Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The Best Things in Life Are Free (and Healing)

“The six best doctors: sunshine, water, rest, air, exercise, and diet.” ~Wayne Fields

I’ve always believed the best things in life are free. Sunshine on your skin next to a body of water ranks up there as one of my favorite experiences. I love nothing more than to be in a pool in the summertime.

Though doctors have helped me with my depression, nature has provided me with my best doctors. When I am in nature, I feel restored.

When I was a child, I used to like to go on adventures. I would venture off into my parents’ backyard with the neighborhood kids, telling them we were going on an adventure into the forest.

I was a little nature child in love with the flowers, the sunlight, and the trees.

Those were some of my best memories of childhood. But, as I grew older I forgot about the restorative power of nature.

I started working all of the time and using the weekends for chores. I stopped doing the things I loved. I forgot to venture into the forest.

For years, I suffered from seasonal affective disorder. In the winter, a deep depression would overtake me. I was exhausted. I didn’t want to get out of bed.

Being inside felt suffocating. The dark nights and the cold winters seemed to drain my spirit. In the spring, I would feel reborn.

Once I realized that there was a definite seasonal aspect to my depression, I started taking preventative measures. I bought a light box and started getting up earlier each day to get some sunlight in the winter. I made a point to go meet friends and not stay at home all day.

There are many tools I use to cope with my depression. I see a therapist and take medication. But, for me, the best medicine is preventative. It’s getting out into the world each day.

Getting enough sunshine is vital to my well-being. I almost feel like the sun is recharging me when I get some sunlight. I talk a morning walk each day, walk the dog and listen to the birds. I use that time to say positive affirmations to myself and reflect on having a good day.

If I have time, I take a walk during my lunch break or at least spend some time outside. I remember the days when I would stay inside at work eating my sandwich while staring at the computer. No more eating at the desk for me!

I take another walk when I get home from work. It relieves the stress from the workday and sets me up for a nice evening. These are short ten minute walks, but they really do make a difference.

After dinner, I try to find some time just for me. Soaking in a hot bath seems to melt away all of my worries.

Being a Pisces, I’ve always been drawn to water. I live in a land-locked state, but take every opportunity I can to go to the ocean. As kids, we used to go fishing on the weekends. I remember how quiet those days were. Just looking at water seems to cleanse the negativity from my mind.

I like to watch the way the sun sparkles on the water and the way it ripples. Water has a very meditative quality. You can’t help but feel mesmerized looking at it.

I don’t always get the opportunity to be near a body of water, but I love the springtime. Opening the doors to let in fresh air after months locked inside is invigorating. I like to do some spring cleaning with the doors and windows open to let in the light and a light breeze.

No matter what time of year it is, proper rest is vital to a healthy body and mind. I used to go for days staying up late and waking up early, not understanding why I felt so lethargic and terrible all of the time.

When I don’t get enough sleep, I am crabby with others, eat unhealthy food, and stop being productive at work. I get in the habit of powering up with caffeine through the day and not being able to get to sleep at night. The next day, I wake up tired and the cycle begins all over again.

When I do get enough sleep, I have the energy to exercise. The combination of rest and exercise leads to feeling much better.

I can tell a big difference in my outlook when I don’t exercise. When I’m active, I smile more, breathe easier, and get more done.

When I skip a few days, I become irritable and tired. I snap at my husband. I don’t want to play baseball with the child. Ironically, using energy to exercise creates more energy for love.

However, I’ve also found that I have to do exercise that I love or it feels like a chore.

I love yoga and taking walks outside. I love Zumba because it makes me feel like I’m dancing. But, ask me to run and I’ll resist and procrastinate.

I want to enjoy exercise and moving my body. When I opt for what I enjoy, I look forward to doing it.

For me, all of the other elements come before diet. Perhaps for others, it is the opposite.

For years, I have battled with trying to eat better. What I’ve found is that I’m getting the other four items, I naturally want to eat better. It’s not as much of a struggle as it is when I start with diet first.

By all means, use every tool that helps you to enjoy a full, healthy, and happy life. But, give nature a try.

Revel in the warm weather! Get out and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. Get some rest, take a nice walk, and eat some fresh, healthy vegetables. End the day with a nice, warm bath.

It may be just what the doctor ordered.

About Melissa McCaughan

Melissa McCaughan, the author of Legacy, is a literal ghost writer, choosing ghosts as the protagonists of her novels. She is currently working on a sequel, Epiphany, coming out later this year. She teaches an Adventure e-course called There’s No Place Like Home: Finding Adventure in Your Own Backyard and writes a blog called Carpe Diem. Follow her on Facebook.

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