In this article, we’ll be discussing activity. If you haven’t already read our introduction to the project, we’d recommend doing so before reading part one, which also includes important information about spotting low moods turning into depression.
For Part One of Kickstart Your Wellness, we partnered with one of our favourite brands –Hydro Flask. Due to their high performance insulated products, we’ve used Hydro Flask’s products for quite some time now in the outdoors, at home, anywhere really! They’ve kept our drinks and food remarkably cold in summer or brilliantly warm in winter. Aside from that, we love the brand’s ethos on sustainability – helping us reduce our carbon footprint and reducing single use plastics which are harmful to the environment. They also have an incredible charitable giving program Parks For All, which supports the development, maintenance and accessibility of public green spaces so that people everywhere can live healthier, happier and more fulfilled lives. Simply put, when choosing to partner on this project, Hydro Flask felt like the right fit as they’re all about getting outside, connecting and feeling happier.
Image Descriptions: (Left) A landscape format image.Fay walks through an Autumnal forest.There are golden and red leaves on the ground and bare trees in the background.There are logs and rocks with green moss dotted around the ground.Fay is looking off to camera right.Fay wears a bright yellow coat, black leggings and trainers. (Top Right) A landscape format image showing a close up detail of the Autumnal forest floor.There are red leaves and golden grass in the foreground.The background shows bare, out of focus trees.(Bottom Right) A landscape format image tightly cropped in on Fay’s head and shoulders.Fay is positioned in the centre of the frame and is looking off to camera right.Fay wears a pink and blue woolly bobble hat and a grey/blue coat with pink zip details.The sun is flaring over the edge of Fay’s hat in the centre of the frame.
Why is activity important to our wellness?
As you know, our work is all about helping people to see and experience first hand the incredible benefits that come from spending time in nature. Activity is of course a big part of that, but it is so much more than developing a connection with nature. Our movement or our activity can have the ability to change a lot for us. At different times of the year, where we might experience relatively cold and wet weather, the level of activity we might be used to from the spring and summer can change dramatically and this can have a significant impact on our mood. This can be especially prevalent in people who struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder when we have limited amounts of daylight every day for a number of months.
Image Descriptions: (Left) A portrait format image showing a close-up detail of a green Hydro Flask water bottle in the side pocket of a backpack.There are red/golden leaves on the forest floor in the background. (Centre Top) a landscape format image.Matt stands centrally facing camera right.He is wearing black sunglasses, a black coat with a fake fur lining on the hood and a large backpack.He is smiling.He is holding a small yellow Hydro Flask bottle in his left hand and has a lager green Hydro Flask in the side pocket of his backpack.The background is heavily out of focus and shows tree trunks in a warm, golden light. (Centre Bottom) A landscape format image.A close-up detail image of wild grasses.The out of focus background is off gently rolling hills.Everything in the image is bathed in a warm, golden, hazy evening light (Right) A landscape format image showing a view over the hills in the UK’s South Downs.In the foreground, there is a field of plants with large green leaves.There are a series of hills in the background.The Sun is low in the sky towards camera left and bathes the entire scene is hazy golden light.
Why is keeping active and getting outdoors a struggle at times?
There are so many contributing factors that can make getting outdoors, getting some fresh air and improving your wellness more difficult at times. Right now, various stages of lockdowns, stay at home orders and restrictions to daily life are throwing in a whole host of new reasons in there too, making it harder than ever. Here are just a few:
- A feeling that there is no point There could be a hopelessness that has come from lockdowns. If you’re an adventurous person and are used to travelling or setting yourself big challenges, especially if these are relied on for your mindset, it can feel futile to want to get outside in a more limited way. This can also link to depression and a feeling that there is no point in trying, or a loss of interest in activities you once really enjoyed.
- Access This can be anything from finishing work late and it being dark and not being able to get out or even feeling safe to go out through to being within a city and not having access to a space or simply not having the time.
- Nutrition This might seem a slightly off key one, but your body and what is going into it can have a massive impact on you feeling sluggish and not wanting to get out there. Now, were not trying to say that eating a balanced diet needs to be expensive, and we of course understand that budgets are tight, but it is important to acknowledge that this can have a huge impact on how you feel in your body.
- Shorter days It is pretty normal to look outside when you finish up working for example and want to snuggle under the covers when it looks cold and dark. This, we’ve found, is one of the main things that keeps people indoors more than they’d honestly like, especially in winter.
- Comparison That old saying around comparison being the thief of joy is incredibly true, but what that doesn’t take into account is actually witnessing that it is ok if we don’t feel as excited sometimes as we do others. It is OK to not enjoy the rain, or the cold! Those days of endless summer evenings feel like they couldn’t be further away from reality when you’re faced with a rainy evening.
