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August's My Mighty Month Challenge Is to Enjoy the Outdoors

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It’s summertime, the sun is out and people everywhere are having backyard barbecues, going camping and hitting the beach. But enjoying the outdoors can be a challenge if you have a physical disability like I do, a chronic illness that makes you sun sensitive or heat intolerant, or depression or anxiety that makes going outside the last thing on your mind. But spending time outdoors has proven health benefits. Studies show enjoying nature can increase your short-term memory, lower your heart rate and cortisol levels, reduce inflammation and improve mood in people with depression.

Many of our Mighty contributors have written about how spending time outside helps them cope with aspects of their condition or improves their mental health. Henry Green, who has autism, shared how taking walks in the countryside helps him with sensory overload. Jason Bell discussed being an active outdoorsman and reinventing what that looks like after a fibromyalgia diagnosis. Emma England offered tips for connecting with nature when it’s difficult due to illnesses like myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. And several members of our Mighty community have shared what a “beach body” looks like when you have a disability or illness.

This August, as part of our My Mighty Month challenge series, we’re asking you to find ways to enjoy the outdoors when and where you can, even if you’re dealing with health challenges. It starts with something simple: Every day, go outside for five to 10 minutes simply to enjoy the experience, then write about it using this chart. 

You don’t need to spend a lot of time writing, just answer the questions with a sentence or even a few words.

I went outside today and…

  • I saw/heard/smelled:
  • I feel:

Outside can be anywhere — your backyard, the courtyard or roof of your apartment building, a local park or beach. You can travel somewhere or stay close to home. If you’re living with significant illness, even sitting on your patio or balcony or opening a window can count. And you can go outside anytime. If it’s hot, morning or dusk may be best. If you feel up to it, the midday sun can give you a little vitamin D energy boost to get through the day. You can walk a dog, do some light gardening, wander through the woods or just sit and look at a tree waving in the wind — anything you find fun or relaxing.

I encourage those participating to sign-up for our My Mighty Month newsletter. Each week I’ll be sharing tips and insights from the My Mighty month community related to sun and heat protection, the mental health benefits of pets, accessible outdoor spaces and how to bring nature into your home. You can also follow along by following me on The Mighty and using the #MyMightyMonthOutdoors. I’m looking forward to seeing all the creative ways you find to enjoy the beautiful August weather!

Want to make August a Mighty Month? Join us on Facebook at My Mighty Month, and don’t forget to tag any social media posts with #MyMightyMonthOutdoors. You can also sign up for our My Mighty Month emails, (select “Mighty Monthly Challenges” from the newsletter options), for exclusive content. 

Getty image by Mary Frances Love.

Originally published: August 1, 2018
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