Friday, July 29, 2016
SFL Series: Get Outside!
I've been thinking a lot about slow family living (SFL) since I posted the first article in the series, and I've felt overwhelmed considering all of the potential topics. Where to begin? Well, I am sitting on my front porch right now, something I haven't done in awhile due to the high temperatures and humidity. Today is cooler, there is a breeze, and it looks like it's going to rain. How I love a summer storm! It's one of the simple pleasures of life.
Even though I haven't enjoyed porch living as much as I would like to lately, I've still forced myself to spend a few minutes outdoors on a daily basis. Sunshine is vital to our mental health and proper working of the circadian system, which promotes good sleep. It's also necessary to get 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure daily, without sunscreen, to insure that our bodies get enough vitamin D. Fresh air is important, especially if the windows are closed up and you have the air conditioning running day and night. I feel depressed if I am cooped up in the house all day.
Naturally it makes sense when it's very hot and humid to get outside either early in the mornings or to wait until evening. These are also the ideal times to water your garden. I have several container plants and a vegetable garden, so caring for those gets me outside. We also walk our dogs daily. Sometimes I join my daughter at the swimming pool. I like the evening hours best. There are fewer children, so it's easier for a grown up to swim laps. Incidentally, these outdoor activities can be family oriented, a time to enjoy being together while going about the regular routines of life.
My family volunteered to water our parish Rosary Garden every other week, so we often ride our bikes to do that, which provides us with family time, service work, exposure to the beauty of the natural world, and exercise all at once! Time outdoors can certainly be spiritual. It's easy to pray the Rosary while going for a walk.
You don't have to go somewhere special to get outside. Occasional trips camping, going to the beach, or visiting the zoo are nice, and I do recommend them. But try to focus on the simple pleasures of daily life. Create beautiful outdoor spaces where you can eat your lunch, meditate, read a book, even sing! Explore your own neighborhood and say hello to the people you meet. Walk around your yard and pull a few weeds. Take your compost bucket out to dump in the heap. Fill up the bird bath and feeder. Soak in the scent of clover. See what is growing. Cut a few blooms that are fading and make a pretty bouquet in a Ball Mason jar vase.
I have a wonderful upstairs balcony with tree branches so close they almost touch the house. Here I can listen to church bells and watch the birds going about their business. A little nature goes a long way. We need to find the balance between doing and just being. Spending time outdoors for both can help us to find the center of things.