Creating connections through the outdoors.

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The outdoors and my personal portable communicator

Just a thought for this fine evening…

Could my personal portable communicator, or smartphone, help me spend more time outdoors and be healthier?

It sounds like a contradiction.  We seem to always be told to put away our electronics and disconnect.  However, personal portable communicators, or smartphones, may help to keep us accountable for our actions.  Technology may actually help to make us healthier.  It does this by providing us with ways to track our actions, be reminded of our goals, and strive to get better at a certain task.  Sometimes there is a twist in the story and the would be villain is not so bad after all.

A little off-colour, it’s all about perception.

This whole post is going to be about bad jokes.  If done right, they can be very clever.  To tell a bad joke that doesn’t come across as offensive is very difficult, and few people can do this successfully…

Ok, this post is not going to focus on off-colour humour (there may still be the odd pun thrown in though;-)).  I am going to talk about colour and perception.  Since it has been a while, so I will be brief even though I have a lot to talk about.  I have decided that posts are no going to come more randomly in their timing, but more frequently.  It is hard for me to get time to sit down and write on Wednesdays.  Not to worry, I will try to still be sarcastic and entertaining in my writing.  Things will stay interesting.  Less planned and regular will help because how often is life able to be planned and regular?  You don’t need to answer that, it was meant to answer itself with ‘hardly ever!’.

May is in full swing and, in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, it is known as being the month of Spring and new beginnings.  We have gone from Winter, which I see as a time of solitude, to a time that is seen for growth, and new beginnings.  Colours have begun to appear, so here are some interesting effects of different colours:

Green: Gets creative juices flowing, is the symbol for growth, both physically and psychologically, and sparks our creative side.  Causes us to think outside the box.

Red: Hurts exam scores and is associated with a fear of failure.  It is linked to success and dominance and men have been shown to find women who are dressed in red more attractive (good news for red-heads).  It is a very dynamic colour, where it has been shown to increase respiration and heart rate, intensity and energy.

Yellow: Is a mood lifter.  It has been shown to make people more lively and talkative as well as improve focus and concentration.

Blue: Makes us feel comfortable in a room, causing people to stay longer.  It has a soothing effect, slows heart rate, and boosts your ability to think outside the box like green.

Pink: Is seen as girly, fun, and innocent.  Inmates were less hostile in pink cells, but it is just softer version of red so it is not calming.

White: Is associated with authority, sterility, spaciousness, purity, and nausea?  White florescent light and white walls causes eye fatigue and ill feelings.

This week’s idea: Open your eyes to all of the great colours around you and practice some ‘green vision‘!

And the survey says…

So I want to be healthy and happy.  What do I need to do?  I should start by eating healthy.  Ok, to do that, I need to avoid processed foods, fast food, foods with lots of sugar, red meat, some types of fish, and saturated fat.  Well maybe I don’t need to avoid saturated fat if it comes from certain sources.  Wait a minute, my diet should be low in carbs, high in protein, and vegetarian, no vegan, but I can have meat once a week and fish is ok.  Is it?  I can’t eat too much fish now because it is being overfished.  Before I forget, I can treat myself to the occasional “junk food”.  Is this going to cause me to lose weight?  What if I want to gain weight?  I am supposed to eat more meat now, and include superfoods (What is the effect of Kryptonite on these?).  Should all of this be organic or local?  It should be both, but if I need to choose local is better than organic for the planet, and organic is better for my body.  Now I also need to make sure I drink lots of water and for best physical performance I should calculate how much I need based on a number of factors.  Diuretics are bad, but coffee and tea are good.  Ok, I have my diet figured out, I think.  Oh, I can also drink alcohol because it will make me smarter.  However, I can only drink so much.  Red wine is the best, but other kinds of alcohol are good too.  Isn’t alcohol also a diuretic?  This one is for sure, I shouldn’t smoke and I should exercise regularly.  I need to reduce the amount of time I spend sitting, take at least 5000 steps a day and exercise for at least 30 minutes.  I also need to spend time relaxing and not doing anything.  Now, to be happy I should have a bucket list, not compare myself to others, and have a job that is fulfilling and challenging.  I can’t work too much though, but I should work until I am 67 years old.  I should quit my current job and do something that I enjoy.  No I shouldn’t.  I enjoy what I do, mostly, and it allows me to do what I enjoy to do.  I need a routine, or is it that I need to be spontaneous?  Too much technology is bad, I need to disconnect, but it is also good to stay connected, to help reduce stress.  I can also use it as a tool for work and learning.  Now what I also need to do…

