In an age where our entire lives can be lived inside, getting outside is more important than ever. Let’s think about REI’s recent #OptOutside campaign, which challenged folks to play outside instead of shop on Black Friday. According to REI.com, it was wildly successful! Close to 1.5 million people participated in its first year.
Why were so many of us quick to jump on #OptOutside bandwagon? I believe it goes beyond people not wanting to endure long lines and crowded stores. REI tapped into something that deep down we all know to be true.
We belong in nature.
Today is New Year’s Day, a time of reflection and goal setting, and I’d like to issue a challenge to you for the New Year: find a way to get outside every day this year.
You don’t have to turn your whole life on its head by taking off cross-country on your bike — although, if you can pull that off, you definitely should, and send me lots of photos while you’re at it! What I’m suggesting can be as simple as setting aside 30 minutes every day to soak up sunshine and breathe fresh air.
I’m making getting outside one of my New Year’s resolutions, and here are 5 reasons why you should, too.
Getting Outside Resolutions
#1 Unplugging and Disconnecting is Essential for Mental Health
According to statista.com, American adults spend 11 hours a day using electronic media. Eleven hours. Let that sink in for a moment. Whether it’s an email that demands our attention, a ringing phone, or a particularly persuasive ad for a cheeseburger that promises to make our lives complete, we spend most of our day reacting to what others throw at us. In contrast, getting outside provides an opportunity to reclaim our thoughts. Nature gives us space to make decisions, set priorities, and have conversations without being interrupted from a dozen different directions. Turn off the chatter and take a break. You won’t just feel better after a walk outside, you’ll compose a better response to that email from your boss. You’ll be more focused on that client phone call. As for what to do about the cheeseburger, you’re on your own.
2. Getting Outside Will Make You Healthier
A friend of mine recently told me about a conversation with her doctor where she asked how much running and hiking was okay during her pregnancy. In her response the doc said, “Sitting is the new smoking.” In other words, sitting still is killing us at an alarming rate. We need to get out and move. Make a commitment to take a 30-minute walk during every work day, or to ride your bike to work. Take up a new activity like cross-country skiing or kayaking. Trust me, it’ll change your life.
3. Getting Outside Will Recalibrate Your Priorities
It’s pretty easy to get bogged down in the stress of daily life. But it is essential to differentiate between everyday issues and true crisis situations. Not getting your inbox down to zero won’t actually kill you. Getting caught in a storm without appropriate gear and supplies in the backcountry might, though. That reality provides a wonderful recalibration of our response to stress.
So, get outside and immerse yourself in wild spaces. Brave the elements, feel the chill in the morning air, and relish the way your heart starts thudding in your ears when you see a fresh grizzly track. Navigating wild spaces with nothing but skills and gear is exhilarating. Getting outside brings into sharp relief what truly matters and what doesn’t.
4. Comfort is Overrated
When I’m sitting around the campfire with friends, we don’t trade stories about that time the weather was perfect and everything went according to plan. We laugh about the time I forgot my sleeping pad for an October trip in the Bugaboos and shivered all night. We raise a glass to the time we skied through a blizzard by the light of rapidly dimming headlamps, with socks on our hands because our gloves were soaked through, looking for the forest service cabin we’d rented for the weekend that was supposed to be “easy to find.” That’s the stuff good adventure stories are made of, and in spite of what advertisers want us to believe, satisfaction isn’t found in comfort.
I certainly don’t have the meaning of life figured out, but I’ve found deep meaning in moments of pushing myself to the limit on the river and in the mountains. As a guide, I’ve had the opportunity to witness the satisfaction that washes over people when they’ve climbed a seemingly endless series of switchbacks and are finally standing on top of a pass, with an ocean of peaks at their feet. You just can’t get that same feeling from watching a Netflix marathon on your couch.
5. Getting Outside is Fun!
Endless switchbacks aside, it’s fun to get outside and play. When you become a grown-up (whatever that is), your priorities change, and all too often, fun falls to the wayside. It shouldn’t. Don’t let it.
This summer, I watched an entire family take a flying leap together, off a fairly high rock, into a pond of glacial runoff. After they scrambled up the bank, much giggling, hugging, and shivering ensued. It was one of the absolute highlights of my summer, and a memory I will cherish forever. Nature is a place where we can let our inner child run free and get dirty. We can be silly, have water fights, and laugh until we can’t breathe. That’s good for all of us, no matter how old we are.
As you gear up for whatever the year has in store, I hope you take time in nature to unplug and reconnect, and to challenge yourself in ways that make you proud of the person you are. Make this your year to get outside. I’ll see you out there!