- Ongoing illness, health concerns, new illness, chronic pain If you live with a chronic illness, pain or ongoing illness this could very well be a factor all the time. Another factor that we should take into account is Long Covid. It is unknown to us yet exactly what are incredibly common side effects of Long Covid, but one of the most commonly reported is a feeling of fatigue and shortness of breath.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder When you perhaps work a job that keeps you indoors when it is light and then it comes to the end of the week and you realise you haven’t really seen natural light in days, it isn’t hard to understand why S.A.D affects so many people.
- It is too cold/wet This one doesn’t need a huge explanation and can be quite a good motivator when you have the lure of a warm home to not want to go outside.
- Anxiety of crowded urban spaces Something that we didn’t realise had become quite a crutch for anxiety with us was the feeling that when we went for a long urban walk in the evening, the streets in our area seemed to be really crowded. Of course, right now, that feels like an incredibly difficult thing – especially seeing as we are told to keep away from crowds as much as possible.
Image Descriptions: (Left) A landscape format image.Matt prepares for a walk.He is sat on a low seat indoors, leaning forward,tying the laces on his yellow running shoes.He is surrounded by white walls and there is a black cast Iron radiator behind him. He is wearing black trousers and a brown sweater.His backpack sits on the floor to camera left with two Hydro Flasks – one larger and black, one slightly smaller and green – in front.(Right) A landscape format image.Matt is in the centre of the frame, looking to camera right.He is visible from the waist up and walks along a street lined with 1930’s style suburban houses.There are bare trees lining the road.Matt is wearing red trousers, a quilted black coat with yellow detailing and a grey hoodie, visible under the coat.He has black sunglasses pushed up on top of his head.It is early evening and there is a rich golden light in the sky and on some of the houses.
Building the inertia to go out
Not getting out can become a pattern, and once you step into a pattern it can become really difficult to get out of it. The thing to remember, though, is that just as much as that pattern was created around not getting out, you can also create a new pattern around getting out. But we get it, you can get a lot of resistance around this and it doesn’t feel as easy as just saying ‘ok, I’m going to go out’. Having a think about what the actual things are that are stopping you from getting out is a really good step in the right direction here. It could just be a mental list that you think of whilst you’re doing the dishes or cooking your dinner, or it could be a written list on your phone or in a journal – whatever works for you. The important thing is that you acknowledge where it is coming from so that you can counteract it.
Can you find excuses to get out?
We recently noticed a post on a local resident’s group online where someone was actively putting together lunch time walks for people (these were not group walks, just walks that you could easily fit into a 30-minute lunch break). What we really loved was that this walk was centered around going to a local food bank to donate. It was this idea of having an excuse to get out. We’ve noticed this come up a lot for us actually – and only realizing just now that many of the times we didn’t actually want to get out for a walk, we were able to subtly find something we needed to do outside, or buy from the shop etc. Of course, this isn’t us just saying ‘you should be donating to a foodbank’ or ‘you should be buying something’ – we know that isn’t possible for many people right now (or ever) but we’re trying to suggest you take the essence of this idea and make it your own. Are there any fall back excuses you can develop to get out the house when you’re really not feeling it? Running errands for example?
Image Descriptions: (Left) A portrait format image.Fay stands to camera left looking out of a large window to camera right.There is a small yellow Hydro Flask on the window sill.Fay is wearing a black sleeveless top.There is warm golden light illuminating Fay’s hair from camera left, whilst colder blue light floods in from the window.(Right) A portrait format image.This is a shallow depth of field detail image of dried wild grass.The grass, which is grey/brown in colour, divides into several stalks with small oval seed heads near the top of each.The background is largely out of focus and is mostly off-white.There are subtle patch of blue and yellow at the top and bottom of the background respectively.
Can you reframe?
It’s pretty clear as human beings that we can get really stuck in the idea of what we don’t have right now instead of what we do. So, is there a way you can use this as an opportunity to reframe the way you’re thinking? What do you get to do instead right now? What do you get to explore? If nothing else, can you reframe this as, ‘I get to experiment with simply being this time?’
Can you organise your day differently?
Of course, one of the joys of being self employed means that relatively speaking, we can decide when we want to go out. This of course isn’t always the case – but we will try and be as opportunistic as possible with getting outside. If we see it is going to be sunny in the morning, we might decide the night before, if it can work with our schedule, to head out early in the morning for a hike and then just work a little later in the evening. Of course, we know that isn’t possible for everyone – but this can be worth a look to see if there is anything you can do. If it feels important to you that you’re seeing daylight – perhaps you could ask your boss if you could start work a little later so you could get out and then finish later? Or even have longer at lunch time? If that isn’t possible for you, could you perhaps walk some way to work? We know this isn’t possible for everyone, but it is certainly worth seeing if any adjustments can be made here.
