It’s the middle of the month and that means we’re halfway through the 30×30 Nature Challenge! I’ve got an update for you on how my challenge is going, but we’d love to hear from you: what are your joys and challenges trying to get out into nature each day?

The Update

With 15 days of May under my belt, I’m managing an 80% success rate. Three out of the 15 days I didn’t spend any time outdoors to speak of – a few minutes walking to or from the bus or my car at most. That means I’ve had 12 days where I got at least 30 minutes of outdoor time: that works out to at least 6 outdoor hours this month. When I think about how many hours I’ve spent playing games on my computer or watching Netflix, that’s pretty paltry. The good news is, it’s more than usual!

Define “Nature”

As I was tallying up how much I’ve managed to get outside, I found myself wondering what “counted”. The David Suzuki Foundation, which runs this challenge, suggests that we need to get not just outside, but outside in nature. There’s who debates among academic scholars over how we should define nature, and how we categorize degrees of wildness, and how ‘natural’ a space needs to be for us to glean mental, physical, and emotional benefits from spending time in it.

A prairie crocus blooms in early spring on our green roof.

If “nature” means a semi-wild or wild green space with plants taller than grass and muted or no traffic noises, only three of my twelve outdoor days (or 20% of my month in total so far) count as “natural”. I’d like to get into wilder spaces more in the second half of the month, but I’m also trying to learn to notice the “nearby nature” of my city. I work downtown and live near there, so when I walk home I try to take routes down tree-lined streets or close to the river. I paused to enjoy the floral scent wafting towards me from the Legislature greenhouses, and discovered a new riverside pathway extending past Cornish avenue. I took a walk in West St. Paul with somebody who knows her birds and learned to identify by song several common birds.

 

How to Get Yourself Outside

I’ve got some pretty good excuses for the days when I didn’t get outside…well, maybe. One day I had family obligations and work that required me to be indoors all day. Two other days I was feeling run-down and it was nippy out, so I sat around indoors instead of taking myself out for a walk. Are you facing similar challenges? I think we all do! Our lives are designed to be lived inside.

We took some time to play outside together on a beautiful day!

Challenge: It’s chilly/rainy/too hot/too buggy outside

Solution: Part of the 30×30 challenge is learning to enjoy nature (or at least experience the benefits of it) in any weather. Cool weather usually means that you’ll need to be active outside and sitting on the deck to read a book won’t cut it unless you’re a human furnace. Proper layering of clothing can help a lot when it’s cold. If it’s hot, try getting outdoors earlier or later in the day than you’re used to: or even try heading out at night for some stargazing and firefly-spotting! Too buggy? Throw on some light long pants and shirt and spritz with bugspray (or light a Citronella candle in your yard).

 

Challenge: No time

Solution: Try working outdoor time into your workday. Can you take your lunchbreak outside? Make a meeting into a walking meeting? Commute by foot, rollerblade, bike, scooter, wheelchair, or skateboard? Or just break up your 30 minutes into 10 minute breaks. Given the health benefits of nature, try scheduling your outdoor time into your calendar like a doctor’s appointment or medication reminder.

Get creative with what you do outside – we tried out Poi!

Challenge: Not sure what to do outside

Solution: There’s some great resources to help you out!

  • Want to do something in a group? Nature Manitoba has supported outdoor excursions ranging from city walks to weekend canoe trips to group bike rides.
  • Mountain Equipment Co-op and Wilderness Supply have rentals of backcountry and boating gear to help you try out a new experience outside!
  • The Forks and Assiniboine Park offer bike and tandem bike rentals for puttering about and exploring Winnipeg
  • Grab an identification book at your local library and head outside to see what you can identify! Try for edible and medicinal plants (though please use caution and sense if you choose to pick and harvest; harvesting is forbidden in all National Parks), birds, flowers, woody plants and shrubs, insects, mammals, and more!
  • The David Suzuki Foundation has some excellent daily tips for enjoying nature

Check out all the great resources on the internet full of ideas of how to get outside! I like these, among others, as a place to start:

I’ll be back at the end of the month with an update and some great research on the benefits of spending time in nature!