It’s been one week since completing my #31daysofnature challenge. I spent 31 days hiking in a national forest, trail running along muddy paths, walking barefoot in storm-soaked grass, and discovering local parks. I ran two obstacle races, army crawling through mud under barbed wire. I fed horses, played with dogs, photographed a frog, and retreated into my car after being chased by a wasp. I drank tea, read books, weeded a garden, and stacked a rock on a pet cairn in memory of an old friend.
Even though I’m a self-proclaimed tree-hugging wild woman, this challenge proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated. Most of my routine leads to an eventual stint of outdoor adventure since I enjoy being active every day. Like many teachers, however, there are days when I get home and just want to collapse on the couch and hide under a blanket with a book to recharge my introverted brain. Those days paired with the fact that it rained for the first week of the challenge? Not a recipe for success.
While I enjoyed every moment I spent outdoors (even laughing at myself for running away from a wasp), it was difficult to get over the resistance I experienced during the first week. I hunted for inspiration and found some very powerful messages:
Changing habits is one of the most fundamental skills you can learn, because it allows you to reshape your life. To reshape who you are. That’s truly transformational.
Leo Babauta of zen habits
Let’s throw out the word ‘going to’ and just be it. Changing our language can be powerful.
Anthony Ongaro of Break the Twitch
By practicing a little bit every day, you’ll create habits that last a lifetime.
Courtney Carver of Be More with Less
I was also motivated to continue because I had three others join me in my challenge. (A big thanks to Jeff Sandquist of Intentionally Wandering, Amanda Kendle of Not a Ballerina, and Liz Tupper of Zero Waste Journey for joining me!) There is definitely power in numbers.
I’ve spent a week considering how my challenge sized up to my initial reasons and expectations, and I believe I met them:
- Restore connection
- Replenish worn-out faculties
- Reduce what ails me
- Promote Growth
I have always felt more at peace when I have direct contact with the earth (bare feet or bare hands). During the month, my mood (disorder) took a back seat, and I noticed more emotional stability and calm focus. Even if I experienced anxiety about what I was going to do, where I was going to go, and whether or not I was going to go through with it, everything slowed down once I found my wide-open space. Behind a camera lens, the world in my periphery shrank away, and I became engrossed in the present moment. On days I wasn’t up for an adventure, I practiced meditation on my back porch instead of in my bedroom. I ended my month without climax but rather a sustained pace of simple clarity.
I am not necessarily claiming causation or correlation. This wasn’t a scientific study with biofeedback and blood test results. The bottom line is: I spent more time outdoors. I didn’t get sick or injured. I pushed myself through the uncomfortable resistance of habit change. I enjoyed the hell out of myself, and I feel more inclined to get outside every day. I did this as part of realigning my priorities to include more meaningful moments in my day. In reflection of my photographic and written documentation, I cannot help but smile looking back at how I spent my time.
More concisely, here are my takeaways (only one of which is related to nature):
- Challenge yourself often, but don’t aim for perfection
- Push yourself through the uncomfortable resistance of habit change
- Find like-minded people who will support you
- Document your meaningful moments (and remind yourself of them often)
- Spend time in reflection of your priorities
- Stay physically connected with the natural world
If you decide to complete your own nature challenge, please let me know! I’d love to see where you go, what you do, and offer my support.