Plenty of studies indicate that mental health can be improved by spending time outdoors. Some even say as little as ten minutes can actually improve your mood on the spot. So why is it so hard sometimes to get up and get out?
Our emotions are powerful, especially on days that we feel mentally sluggish or stressed. It can be hard to fight the urge to stay still, because our brains are wired to do whatever is easiest. Anything out of routine requires work for our brains to process. Think of the grocery store…do you always follow the same path? It’s not just because it seems logical. Your brain encourages this path, recognizing that it takes the least amount of effort to shop this way, because it’s familiar. A new route, even one as minor as a grocery store aisle, causes your brain to adjust and exert effort.
Think of it as a resource conservation system in case your brain needs to focus on something urgent or more complex.
So how do we get out of the rut, momentary or otherwise? Practice.
Teach your brain that a new pattern can be rewarding. That a slight detour need not stress your reserves.
There’s no magic, and I certainly haven’t figured it out. But I do find it fascinating, and I’m attempting to remember these details when I do fight the urge to change a bad habit.
This may be especially hard for new mothers in the self-care arena. Not only were our brains wired this way before baby, but now we have a whole person who ALSO needs our brains. So we learn. And learn some more. And more. And then we have to stop, and unlearn for a moment, and realize that it is OK to revert to some self-care practices. But at that point, our brains are so RE-wired, it can be difficult to stop taking care of others, because it is the new, ingrained routine, that while exhausting, is familiar.
When my baby was 14 months old, I FINALLY got to the “un-learning” stage of remembering how to step back and change the routine of caring for a little one 100% of the time. I remember my first real self-care act vividly. I spent several hours on a Saturday to myself and for TWO HOURS I sat outside in the sun and THATS ALL I DID. I just sat outdoors. Enjoying the weather with no phone. Life changing, people.
So, I challenge you to consider your brains pathways at this incredibly biological level, and change a path. Create a new process. Get outside. Just do.
Bonus reading: This interesting study, details how our brains control more of our “willpower” than we think; remaining biased towards actions that included past rewards. And, do our brains control our habits?