coming weeks, there will be great weekends for viewing spectacular fall colors in the Upper Midwest, New England, and eventually places like the Mid-Atlantic, the Smoky Mountains and parts of the Southeast.

For those whose time is extremely limited, there are ways to get outside without even leaving the city or town in which one lives. Gardening is an outdoor activity that can be done on one’s property or in a community garden. As an added health bonus, the fresh vegetables can be used to produce fantastic meals that are both healthy and conducive to social events. Also, nearly everyone should have access to a local park a short distance from home. This will more important in the coming months, as the days get shorter, the weather less consistent, and the opportunities to get that vital time outdoors become more limited.

IMG_8629.jpg

I write about a lot of adventures on this blog. Each entry is not just a description about the places I go and things I do, but also a personal narrative.

I had a recent discussion with some good friends about the digital era, social media, and the manner in which we conduct ourselves online. To many, it feels as if people post about their adventures primarily in order to show off and seek attention. It is my hope that the narratives on this site make it about more than just that.

It is my hope that by sharing these stories with others, more are encouraged to seek activities that improve our health; mentally, physically, and spiritually.

We need to interact with others, and do so in a manner that is meaningful. Our bodies need movement, and they need sun. We also need time away from the digital world. Many did get that time during the summer, on trips, at summer camp, etc. Now that all the kids are back at school and the days are getting shorter, it is imperative that we look for opportunities to get outside. Luckily, even without traveling too far from home, there are a lot of wonderful options for all of us.

A Mental Health Day

IMG_6149

I feel like I have over 100 things on my mind, all vying for space, all wearing me out.  All the changes I see around me.  The shocks, the craziness, the idiocy.  The selfishness.  My personal shortcomings, recent mistakes, how my life’s path ended up where it is and what to do about it.  How do we find a balance between order and chaos?  All the ways in which the people around me have let me down.  All the ways I let the people around me down.  How do I keep the benefits of having a smart phone (like being able to take pictures like this, after 28 miles of bicycling, which would have been tough carrying a heavier device) but avoid the pitfalls of mindless scrolling on weekdays when bored?  What is my future,  and how do I find my niche?   What is the future of our society?  The mindless violence followed by the sometimes equally idiotic responses to it.  Globalization.  Trump, Brexit, and the backlash to globalization.  But, most of all, the disappointments when experiences do not match expectations.

Simply put, I needed a mental health day.  I think we all do from time to time.  A day where we get away from jobs, computers, social media, day-to-day responsibilities, pretty much everything that causes us stress, and do something that we enjoy.  This, of course is something different for everybody, and it is not up to me to judge what any one person does for their mental health days.  Well, unless of course it is something morally reprehensible like murder or theft.

I have a firm belief in, and also a unique take on, the connection between mind, body, and spirit.  Over the course of my life, and in observing others, it is almost impossible not to observe the connection between the three.  I remember winters in Chicago, and other times when lack of exercise would in turn weigh on my mind and spirit.  Overall, improvements in one of the three realms often force improvements in the other two.  Likewise, a deterioration in one of the three realms can negatively impact the other two, like the person who develops an eating disorder after a rough breakup.

So, I decided to make my mental health day also a physical health day, with a bike ride to Roxborough State Park.  This is a ride I did two years ago.  The basic gist is that it is 28 miles each way, goes by Chattfield Reservoir, and is a significant climb over the last five or six miles.

Wednesday’s ride was even more exhausting, as temperatures soared into the 90s and a Southerly wind developed making the last several miles of climbing in harder.  Needless to say, I arrived at Roxborough exhausted.  In fact, I had to sit inside for about 15 minutes to cool off when I got there.

IMG_6140

Still, I decided to do some hiking.  Knowing that my legs were exhausted, I decided to stick to moderate trails, but ones where I can still view the essence of the park and what makes it geologically unique.

IMG_6142IMG_6143

It was after roughly 1.5 miles of hiking that the ideas suddenly started popping into my head.  Ideas about things I could be doing with my life just entered my mind.  I could do this, and present it to these people, and achieve fulfillment in this manner.  They just kept pouring in, and, for some reason, felt so simplistic to me.  Like, the only thing I need to do is just go out and do these things.

IMG_6144

These are all things that frustrate the hell out of me day and night.  Maybe it is because all of the physical exertion caused my mind to slow down enough for my brain to stop over-thinking things.  Maybe it is the freedom from all of the distractions of daily life.  It’s strange what I was contemplating.  Whenever I am in front of a computer, at an office, in a cube, or in some kind of work-like setting all of the ideas I have seem almost impossible, like a daunting challenge that would take years to attempt and would likely not result in any meaningful success.  In a way, there, I feel stuck.  Here, not so much.  Here, the same exact ideas seem quite possible.

It is here that the conspiracy theorist in me gets activated, so please bare with me, as I am the kind of person that just likes to entertain theories, even if I am not necessarily going to conclude that they are true.  I wonder if cubicles, offices, sedentary days and the like are the way “the system” maintains itself.  By “the system” I mean what I am observing around me.  A whole generation of highly educated people going to work at jobs that are well beneath the skill level they develop through college, and increasingly, post-granulate, education.  A whole generation of people submitting to rules, such as a strict 9-5 schedules and dress codes, that are no longer relevant for the kind of work that now predominates in a service sector economy.  Is the reason people continue down this path the manner in which a whole day of sitting at a computer connected to the internet and all of its distractions make them feel?

IMG_6147

People visit Roxborough State Park, and the geologically similar and more well-known Garden of the Gods, because they are unique.  If this place looked like every other place on Earth, people would not make a specific point of coming here.  So, maybe the key to being the kind of person people seek after, is to be unique.  After all, the person you meet at the party that is exactly like everyone else, is the person you don’t remember.  Sorry to be harsh.  But, it’s when someone does something unique, or interesting, that you remember that person.  Strangely, though, the world of school, and subsequently work, encourages conformity.  It encourages people to follow the worn out path and do things the way they are always done.  Maybe overcoming that conditioning and doing things our own way is the key to life, both in terms of success and happiness.