THIS IS RIDICULOUS!!!  I’m going to just do what I enjoy: Go outside, live a balanced lifestyle and treat myself accordingly.

Trying to follow all of the studies that come out these days can cause us a great deal of extra stress and worry.  They are also always changing and new ones are coming out every day.  I can’t keep them straight and why should I try to?  Life is more enjoyable when I just live with balance.  April is stress awareness month, so do something you enjoy and don’t worry if you treat yourself occasionally.  Life is too short to sweat the small stuff.  Studies are not all bad.  They give us insight into things we may have forgotten along the way.  However, they are not to be relied on.  I do know this for sure and have done my own study to prove this: The outdoors is good for me.  How do I know?  Going outside helps me relax, keeps me active and is enjoyable.

This weeks idea:  Do your own study.  Go outside, treat yourself and relax.  See how it makes you feel.  As with any study, write down your results and share them with others.  This should be the only study that you follow (The following video has some pretty good advice too)!

Relax, Just do it!

April is Stress Awareness Month and this past Monday, April 16 was Stress Awareness Day.  Since I am working everyday this week (I do work outside!) and don’t want to stress about writing, I am just going to give you this one link:

10 Health Benefits of Relaxation

The post on Stats and Studies will come next Wednesday, April 25!

Being Alone Together

I have spent the last week working hard in the outdoors (and it happens to currently be raining), so I am going to focus a bit more on some indoor elements.  I would like to start off by saying that coffee shops and pubs have quite a few things in common.  They serve great tasting beverages, have a relaxing atmosphere, are generally filled with groups of people chatting face to face, lack young people…wait a minute!  They lack young people?  This is true.  The younger generations don’t usually hang out at a coffee shop or a pub.  This is for a number of reasons, some obvious and some not so much.  Usually people go to these places to interact face to face with friends or colleagues.  Young people these days seem to use the internet or their phones instead.  I remember running up the block to knock on a friend’s door to see if they could come “outside” and play.  I never texted or Facebooked (possibly a new word), mostly because it was unavailable, but I would go for the face to face interaction.  There was also no Googling (another new word) when I hung out with friends.  It was mostly imagination, talking and play, and, a lot of the time, this was done in the outdoors.  Occasionally when the weather didn’t cooperate we did hang out inside, but there were not that many screens around when we did.

Speaking of the indoors, I sit here now in on of my favourite indoor spots, a coffee shop.  You may have guessed that another of my preferred spots is a pub.  However, blogging doesn’t make as much sense when it is written at a pub.  It may end up being entertaining, but the spelling and grammar mistakes…I have enough of those already!  Just looking around at these locations give credence to healthy relationships.  People are conversing face to face, usually with only a drink between them.  These face to face interactions without a screen in the midst are becoming few and far between.

Most interactions these days take place over email, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and the list goes on.  This is especially true with the younger generations (again pulling from the coffee shop and pub reference from above).  Convenience is stepping between us and our health, both physical and mental.  It has become way more convenient to turn to technology, instead of going into nature or even doing the simple task of meeting to chat with friends.  Even though we are connecting a lot more easily through technology, relationships are suffering and we are actually becoming more alone.

