M – Mindfulness


Photo adapted from Unsplash @ pixabay.com

  • That moment when the sun crests the horizon, making the sky blush
  • That moment when I stand beneath the Sable Dunes, with Lake Superior licking my toes
  • That moment when the ground gives away and the expanse of the Grand Canyon opens up in front of me
  • That moment when the car rounds a bend and the face of George Washington carved into stone looks down on me through the trees
  • That moment when the clouds part, revealing not just the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen, but a rainbow, too
  • That moment when I’m sitting on a giant rock jutting out into Lake Huron, watching a thunderstorm approach
  • That moment when I lie on a blanket under elderly oak trees at the park, the sun trickling down between the leaves
  • That moment when I look back over my shoulder and realize what the Black Hills look like from above
  • That moment when we reach the summit of the mountain, with the baby sound asleep in the backpack
  • That moment when I look at my family across the campfire, their faces streaked with marshmallow and chocolate

These are the moments when I can’t think of anything other than where I am, who I’m with, and who I am. These are the moments when I understand what it means to be mindful of the moment. What are your moments of mindfulness?


E – Exercise

beach running

Adapted from sea-412578_1920_Dieter G @ Pixabay.com

Confession time: I hate exercising for the sake of exercising. I have never been a fan of going to the gym or jogging. I have a treadmill that collects more dust than miles. So, if you’re at all like me, don’t stop reading once you see that word EXERCISE. Stick with me for a few minutes…

While I do not like exercise in and of itself, I love getting outside. There’s something about the fresh air and change in scenery that makes me want to be active. Suddenly, I feel like grabbing the rake or trimming a tree. I’m bouncing a basketball with one of my sons while I play traffic cop as my other son rides his bike up and down the driveway. There’s no gym membership required, but just being outside means I’m burning more calories than I would be inside on a chair.

Think those outside activities don’t matter much? Take a look at the list of outdoor activities and their calorie-burning power compiled by Everyday Health’s Jen Laskey:

  • Frisbee: 100 calories
  • Jumping on a trampoline: 100 calories
  • Dancing: 115 to 150 calories or more
  • Snorkeling: 120 calories
  • Horseback riding: 150 calories
  • Gardening: 160 calories
  • Kayaking: 150 calories
  • Swimming: 180 calories
  • Playing tennis: 250 calories
  • Rollerblading: 250 calories
  • Beach volleyball: 280 calories
  • Biking around town: 250 calories or more
  • Jumping rope: 360 calories

*All calorie counts are approximate and are based on a 150-pound person engaging in the activity at moderate intensity for 30 minutes.

The Beyond the Tent blog adds more useful calorie-burning outside activities:

  • Rowing: 250 calories per hour
  • Hiking & Backpacking: 500 calories per hour.
  • Walking: 200 calories per hour.
  • Playing with children: 200 calories per hour.

Those outside activities add up quickly. According to the blog at Eureka Tents, there’s an added bonus to exercising outside:

…People who walked outside walked faster, perceived less exertion, and had more positive feelings than people who walked on a treadmill.

Want an interesting activity that will keep your family engaged while exercising? Try Geocaching! Annette, a mom, reported on the Geocaching Junkie blog that “Every time we mention geocaching, as opposed to just going for a walk, [the kids] are out of the door like a shot! Now they do enjoy the outdoors, but geocaching adds an extra motivation to get out there.”

By the way, if you think you need to spend hours outside to see results, findings show that just 30 minutes of light exercise could improve your health:


Challenge yourself and your family to spend just a half hour of your day outside. My guess is that you’ll all be happier and healthier for it!

Read more of my Blogging From A-Z Challenge posts: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside

D – Digital Detox

beach father and son

Out of curiosity, I searched for the word “detox” in Pinterest this morning. I can’t tell you how many results I found—too many to count. I even found a board dedicated to detoxes that includes an astounding 1,137 pins!

What’s the lesson to be learned here? No, the lesson I’m going for has nothing to do with lemon juice or kale. What I drew from this quick search was a clear sense that people see the world we live in as TOXIC.

A toxin is usually defined as something poisonous, something we’d want to stay far away from. Somehow, though, we humans acknowledge that many things around us are toxic, yet we don’t stay away from those things. In many cases, we embrace those toxins. At some point, though, we go searching for a recipe to detox our bodies, to rid us of the effects of those poisons.

I’d like to offer up my own recipe for detoxing today:

  1. Turn off TV, cell phones, video games, and any other digital devices.
  2. Go outside.

Obviously, I’m focused on our overreliance on digital devices as the “poison” in our lives today. Like many other toxins, even while we bemoan the impact of these devices on our relationships and family lives, we can’t help responding to one more text and watching one more movie. I’m guilty of it, too. I took my phone out to take a quick picture and then just had to respond to a bunch of email messages, too, taking my attention away from my kids.

What effect does digital media have on kids?

In 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation released an often-cited report claiming children between 8 and 18 spent 7 hours and 38 minutes a day focused on digital media. Much research has focused on what the impact of that large amount of digital interaction has been. While there are some positives (access to information, entertainment and communication), findings have included many negatives:

  • obesity
  • depression
  • ADHD
  • violence
  • self-esteem issues

While I’m not suggesting you remove all digital devices from your children’s lives, an afternoon outside or a weekend camping trip could be a great opportunity for a digital detox. It’s a good time to talk, reconnect, and remember what life was like before we become addicted to technology.