Image Description: A landscape format image.Fay sits in a large Mid-20thCentury/Modernist style armchair.It is light grey with black wooden legs and is positioned on a wooden floor. Fay is writing in a journal with a fountain pen whilst wearing a brown leopard print top and black leggings.On the floor in front of the chair are two Hydro Flask bottles. A larger blue water bottle to camera left, and a smaller, lilac coffee flask to the right. There are large windows in the background with a yucca style plant and cactus to camera right.Also to camera right, in the foreground, is the edge of a coffee table with several small decorative pots, a tray and bowl on.
Mindfulness has been a big thing for us in recent years since we started to get our anxiety into a manageable space. Both of our anxieties would lead us to focus on concepts that were maybe too much to deal with right then and there and practicing mindfulness has been an incredible way for us to ground back into where we are now instead of focusing on something that isn’t working right now. This same principle can be applied to your time outdoors – what can you find around you to concentrate on? The sensory experience is one of the main things that makes hiking, adventure, travel and just generally being in nature such an incredible experience for mental health management. These are all very stimulating things, and it can feel difficult (especially from the last year) when we can’t call on all of the things we once were so accustomed to in order to improve our mood right now. So, focusing on houses around you and the details of them – the tiling, patterns or smells as you experience them can be really important for allowing us to be immersed in an experience that is going to help our mental, and physical health. Could you also make being outside more experiential? Could you take your favourite hot drink or juice with you? Your favourite lunch?Hydro Flask’srange of products make this incredibly easy – allowing you take hot food, hot or cold drinks that an really help enrich your experience. It could even be that you realise something that has stopped you from being mindful is that you’re too cold, too hot or a whole combination of things – are there any steps you can take to make this less of a problem?
Developing a routine whilst being spontaneous
Developing a routine is really helpful. In times of uncertainty, it can give you an enormous sense of comfort – but at the same time, living life a little more spontaneously can also be incredibly beneficial and give you that feeling that life is still exciting and can feel great to you. It is about finding a balance though. Can you take some different turnings in your urban weekday walk so you get to explore some new areas? If you’re able to get to a more remote location (of course, keeping in mind any current restrictions in place), can you find some new routes for the weekends or whenever you visit that take you to see new views and in turn fresh perspectives? Maybe even looking to plan for future adventures too.
Image Descriptions: (Left) a Landscape format image.Matt stands in the centre of the frame with a kitchen counter top, sink, cupboards, some plants and a window in the background.Matt is visible from the elbows up and is laughing and looking straight into the camera.He is holding a white Hydro Flask tumbler in his right hand and wearing a brown sweater and blue t-shirt.(Right) A portrait format image taken from directly over the top.Textured blankets are laid haphazardly over a wooden floor.Vintage hiking guides from the 1960’s and 70’s are arranged on the blanket along with some small ceramic pots, a scented candle and a pink Hydro Flask bottle.There are a pair of crossed legs just visible at the bottom of the frame.They are dressed in black leggings with a metallic gold swirl pattern and thick grey and white woolly socks with a cartoon badger face on the toes.
Of course, if you’re used to heading away much further afield, or, let’s face it, even a little bit further than the end of your town or city, it is pretty understandable that you may feel pretty glum. But what is this notion that we have of an adventure? Why does it always have to be this big thing? Of course, those big things can be lifechanging and amazing experiences, but does life always have to be about that? Can you develop an identity that is partially outside that? Again, can you reframe? Can you look at what you are able to do now as an opportunity? ‘I get to do this now to help my mind and body down the line’.
Action points and exercises
Work out what is holding you back
Getting honest and thinking about what it is that is holding you back from getting outside is a really great first step in moving past the problem (if possible). In whatever way feels comfortable, think of your top three reasons (of course, if there are less, then that’s also fine) for not getting out, or the things that have stopped you recently and how you could potentially reframe them or what you could do to spur yourself to get out. For example, if you want to go out for a bike ride first thing in the morning but you struggle to get out of bed early enough to be back at your desk for the start of the work day, this could be as simple as leaving out your cycling gear and getting your tires pumped up the night before.
Try to keep track of how you feel before you go outside versus how you feel after. Even if this is just a note in your phone and you score your mood from 1-10, 1 being very low and 10 being very happy. You can also go into more detail if this would feel more helpful for you. The reason for this technique is to give yourself the evidence to see that when you go out, you often come back feeling better than when you left. Of course, this isn’t always the case, and this isn’t something to beat yourself up about if you don’t. Sometimes, simply feeling about the same can be a good enough gain for that day.
