I had the blessing of a childhood tightly intertwined with nature. Instead of days spent with a television babysitter or smartphone appendage, I was nearly always outdoors. Rain, shine, or storm I was outside with only my imagination, friends, and ingenuity.
The reason I’m highlighting my relationship with growing up in a nature-filled life, is because of the stark contrast to how most of the industrialized world lives today. Even how I live today. Having chronic pain and illnesses, we rely so heavily on being indoors. That safety, comfort, and routine that our four walls provide. I’ve often fallen into the trap where I don’t leave my room or home for multiple days at a time. After all, it’s easy to stay put. In my familiar setting, I know how to navigate my pain and symptoms.
Living in a city makes getting out in nature a bit more complicated. You can’t just walk out your door and be absorbed in a forest. It takes effort to find green spaces and calm waters. But, it’s worth it. If a small local park is the best you can do, go sit in that park. Taking 5 minutes to breath in the presence of chirping birds and dewy grass is so very important. Even better, if you can find your way to a mountain, beach, woodland, or desert. Fully immersing yourself in the beautiful outdoors brings those almost impossible moments of not feeling your symptoms closer. Nature is a fantastic distraction.
Some tips for making the experience enjoyable and repeatable:
If it’s cold, bundle up. Hot? Bring some shade. Always dress for the weather you will be experiencing at the location. Layers are best and lightweight clothes put less pressure on joints and skin. Use sunscreen, rain or shine and extra protection for extremities and/or numb areas.
Of course, planning ahead is critical to giving your body and mind the most peaceful experience possible. Pack important items (such as meds, devices, food, water, phone charger, etc.) in excess. That way, you aren’t worried about being stuck somewhere without your supplies. If you need to rest or take longer than “normal” to complete your excursion, being well-stocked helps.
Choose your methods of travel and carry carefully. Heading to a beach with easy access is very different than a day-long excursion on an unleveled trail in the woods. If you are going to be doing a lot of walking or navigating around obstacles, make traveling to and from the location comfortable and relaxing. Don’t overexert yourself before the adventure has begun. Look for backpacks or other carrying devices that best suit your physical needs. They make a wide variety of bags and carts that help ease weight and pressure. Also, consider accessibility tools such as foldable stools and walking sticks.
Advocate for yourself. Take breaks when you need breaks. Leave when you need to leave. Listen to your body’s signals and follow your gut. Be proud of yourself for making it outside! The amount of time that you spend out there is entirely up to you. Don’t feel guilty for missing the sunset or not making it to the best vantage point. Let any adventure partners know that you will make a maximum effort, but that when you need to pull the plug, there isn’t going to be a negotiation. If they can’t handle that boundary, go alone or find a different nature buddy.
There will always be a reason not to go. Often those reasons will be valid. But, when you can do it, when you can get outside, GO! It’s not going to fix everything or cure you. It is going to bring a smile to your face and remind you of the world outside of yourself.