nature walk

spring cleaning | a dose of nature

It’s official: Mother Nature is waking up and flexing. The flowers are blooming (yay!) and the mosquitoes are out (boo!)

So far in the Spring Cleaning series, we’ve talked about internal environments: inside our bodies and inside our homes. And today we’re going outside—out into the sunshine baring our skin with all the other fish-belly-white folks!

I always laugh about the transitional seasons in places like Michigan and Vermont, when from indoors, you’d never be able to gauge the temperature out there judging by how people are (un)dressed.

  • Exhibit A: your average adolescent/college student, now sporting shorts and (sometimes) sleeveless tops.
  • Exhibit B: the folks who WILL. NOT. BE. FOOLED. They’ve still got their parkas on. Because if you don’t like the weather (or even if you do), wait five minutes.
  • Exhibit C: those who tentatively bring the lighter coats out … and still wear a hat and gloves.

Kermit the Dog probably falls in group A: he HATES wearing a doggie jacket, so we have an agreement that if it’s over 20ºF and not windy, he may go without. Otherwise, his sleek fur is just not warm enough, especially on his naked little belly!

I’m firmly in group C. My Russian roots refuse to catch a chill. (I never understood how people who are terrified of a little cool breeze will swaddle their children and put them in their stroller on the porch to sleep. Outside. In the winter.)

And my Chinese connections encourage me to keep my belly button covered at all times at any cost.

I would much rather be hot than cold—as my coworkers who have survived the air conditioning wars with me will attest.

spring energy

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, spring is a time of renewal and rebirth. The yin energy of fall and deep winter gives way to a more yang, rising and expanding energy.

If we’re paying attention to our bodies, they’re probably asking us to eat lighter foods that are beginning to grow above ground (asparagus, anyone? rhubarb? spring greens?). And we shift away from low and slow cooking methods, such as braising and simmering, to fast and hot methods, such as steaming.

And they’re also requesting that we get off the couch already and move a bit more—especially outside.

Our morning walks have shifted to earlier times as the light comes earlier. And Kermit and I regularly meet 15–20 people on the walking paths instead of the 3–5 we’d run into in January.

nature as healer

There is lots of evidence out there that time in nature is one of the best medicines there is. Not just for our physical health but also for our mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.

According to Healthline, time in nature provides us with:

  • Better breathing
  • Improved sleep
  • Reduced depression
  • Increased motivation to exercise
  • Heightened mental energy
  • Boosted immune health
  • Better vision
  • Improved emotional wellness

The American Psychological Association has much the same to say and adds an interesting layer with its discussion of “green and blue spaces.” And the good news is that urban parks with green and blue spaces can have a substantial effect on us even if we can’t get out of the city.

And Psychology Today takes it a step further and says that even sitting by an open window with a view of nature improves even surgery outcomes more quickly.

That’s not to say that sitting by a window or going to a city park should foster an “I’ve gotten my dose of nature” attitude.

Get off your screens (most American log 10 hours of screen time daily) and get out there!

spring cleaning, outdoor edition

One way to get outside is to make some headway on all the outdoor tasks that have piled up. If you own your own home, you know what I’m talking about!

You don’t have to follow Martha Stewart’s strict calendar of what tasks to do on what day of what week of what month during the year. If the sheer number or scope of the tasks feels overwhelming, start anywhere and do a little bit daily. Take one tiny step. And tomorrow take another.

Today, I managed to clean and install two of the four screens that go into my second-floor windows. It’s a start.

Tomorrow, I’ll put in the rest and clean out a little of the back yard flowerbed!

And if you don’t own the land on which you live, you may still get some satisfaction (and health benefits) from doing some tidying up in a local park or along a roadway. Just do it safely—and do it with the attitude that you’re benefiting from it, not that you’re martyring yourself for others’ benefit. The martyr’s way just brings bad energy into the mix!

make the connection

You don’t have to be out there in the snow, rain, and what Vermonters call “wintry mix” the way Kermit and I are. (I often think about the Pony Express motto about “through rain and sleet and snow…” as we trudge off during the winter. In some ways, we’re more reliable than the USPS these days!) And you might want to consider getting outside whether it’s sunny or not—the benefits are definitely there.

Remember: physical activity can be a run—and it can also be yard work. Time in nature can be a walk—and it can also be sitting peacefully under a tree. It might be the easiest spring cleaning you do…. You don’t have to log a certain number of steps or minutes—the idea is to get outside!