Image Descriptions: (Left) A portrait format image.Matt sits on the floor looking out to camera right through an open window onto a balcony with cast iron rails.Matt is wearing thick hiking socks, red trousers and a black ribbed sweater.His is holding a yellow Hydro Flask food container that he is reaching into with chopsticks.A large bright blue Hydro Flask water bottle stands on the wooden floor. (Right) A portrait format image.Fay stands at a counter that appears to be made from reclaimed wood and old ironwork.There are cupboards and another counter top in the background.Fay is working on an Apple laptop computer that sits on the counter and there is a light grey Hydro Flask bottle next to the laptop on camera left.On the camera right side of the counter are an arrangement of rustic ceramic vases, one of which contains dried camomile flowers.There is a modernist style Bauhaus poster in a white frame, just visible behind the vases.Fay is wearing a pale pink sleeveless top and black leggings.
Can you find local groups to join?
Are there any groups doing socially distanced walks, runs etc. near you or that you can get involved in at a time when this is possible due to restrictions? Sometimes, groups like this can be incredibly beneficial for feeling like you have a reason or excuse to get out. Are there also any groups you could join online that give local walk suggestions? These can often be found through a quick Google Search.
Look for mindful details
If you find yourself feeling down on your activity and outdoors time, try to refocus on what you can see and experience around you. This can be quite a process and it can be difficult at times, especially when you have a lot on your mind, but it can be really helpful to do so. It can really transform your time from feeling less than to realizing that we live in such a rich world, regardless of what is going on. If you find it difficult to focus on mindful moments, you can find a range of guided meditations that you can listen to whilst walking. We also have our open eyes mindfulness meditation which can work very well for exactly this purpose. You may even be interested in our mindful moments photography challenge as an ‘excuse’ to try and be more mindful. The initiative itself is now finished, but you can still follow the idea.
Image Descriptions: (Left) A landscape format image.Fay is shown full-length and is wearing a bright yellow coat and black leggings whilst walking through a forest of bare trees.There is green moss and red fallen leaves on the ground.There are out of focus patches of red/brown in the foreground, coming from leaves on a plant. (Centre Top) a landscape format image.A close-up detail of Fay’s fingers holding a small leaf.The leaf has patches of red and yellow as well as green on it. (Centre Bottom) A landscape format image.A close-up detail of Matt’s hand as he runs it over the heavily textured bark of a tree.The bark is mostly brown, but there is a subtle green colour in some parts.(Right) A landscape format image.Matt stands in the centre of the frame and is visible from the knees up.He has his back to the camera and is looking out over rolling fields and hills. He is wearing red trousers, a black padded coat, grey hoodie and a grey and red beanie hat.He is wearing a yellow backpack with a Hydro Flask water bottle in each of the side pouches – one is bright yellow with stickers and the other is bare metal.The scene is bathed in hazy golden evening light.
Find new paths
Look at a map around where you usually walk and see if there are alternate routes you can take. Depending on your knowledge of the area and how comfortable you feel, you may even just go out and wander down new streets, around new parts of your local park or even different parks in your area. If you have access to more rural locations, do some searching to see if you can find some new routes to try that allow you to explore something different. If you have access to a proper map, look over this in areas that you know and plot routes around areas that look interesting due to their topography. This is something we do quite a lot and we’ve found some of our most favourite routes by working in this way – this is a great one to try if you feel like you’ve ‘seen’ everything a place has to offer. You often come away realizing that you were quite wrong, and it can breathe a whole new lease of life into an area for you (especially good in times when we have limited movements).
Now, this isn’t to make you feel bad or to add extra pressure. But committing to helping your mood and getting outside regularly is going to really help you get out there and create a routine. So have a think about what things you can put in place to make getting outdoors a priority for you. What needs to happen in order for you to get out? What can you commit to without feeling overwhelmed?
Image Descriptions: (Left) A landscape format image.A tightly cropped image of Matt’s head and shoulders.Matt is in the centre of the frame looking straight at the camera and smiling.He is wearing a black coat with brown fake fur trim on the hood, a grey hoodie and black t-shirt.He is wearing black sunglasses on his head.The background is heavily out of focus greenery, also showing a lot of brown tones.(Right) A landscape format image.A dirt path in the centre of the frame winds back through a field of short grass.Matt is walking along the path.He is quite small in frame and almost completely silhouetted by backlighting. There are rolling green hills in the background and the sea is just visible through haze in the far distance.The scene has a warm, hazy sense of evening light.