Spending time in nature is one of my non-bookish hobbies. My idea of a good time is taking a walk in the woods, by the beach, or in some other natural setting where I can let the sounds of birds tweeting and leaves rustling wash over me.
This is how serene and beautiful our forests are during the summer. (Yes, I took this photo). We have been seeing more ticks, including some that carry Lyme disease, in Ontario, so I always stick to the trails when I walk through our forests and check for ticks afterwards.
Taking a few precautions like this one is well worth the time I get to spend out in nature. There is nothing like noticing a rabbit, squirrel, or some other small creature hiding beneath a nearby bush and realizing it’s waiting to see how you behave before it decides when to run away.
I like to pretend like I haven’t seen them and keep walking on by. Sometimes they decide to stay hidden , while in other cases they suddenly scamper away in a flurry of motion.
The books on today’s list are a nice mixture of practical medical advice for outdoor adventures and ones that explore the many advantages of getting some exercise outdoors while the weather is warm and nice. I have read all of them and would recommend all of them. (Well, I actually read a similar first aid book that I couldn’t find online anymore. But close enough).
Yes, that final title does talk about zombies, but the advice in it is wholly practical and can be used for all sorts of survival situations. I’ve even found it useful for more ordinary troubles like dealing with days when I’m feeling out of sorts and need to comfort myself.
I hope this list has encouraged you to spend time outdoors this summer if you can and if you’re interested. It’s a wonderful way to spend the summer in my opinion.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any medical conditions. Please consult with a medical professional if you need medical advice. I’m simply writing about my own experiences here.
The first multi-day tension headache I remember experiencing happened at age seven or eight soon after my family moved to Wyoming. Our house was small and comfortable but rarely quiet due to the simple realities of how trailer homes are constructed and the fact that two adults, three young children, and a small assortment of mischievous pets shared that cozy two-bedroom home.
Ordinarily, the overlapping, never-ending conversations, barks from our excitable dog, clangs from the kitchen, and other noises didn’t bother me as a child of that age, but I did wish for quieter corners of the globe when my head pounded for days in a row. What I had instead were cold wash cloths on my forehead and the stillness that comes from lying down and waiting for all of our home remedies to chase that discomfort away.
My life has changed in countless ways since then.
I’ve since learned that mild dehydration, caffeine, and stress are among my biggest triggers for these long-lived headaches.
But every once in a while, one of them still sneaks past my best prevention efforts.
This past weekend was my most recent experience with a stubborn headache that lasts multiple days.
Along with drinking extra water, getting more rest, and eating chocolate when taking over-the-counter pain medicine to help amplify their effects, mindfulness is another tool in my headache-busting toolbox.
Headaches can’t always be prevented, but I can have better experiences with them when they show up by remaining in the moment.
Less Tension, Less Pain
My headaches often spiral into a negative feedback loop of pain leading to tense muscles that in turn lead to more pain.
The best thing I can do when a new one begins is to relax my muscles as soon and as much as possible.
This is where mindfulness comes in. Whether I’ve undertaken a formal meditation session on that particular day or have simply decided to breathe in and out deeply and slowly, every ounce of relaxation matters.
Sometimes this looks like me lying down and closing my eyes for twenty minutes. While it can lead to a nap, sleeping isn’t the goal. Breaking that cycle is the goal.
A Distracting Walk
I know I talk about my love of long walks a lot on this blog, but this time I’m thinking of them as a type of distraction instead of a form of exercise.
Ideally, the walk would take place in a natural setting like a park or a beach, but it can happen on city streets as well. It’s generally slow and meandering instead of brisk.
The purpose of it is to gently pull my attention away from my discomfort and to anything else happening around me.
It could be the sight of two seagulls fighting over a french fry someone accidentally dropped or the sound of leaves rustling in the breeze.
Maybe a jogger will run by and I’ll take a moment to silently congratulate them on their good running form. The sun’s rays could shine down on my forehead and almost feel like a warm kiss from a loved one.
These sounds and sights wash over me. I acknowledge them but do my best not to dwell on them once they’ve passed. Responding to small moments like these is a nice reminder that headaches, too, will pass and that I shouldn’t spend time thinking about how long they’ve been going on or when they’ll end.
There’s something about this sort of distracting change of scenery that does a body good, especially when you’re in discomfort.
Living in the Moment
Patience is a skill I’ve honed nicely over the years.
While medication dulls the pain of a headache in the short term, this is one of those ailments that needs time to truly fade away. It can’t be rushed.
One of the beautiful things about taking a mindful approach to headaches is that it teaches you to sit with yourself in this exact moment.
There’s something freeing about doing what you can to alleviate the pain of a headache and then stopping and observing everything you’re experiencing in that moment without judging it.
Will mindfulness cure headaches? No, not in my experience, but it can make it easier to handle them when they pop up.
Lately, I’ve been feeling the effects of cabin fever. This is typically the time of year when I’d begin spending much longer periods of time outdoors each day now that the weather is warming up.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many of the outdoor places I’d normally be visiting now are closed. Torontonians have also been asked to only use public transit for necessary trips like going to work, buying groceries, or seeking medical care.
In addition, all of the amenities in our parks are closed. That is, no one is allowed to use their playgrounds, washrooms, basketball courts, tennis courts, swimming pools, or dog parks. Even the benches are becoming off-limits for most folks!
I’ve been very fortunate so far during this pandemic in many other ways, but I am sure am missing those nature visits right about now. Yesterday was a bit of an antsy day for me which lead to the compilation of this list.
Some of these videos last a few minutes. Others go on for a few hours. Feel free to pick the ones that best suit your time availability and interests. They are roughly arranged from the shortest to the longest walk.
There was very little speaking in this video. It’s mostly first-person footage of someone walking through a forest. I especially loved the bird calls in the background. They really made me feel like I was there!
Like the forest walk, this one involved no background music. There was some guided meditation here and there, but the rest of it only included the sorts of sounds you’d hear at the beach. The gulls in the background were so relaxing. I could almost taste the salt in the air.
All of the sounds in this 20 minute rain forest walk were natural ones. I heard many birds chirping in the forest. Sometimes there were also the sounds of the camera person walking on dead foliage or of running water.
I’ve never been to England, but this looks like a very relaxing place to visit. It was a 25 minute walk that only includes natural sounds from the scenery. Most of the sounds the microphone picked up were of the wind.
Several years ago, my spouse and I went on a beach vacation with a few dozen of my relatives. Other than catching up with everyone, of course, the nicest part of it was walking up and down the beach when there were very few other folks out and about.
I’m a morning person, so for me many of those times were early in the day when the tide had gone out. What a calming experience it was to hear nothing but the sound of the ocean lapping against shore and the cry of seagulls in the distance. This one hour walk reminded me a lot of those ones.