Going back to the title of this post, there are two ways that I see in which we can be alone together.  One is in nature, and the other is with technology.  When we go into the wilderness with a group of friends or colleagues, we can become truly alone.  However, to stay safe and even alive, we rely so much on each member of the group.  Even though we go into nature to be alone, these experiences end up bringing groups closer together and help to develop strong relationships.  That is why we use nature and the outdoors for so many team building activities.  It has so much power to help to develop new strong relationships and build upon existing ones.  Being alone in nature, in the end, makes us less alone.  In the contrary, I believe technology has the power to do the opposite.  That is if we are not careful and mindful about it.  This video is great and delves deep into how we are becoming more connected through technology, but asks the question of whether it is making us more alone:

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In the outdoors, we are alone together, and when we are connected through technology, we are together, but alone.  I don’t really need to say more…

Now for the idea of the week: This one is simple, I want you to develop your relationships with those around you.  Go into nature with a friend where you need to rely on them and your relationship.  Or even more simply, just sit down with only a beer, cup of coffee or tea, hot chocolate, between you and a friend and have a chat.

(Theme: Relationships)

Emulating Octopi

Before I begin going into the topic of this post, I would like to straighten out a few details regarding the title.  The plural form of ‘octopus’ is actually ‘octopuses’.  It is the most common form and is the most widely accepted.  ‘Octopi’ is objectionable in some cases and is not always listed as being a correct plural form.  However, I do prefer the way this title rolls off the tongue, despite the possibility of it being incorrect.  Enough of this rambling, now into the post…

Take a good look at the things around you.  What do you see?  Cars have 5-star safety ratings, we are trying to eliminate global terrorism, there are warning labels on almost every food, playgrounds are to be removed from some schools, that little bump in the sidewalk is painted yellow.  There are so many things out there to try to minimize the risk that we are exposed to every day.  Now imagine these things in nature.  On your hike through the woods, there are fences on the sides of the trails to keep creatures out, roots and rocks are painted bright colours or removed completely, signs warn you of what might be unexpected around the next bend in the trail.  It all sounds a little ridiculous, but that is what our society is moving towards.  We try to minimize the risk that we are exposed to in almost every way.  We are striving for perfection.

Looking at nature, we are going at all of this the wrong way.  Adaptation by organisms, such as the octopus, carry no goal of perfection.  Trying to eliminate risk in our lives is like trying to eliminate predation in nature. It is a bit of a ridiculous concept.  The relationships that have developed in nature over the last millions of years come from adaptations to hostile interactions.  They have created symbiotic relationships that work!  The octopus is a good example.  It has multiple solutions to deal with the problems that it is faced with.  For the octopus, when there is trouble, there is no one right way to deal with it.  The octopus expects the unexpected!

This exposure to risk has the possibility to be dangerous.  However, it keeps us alive, makes us think for ourselves, helps us to deal with everyday problems and is what makes being human exciting.  For all of us big kids, we grew up with this exposure to risk in our lives.  I know that I occasionally got hurt, but that is how I learned about the world.  It was all trial and error.  I think that this exposure to natural risk has made me into a well-rounded individual.  I feel I can make solid decisions in all aspect of my life.  What will things be like without that exposure to natural spaces and risk?  Striving to perfect our environment is taking away from a lot of the things that we all grew up with.  Youth now have a lot less exposure to a lot of the things we remember about being a kid.  I will give you a quote from a blog entry about how children should exercise.  It has multiple meanings and we can all take learning from it:

“Kids do dangerous things as a rule. They ride skateboards and make jumps. They climb trees and fall from them – sometimes on purpose to “see what happens.” They play football, get in scuffles, and make hairpin turns at breakneck speeds while dribbling a ball (with either hands or feet). Sports are dangerous, sure, but so is just about anything you do involving your body and the laws of physics. Let them figure it out. You’ll be there if something goes wrong.”