If you’re not quite ready to entirely unplug, the National Wildlife Federation has put together this presentation with ideas for incorporating digital media in your outdoor adventures—sort of a best of all worlds situation:

What’s your favorite way of digital detoxing? 

Read more of my Blogging From A-Z Challenge posts: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside

B – Break from Daily Life

swing reasons to take your family outside break from daily life

Adapted from swint-set-667949_1920_ctvgs @ Pixabay.com

I’m a mom. As such, my normal daily schedule looks a bit like this:

daily schedule

I know many others have schedules that are far crazier than mine, but it’s clear that we have a lot to keep us occupied during the day. Activity-packed days turn into weeks, which turn into months, and suddenly we feel like our days are repeating themselves—Groundhog Day style. We don’t get enough sleep. We don’t eat as well as we should. We cut corners where we can to make everything fit into the schedule. By the time the weekend rolls around, we’re exhausted—and for good reason! We look forward to vacations to “catch-up,” but how many times have you found yourself saying, “I need a vacation from my vacation” when you return?

Let’s face it: We need a break. Our families need a break.

But how do we find time for a break—a really refreshing break?

What most of us forget is that we have a great way to take a break right in front of us: The great outdoors!

Having trouble sleeping?

Current Biology did a study (reported by Fox News) that camping can result in a break from the unnatural circadian rhythms caused by modern life. According to Kenneth Wright, who led the study, “By increasing our exposure to sunlight and reducing our exposure to electrical lighting at night, we can turn our internal clock and sleep times back and likely make it easier to awaken and be alert in the morning.” It took less than a week of camping for study participants to feel less groggy in the morning. Even if a camping trip isn’t in your future, spending more time outside during the day and reducing exposure to artificial light in the evenings can produce results. Starting your day with a walk outside can jumpstart your circadian rhythm.

Feeling stressed?

Just being outside can act as a stress break. In a Landscape and Urban Planning study reported in Prevention, scientists measured the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in 25 healthy adults in Scotland and discovered that participants living where green space was in abundance had lower cortisol levels and fewer complaints of stress. If you think this means you have to move to the country, there’s good news. Environmental Science & Technology reported that people showed improved mood and self-esteem after only five minutes of light exercise outdoors.

Life’s routines and never-ending to-do list too much for you?

When things feel hectic at home, I find myself yearning for the routine break of a camping trip. Yes, we still have to set-up the campsite, make food, etc. However, doing these things away from home is a nice change of routine. When we’re camping, I’m not thinking about the laundry that needs to get washed, the bills that need to be paid, or the vet appointment I need to make for the dog. I talk with my family around the campfire, go for walks in the woods, and play games at the picnic table. For that brief time, I relax.


Next time things feel hectic and you notice you’re not sleeping well, stressed, or overwhelmed with life, take my advice and get outside. No, time spent outside won’t get those bills paid, but my guess is that you’ll return to those tasks with more focus and a renewed spirit.

How do you take a break from daily life?

Read more of my Blogging From A-Z Challenge posts: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside

A-Z Theme Reveal: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside

leaves jumping 26 reasons to take your family outside

Scottish-American Naturalist John Muir once said, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” Not surprisingly, Muir is one of the people most responsible for the National Park System we have in the US today. He gave up a career in industry to wander his way from Indiana to Florida in 1867, sketching the flora and fauna along the way. Eventually, he made his way to California and surrendered himself to the lure of the natural world. PBS writes that Muir “felt a spiritual connection to nature; he believed that mankind is just one part of an interconnected natural world, not its master, and that God is revealed through nature.”

Muir understood the power of nature in a way that many 21st century people do not. Perhaps that was because he didn’t have the distractions of today, the phones, TVs, video games, and a thousand other things. In 2005, Robert Louv published a book called Last Child in the Woods, in which he coined the term “nature deficit disorder” and argued many behavior problems children were experiencing were related to the fact they no longer went outside.

The good news is that things are changing. The Outdoor Foundation released a report in 2013 that said 49.2% of Americans participated in some sort of outdoor recreation, and the National Park System reported record-breaking attendance in 2015.

Why do we need to get outside?

With so many things packed into our daily schedules, it’s not easy to find time to take a walk or play ball in the backyard. I’m guilty of going into hibernation mode as soon as the temperatures fall below 50. Can it really matter that much if we don’t get outside?

The simple answer is YES, it matters a great deal. The benefits for spending time outdoors—even just five minutes—have been well researched. Rather than get into them today, though, I’ve decided to make it my 2016 A-Z Challenge theme to give you 26 Reasons To Take Your Family Outside. Some of the reasons are lighthearted, but many are quite serious. My hope is that at least one of the reasons will you stick in your mind, and when you feel like you just want to relax on the couch and watch a movie, you’ll get up and head outside instead.

To get you started on your own outdoor adventure (and because it fits so well with the A-Z blogging challenge), I encourage you to take up the National Wildlife Federation’s “26 Ideas From A-Z” outdoor activity challenge with your family.

I hope you’ll check back for the 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside, beginning April 1, 2016! 

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