Therapy & lifestyle

Healthy habits that boost outdoor activity

You might not see this slogan on a T-shirt or coffee mug, but the message is still the same: The road to better sleep is paved through good habits. One of the best habits you can form is participating in outdoor activities. Research suggests when we leave our cozy indoor cocoons for the fresh outdoors, good things happen for our health. Studies have shown that spending time outside can reset your circadian clock and prevent sleep delay.1

If you’re an indoor enthusiast looking for advice on how to form healthy habits, you’ve come to the right place. These seven easy ways to spend more time outdoors just may improve your sleep.

Use post-work momentum

The sweet call of your couch after a long day of work or life commitments is tempting. While you may have good intentions of getting up after you’ve decompressed, well, we know how that can go.

Cross off post-work routine items before you get home. This can mean anything from eating a healthy snack before your commute so you’re not rushing for dinner, or practicing mindful breathing in your car to decompress.

This should give you more momentum to immediately go for a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood before you turn indoors for the night.

Explore your city or town

We’re all guilty of not taking advantage of our city’s best assets (until family is in town, anyway), but why wait? Becoming a tourist in your neighborhood is an excellent way to spend time outside. The more time you’re outdoors – especially in green spaces – the lower the risk of disease and higher the amount of time you stay asleep.2

Easy ways to explore your city

  • Parks: Download a map or make a list of city parks, and explore a different one each weekend.
  • Events: Look for upcoming outdoor festivals you can attend, and get tickets to outdoor concerts that will get you moving.
  • Attractions: Create a list of outside attractions, like interesting architecture or monuments, in your town. Make an effort to see each one, and try to walk to others if they’re close by.
  • Tours: Sign up for free local walking tours. Not only will you see new sights, you might learn some trivia you can share at the office or with friends.
  • Games: Create a photo scavenger hunt of outdoor objects for yourself and friends, or take up geocaching or another outdoor exploring game.

Take time for weekday chores

One of the biggest excuses for skipping out on outdoor recreation is lack of time. When you’re chained to chores like laundry or grocery shopping on the weekends, doing something more involved like hiking or kayaking feels off the table. It doesn’t have to be.

You can make a chart of after-work chores that, when you chip away at them over a few days, loosen up your weekend. For example, you can designate Mondays for laundry, Tuesdays for vacuuming and Wednesdays for groceries. (Bonus: many products go on sale Wednesdays and Thursdays.) This leaves you free time for exploration and outdoor activity.

Break up the day

If after-work activities are not realistic for you, consider adding a few steps – literally – to your morning and lunch routine. Give yourself 15 extra minutes in the morning to walk around the block or take a breather during your meal break at work.

Making time to walk can not only lower your stress levels during the day, but the physical activity can also prevent negative effects on your sleep.3

Find new outdoor hobbies

When you enjoy doing something, it becomes a seamless part of your routine. This is why it’s so crucial to find an outdoor hobby you like. If you can join a group in the same activity, even better! Studies have shown that people who exercise with others enjoy the activities more.4

Hobbies that get you outside:

  • Join a disc golf team
  • Participate in a neighborhood garden
  • Bike once a week with a ride club
  • Sign up for tennis lessons
  • Join a local hiking group
  • Try activities like rowing or snorkeling
  • Find a local gym with an outdoor pool and do a few laps
  • Get nostalgic playing on a flag football or softball team

Invest in the outdoors

Sometimes the act of investing in an activity gives you more incentive to keep it up. This can mean purchasing a pair of good walking shoes, nice sunglasses or a sun hat – something that makes you feel and look good. When you put a little investment behind it, your motivation to get out there may increase!

Who knows, maybe posting those pictures of you in your new attire will inspire others in your friend group or family to join you outdoors.

Add music and competition

One of the easiest ways to make outdoor activities more enjoyable is to add a soundtrack. While bird songs can be soothing, if you need some motivation in your headphones to keep the energy up, go for it! Creating different playlists for different activities is another fun way to contribute to your new hobbies.

Adding a little competition can help as well. If you make a habit of counting steps each week, you can challenge yourself or others to break records and outpace each other every month.

By forming simple habits to add to your weekly routine, you’ll find it easier to make time for the great outdoors. Enjoy the fresh air and good sleep that comes with it. Just remember your sunscreen!

 


References

  1. https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(16)31522-6
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180706102842.htm
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5414656/
  4. https://www.livescience.com/40977-exercise-enjoyment-friends.html
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