By this point in the year, I have usually failed in all of my New Year’s Resolutions. In fact, by this point in the year I’ve usually completely forgotten what resolutions I set myself in the first place. This year has been different though, and my resolution of getting outside before work, as many times a week as possible, is going so well that I am starting to believe that an early morning adventure can change your life.
There’s a small area of woodland close to my house, it takes exactly 6 minutes to drive there, and 45 minutes to walk around the longest circular route of the woods. I first discovered this small wooded area in May last year and my wife and I walked around it quite a few times on sunny Sunday afternoons throughout last year. Each time I did that walk on a Sunday afternoon I thought it would be an easy, and really enjoyable walk to do on a weekday morning. I often thought about setting the alarm an hour earlier and getting out there, but for one reason or another, I never did that and my ‘outside’ time was always in the afternoons or in the evenings.
As winter arrived with it’s dark afternoons, my outside time became restricted to weekends only, with the exception of a few weekday walks around the park on my lunch breaks. Like many people, I start to get cabin fever through the winter, and the lack of time spent outside can really bring my mood down.
On one Friday afternoon in November, I decided to finish work a few hours early and go for a walk around those woods to get some fresh air and daylight. I quickly discovered that the trails around the woods were not made for winter walking and in some places the mud was shin deep, far deeper than I could walk through in my usual walking boots. I turned around and walked back to the car, thinking that I probably wouldn’t visit these woods again until late spring when the ground was more suitable for walking on.
Fast forward to mid-December and I was back in the woods, this time though it was shin deep in snow and looking incredible. We took about two hours to walk the route that usually takes 45 minutes, stopping to take photos and play around in the snow. I was reminded what a great little patch of woodland it was, considering it was so close to home. Again I thought about how enjoyable it would be to walk this route in the morning before work and I started to think about resolutions. For a few weeks I had been thinking about what positive changes or habits I wanted to try and bring into my life, and right then and there I decided that walking this route before work each day was going to be that resolution.
We’re now in mid-February and I’ve been heading to the woods at 7:30am at least three or four times a week. A newly purchased pair of wellies now have a permanent home in the boot of my car and each morning they get to splash around in mud and puddles. As far a resolutions go, it’s definitely the best one I’ve ever attempted.
It’s a bold statement to say that anything is ‘life-changing’ but getting outside and exploring before breakfast could really be one of the most positive things you can do for yourself, and here are just a few reasons why…
It’s a Great Start to the Day
If you’ve started the day by doing something for yourself, and something that you really enjoy it’s likely that you can take that feeling into the rest of the day with you. It can really set you up for the day.
There have been many times in the past when I have woken up and checked my work emails and been put into a bad mood because of something in my inbox as soon as I have woken up. Now I head straight outdoors in the morning and wouldn’t even think about emails or work until I get back, and by that time I am in a great head space and nothing in that inbox would be able to change my mood.
Your Productivity Will Be Increased
I’m sure that we’ve all had those mornings when you just can’t get going. You know what you need to do, but you can’t find the motivation to do it. I used to have those days a lot.
In the seven weeks that I have been getting an hour outside several times a week before breakfast, I have found that I am far more productive on the days that I do get outdoors. I’m usually out within 15 minutes of waking up, and then when I get back I have a clear plan for the day and I’m wide awake and feeling energised.
You Will Have Improved Clarity and Focus
Waking up with a rested mind, and then heading straight outdoors into a relaxing environment has given me an opportunity to find a level of clarity and focus that I don’t think I have had for a very long time.
Previously, the alarm would go off and I would immediately check Facebook, Instagram and emails and my mind would then be distracted by the things I had just read instead of focusing on the things that I needed to think about. Now I’m straight out the door and don’t even consider checking my phone until I am back home, this small digital detox allows the mental space to really clarify my thoughts.
You’ll Get Some Green Therapy
I’ve written about the benefits of walking amongst the trees before, but it’s certainly worth mentioning again.
Spend as little as 45 minutes a day breathing in the forest air and you will start receiving benefits such as reduced stress levels, reduced blood pressure, improved mood and an improved immune system.
This isn’t some tree hugging, hippy ideology, it’s backed by government research and in other countries, is a key part of preventative health care.
Your Stress Levels Will Be Reduced
An early morning adventure, whether it be a slow wander around your local park, a strenuous hike up your nearest hill, or a bike ride around your local trails, will undoubtedly help to reduce your stress levels.
I’ve found that starting the day in such a great way definitely boosts my ability to deal with the day-to-day stresses of work and life and that one hour in the morning really serves as a platform to create the sort of day that I want to have. Relaxed, refreshed and focused.
It Will Give You An Energy Boost
You might think that getting up an extra hour earlier each day will leave you feeling tired, but it could actually have the opposite effect.
Regular exercise is known to increase energy levels, and some researchers claim that going for a walk is more effective than taking a nap when it comes to fighting fatigue.
I don’t have any problem getting up early in the morning, but I do quite often struggle to get to sleep at night. The early morning walks definitely help with this too, a combination of the exercise and the clear mind seem to speed up the process of falling asleep. This equates to a win-win situation, a good night’s sleep and an early morning adventure.
You’ll Get A Sense of Achievement
In the seven weeks that I have been heading to my local woods in the morning, I have only seen one other person out walking in all that time, that person was way in the distance walking their dog.
I’ve probably spent around 15 hours walking through those woods since I last saw anybody and I quite often feel like that little patch of woodland is now my back garden. I have a sense of ownership like it’s my own place to go to an unwind.
There’s also a sense of achievement to be found in knowing that you’re doing what you want to do and squeezing in a bit of adventure while everyone else is just waking up and eating their Cornflakes.
If you want to make positive changes in your life then give it a go. Set your alarm a bit earlier and get out there. Go for a walk, a run or a ride. Choose your adventure and go and enjoy it while the rest of the world is still asleep, you won’t regret it.