America the Beautiful

There is nothing like a road trip to remind me about how beautiful our country is.

On the way  to our annual ski trip we drove through the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, commonly know as the Bad Lands. We drove through the National Grasslands in ND and then Montana where you drive through the eastern plains, river valleys, and into the Madison and Gallatin mountain ranges.

Although Minneapolis and St. Paul don’t seem big compared to other cities like L.A., Chicago, and New York they seem huge compared to the cities and towns of North Dakota and Montana.  There is so much open land and incredible vistas, canyons, and mountains that I don’t see in MN.  There is an openness you don’t see unless you venture outside of the city.

The beauty of our country is astounding and I’m  grateful for the former Presidents  who set aside land for national parks and monuments.  If they had not been forward thinkers we would have had many of these pristine lands developed and ruined for experiencing its beauty.

Having access to open spaces and to nature is a gift that I don’t take for granted.  It gives us all the opportunity to connect with nature and ultimately connect with the fact that we are part of this incredible world.

Although there are many beautiful places within cities, there is nothing like being in land that is minimally developed and open for visitors.  We have some of the most beautiful land on this planet that people will travel from across the world to see and experience.

I’ve blogged about this before, but there is compelling research that shows how spending time in nature is good for our mental and physical health. I know that when I spend time in beautiful places like the mountains I feel more at peace and less stressed.

Being in nature helps me realize that if we don’t take care of our world, it will be our loss and the loss for future generations.

My concern is that not all people share this same ideal of preserving our current state and national parks from development or exploitation of natural resources like oil and gas reserves. There are those that would like to pull back on commitments of recently set aside lands from our previous administration. That would be a huge mistake.

One thing I realize as I drive across our country is that there is so much land that is already developed and we need to protect as much as we can. The reality is that you can not pull back once land is developed so it’s imperative to protect it for us and future generations.

Work with me to encourage our leaders to protect our country’s most beautiful lands from exploitation, pollution, and development.

 

Would You Please Stand Up and Get Outside

credit: RHaynes

credit: RHaynes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It shouldn’t be an earth shattering concept, but being outside is good for us.

It’s more than a nice experience to be in a beautiful environment, it’s good for your health. In the article, “Spending Time Outdoors is Good For You”, from the Harvard Health Letter,  researchers have found the following benefits to being outside:

  • Your vitamin D levels rise
  • You’ll get more exercise
  • You’ll be happier
  • Your concentration will improve
  • You may heal faster

In other research conducted by David Strayer, professor of cognition and neural science at the University of Utah, he found that being outdoors increases brain creativity and problem solving skills. In an experiment he conducted, he took a group of students on a 4 day trek in the wilderness and then tested them on cognitive tests.  The students returning from their wilderness experience scored 50% higher than their peers who stayed home.

If we look at the course of human evolution, it’s fairly evident that we have spent more time outside and being confined to houses, office buildings, and our cars are a modern development.  Our last 150 years is a blip on the human timeline.  Being outside is not a nice thing to do, I think it’s how we are hardwired from our earliest days as humans.

I know that when I get outside I’m happier, more creative, and find that it enhances my relationships. Part of my lifestyle is to go outside as much as possible, regardless of the time of year and weather.  Living in the upper midwest doesn’t always make that easy, but I think it’s a good idea to apply the Boy Scout rule for bad weather:

Plan B, is Plan A with rain

I have to give credit to the Scouts, they don’t let bad weather hold them back from being outdoors.

My encouragement to you is to incorporate more time outdoors as part of your overall health strategy.  Stand up and Get Outside.

What Health Can Buy: Part 2

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When I talk to people who are contemplating losing weight or improving another part of their health I often hear of their fear of deprivation or hardship.  “I want to lose weight, but I hate the taste of vegetables”.  “I want to get healthier, but I really don’t like working out”.   Even before they begin, they are focusing on what they have to give up, what pain they have to endure, or how much they’ll have to change in order to look and feel better.

Focusing on pain and deprivation is a motivation killer for most people.  It’s hard to gear up for changing our lives when we feel like we’ll have to suffer in the process.  It’s no wonder so many people avoid working on their health altogether.

But what if we looked at change differently?  Instead of focusing on the  deprivation that change brings, let’s look at what health will buy us.

This winter I went on a 3 day trip to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota.  My son and I joined a group of other Boy Scouts and headed north to a high adventure camp where we got to cross country ski, snowshoe, and build snow forts.  We also took ride on a dog sled and some of us slept in our snow forts in sub zero temps.  During the day we pulled our gear on special sleds and we covered 7 to 8 miles each day on our treks.

DSC01957This is the first camp I’ve been to where there are health restrictions on who can attend. At this camp, you have to be healthy because it could take awhile for help to arrive if you had an emergency.  As a result each adult had to have a pre-trip physical and could not exceed  a weight range established for their  height.  To be honest, the range is pretty generous. For my height, I could weigh 60 pounds heavier than I am right now. Based on what we did that weekend, I’m glad I wasn’t carrying 60 extra pounds along with the gear I was already pulling.

There are adults who could not attend this trip because they were too heavy and out of shape to meet the health requirements.  Here’s what they missed and what good health was able to buy for me:

1. Time spent with my son creating a lifelong memory.

2. Seeing my son try new things and succeed.

3. Enjoying the beauty of the north woods.

4. Experiencing the fierceness of winter and enjoying it.

5. Doing things I’ve never done before

6. Having the energy and stamina I needed

I know that making changes in our diet and lifestyle is hard, but what is harder is missing out on life. My encouragement to you is focus on what you will gain by improving your health. Focus on the activities you’ll enjoy, the experiences you’ll have, and the relationships you’ll develop; all with great health.

(For part I click here)

* If you’d like to lose weight, maintain your weight, or improve your health,  5Percenters coaching groups will start in April 2015. Join other like minded people who want to become their best selves and learn the strategies and mindset to achieve more in your health. More details to come soon. To learn more, contact me at dennis.robert.bird@gmail.com