Read more: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-should-children-exercise/#ixzz1r6A6EqRR

I say to embrace risk in your life and let others do the same.  Let us stop trying to perfect our world.  It just cannot be done.  Instead, let us all learn to live with the risks we are faced with.  Everything from finances and work to exercise and play.  Take from the octopus, and have multiple solutions to our problems.  I like to embrace risk in my life.  It is exciting, and is how nature has dealt with problems for millions of years.

April is G.O. month. What does that mean?  I think you should just G.O.!  (For those of you who don’t want to click on this link, it stands for ‘Get Outside’).  Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Start a garden
  • Organize a neighbourhood clean-up
  • Join a walking/running group
  • Host a BBQ
  • Help out at a local farm
  • Volunteer for a nature group
  • Go camping (Not RVing)
  • Play in the mud!

Now for this week’s idea: Stop avoiding things that may seem a little dangerous, and do something ‘risky’!  Remember to emulate octopi (or octopuses).  Stop trying to eliminate risk in your life and learn to live with it.  It will make things more exciting as well as making life easier.  Risk cannot be eliminated and, in learning from one of the most well-adapted organisms on this planet, don’t try to.

Don’t forget to share your thoughts on how you live with risk in the comments section below!

The Grass is Always Greener…

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  Other people seem to have it all slightly better than we do.  The future seems to hold the fitter me, the healthier me, the more successful me, the me that doesn’t procrastinate, the me that keeps in touch, the better me.  Do you think the grass is greener over there?  I say to try to focus on making our own grass greener here and now!  How is that for a nature metaphor for you?!  Yay, for multiple meanings!

What I am trying to say through all of this talk about the lawn, as it may seem, is that enjoyment comes from living in the here and now.  My thoughts stemmed from an article on multitasking.  When we try to do too many things at once, it takes away from our relationships, health, focus, work or school, and most importantly our overall enjoyment of what we are doing.  Even what may seem like the most mundane of tasks can be enjoyable if is becomes our sole focus.  This movement away from multitasking can lead us to focus on our own grass, and how we can make it greener.

This past Saturday was the National Day of Unplugging for 2012, used to recharge your soul.  This is a small step to take to help to focus on enjoyment here and now as well as help to create balance.  This is a great idea, but I say take it one step further.  It is better to regularly take a little time to unplug every day and try just focussing on one thing at a time.  Call it “uni-tasking”.  An easy way to do this is to go out and experience nature and the outdoors.  Leave all those gadgets at home and see how enjoyable just being outside looking at the environment around us can be.  Here are my top 7 (I thought I would continue with that number) outdoor “uni-tasks” that I do to make my grass greener here and now:

  1. Do some “soul skiing” by going for a day by myself (no music here);
  2. Practice some nature/outdoor photography or drawing (I’m not very good, but it is enjoyable);
  3. Bomb a hill on my longboard;
  4. Do some gardening;
  5. Climb a mountain, a rock face, a hill, a tree, or anything I can possibly jump off;
  6. Find a quiet spot to read or journal;
  7. Simply go for a walk without my phone.

Increased enjoyment can lead to multiple benefits, including making time for nature and your health easier.  The opposite is true as well.  Physical activity and time in nature can increase happiness and enjoyment.  Here is a short video on Physical Literacy, that can be linked to awareness (more in “Forest Bathing”), about physical activity and the outdoors.  In the end, if we can create enjoyment here and now, it can help to increase the needed balance in our lives.

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Why does all this nature matter?  For those of you who like to read, here is a brief interview with author Richard Louv for you on the subject:

Why Nature Matters, Juno Magazine

This coming Saturday, March 31 at 8:30PM is Earth Hour.  Remember to turn off your lights.  Utilize this time to spend some time in nature.  Go for a walk or even just a sit in the outdoors, and practice some “uni-tasking”.  Maybe even spend some time to do some nighttime gardening and work on your lawn!  Do whatever you find most enjoyable.

The idea for this week: Instead of suggesting something, I want to hear from you!  What do you do to make the grass greener in the here and now?  How and where do you like to enjoy the outdoors?  Comment below!

(Theme: Enjoyment)