Why You Scientifically Need The Outdoors

Fun fact: I’m originally from a country town but have lived in cities for around 15 years.

I’m not sure I’ll ever give up city living – I love places with lots of culture, people and I must admit I also like the sense of anonymity that urban life brings.

But I’m not a city slicker at heart.

One thing I can’t give up is getting outside… and not just in the central business district of a city for a quick sandwich at lunchtime.

Being outside in nature gives me energy and I’m well known for finding a beautiful walking path wherever I go.

After discussing this with a friend who feels similarly to me, she told me it’s a real theory called biophilia - an innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with the natural world - and here’s why you need it:

It grounds you

My kinesiologist picked up on my need for the outdoors too.

It sounds a little weird but she asked me once if I put my bare feet on the grass every day… I thought ‘my life isn’t Pretty Woman lady’ (who could forget this scene?).

So no I wasn’t putting my bare feet on the grass every day but since consciously starting I realise how amazing it feels. Seriously – try it.

It gives you perspective

There’s nothing like looking out at an incredible view of a beach or forest or any kind of natural scene and realising how insignificant you and your issues are in relation to the rest of the planet.

I don’t mean to be flippant about what’s going on for you, but I find my issues easily fade into the background when I’m looking out on something so much grander and more beautiful than my tiny life.

It’s good for your health

Ok this one is pretty obvious. Getting outside, fresh air and the exercise that often comes with it – whether it be a leisurely walk, cycling, or abseiling – is really great for you.

My advice would be to try and come up with one activity a week that takes you outside.

Make some of them easy – for example, I walk along the creek just behind our house, and some of them more challenging – location wise or physically, and enjoy the weekly benefits.

Do you love getting out in nature? What changes do you notice in your day when you get outside? 

August Recap and September Intentions

August, what a month you have been. Life threw me a couple of curve balls and it’s an understatement to say I’ve not been feeling so great.

I’ve been drawing pretty heavily on Brooke Castillo’s Self Coaching Model, which I wrote about on the blog last month, and wanted to share this quote from her for anyone going through a tough time - it sounds simplistic but it eventually becomes true:

There has been nothing more empowering than the realisation that I don’t have to think thoughts that bring me pain.

And when all else fails, get your ‘90s hip hop on like me and listen to Ms. Lauryn Hill:

Everything is everything / What is meant to be, will be / After winter, must come spring / Change, it comes eventually...

Well, thanks for listening sweet readers. Now how well do you think I went with my August intentions?

Interrupt the negative voice

Well lo and behold, I actually worked on this one by default!

Journaling my thoughts before bed has been a huge help to me - unpacking them from my brain and getting them on paper eases the rumination a little.

I have mentioned this before, but feel it’s worth mentioning again. Whatever we worry about rarely ever comes true. Keep a record of your worries so you can gather evidence and prove to yourself that this statement is true. Seriously, try it!

Up the training at work

I haven’t done so great here - blocking out time to do self-training at work just isn’t motivating me at the moment.

Do you guys have any tips on how to shift past this?

I know generally I fit better into formal training courses or learning skills on the job (rather than just reading about them), but there’s gotta be a way to move forward here. Let me know your techniques in the comments below!

September Intentions

Increase energy levels

As you can imagine, a stressful August has brought with it some not so great habits - I’ve managed to keep up the exercise thanks to having a gym buddy, but my eating has ranged from not-so-nourishing foods to not eating at all, and alcohol has been featuring a little too frequently.

Now that the fog is lifting a little, I’m going to plan my meals again, get the freezer stocked and try and reduce the social drinking to keep my head clear.

Study comes first

I’ve alluded to some study I’m doing here on the blog - I’m currently doing a life coaching course and loving it. Stay tuned for more about this on the blog!

But of course work, social occasions and general procrastination can get in the way of things we want to focus on most so I’m going to carve out weekend time (another reason to ditch the vino) to make sure I’m on top of my studies.

Have a wonderful September readers - thanks as always for being here!

Do You Feel Guilty For Relaxing?

There’s certainly a pattern forming in the types of posts here on the blog (see here for example).

Women in all sorts of lifestyle situations (single, partnered, parents) are either taking no time to relax or, when they do find time to unwind, they feel a strong sense of guilt for taking downtime.

Where did we learn to keep so busy?

I’m sure it’s a mix of factors - comparison against other women’s lifestyles, productivity articles, societal changes. Somehow we now wear being productive as a badge of honour.

How many hours we’re working, how often we’re exercising, how organised we are at home are now seen as measures of success or self worth.

This mentality is in direct competition with lazy mornings, spare time with loved ones and long walks (without burning calories in mind).

What will your life be made up of?

I spoke to Paige from Healthy Hits the Spot about this and loved her response. She asked me if I wanted a large chunk of my life to be taken up with relaxation and enjoyable downtime activities. Absolutely yes, was my response. This really helps my mentality and I hope it helps you too.

Personally, I am planning on a life full of books, music and film, as well as time outdoors enjoying nature.

What is the damage of busy work?

The above point leads me into the idea of busy work and the inability to relax.

We really need to prioritise being present over the menial tasks of the day - it’s not a long term way to live to be constantly on the go, pottering around the house or ticking through your to do list.

Yes it has its place, but it’s usually not the time memories are made.

Do you find time to relax? Do you rate relaxation as highly as productivity? Let me know in the comments below.

 

How to Overcome the Winter Blues

It's winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere today (read: the shortest day of the year), and as we move head first into winter here in Australia, I'm feeling a slump in my day to day.

The darkness upon awakening (and let's be honest upon arriving home from work too) is leaving me less motivated than usual, and the grey season ahead seems unending. 

It may be winter causing it for me, but we all have these less than desirable periods - it could be a monotonous time at work, a lack of exciting social events to look forward to, or a completely unexplained stagnation.

Whatever may be causing it, here's some tips to help pull you out of the mire. 

Focus internally

The first thing I do is check in with how I'm feeling health-wise - am I eating well? Have I let my exercise slip? Am I sleeping well?

Lately I've noticed I'm out of my morning meditation/yoga routine, and I'm partaking in a little more red wine than I'd like.

I'm going to make a conscious decision to listen to my body and stay on the healthier side of the scale.

Look forward to plans

Having events to look forward to is a big part of happiness, so I'm making sure that, while I'm not overbooking myself, I do want enough on the calendar to keep me interested.

I've got a fun winter escape coming up with friends in Healesville and I'm also planning on a couple of hikes to enjoy this cooler time in nature (rugged up of course). 

Get cosy

While engaging plans are important, so is accepting the nature of the season. I do sometimes get the guilts for lounging around, but I'm working on embracing the slower pace and darker days.

There's nothing wrong with curling up on the couch with a tea and taking in a few episodes of the latest show - or, let's be honest, as I'm doing tonight, rehashing some of my favourite Sex and the City episodes. Bliss!

How do you get out of a slump? Do the changing of the seasons affect your mood?

The Day I Officially Broke Up With Dieting

As I’ve mentioned lately here at Where The Light Plays, I’ve been engaging in more ‘intuitive’ eating strategies. I’ve also moved away from reading about health and fitness plans and trawling through their associated social media accounts. Now it’s time to tell you a major reason why.

But first a quote from the author Geneen Roth (and if you have the time, go and read all the quotes from Geneen Roth please):

“Diets are based on the unspoken fear that you are a madwoman, a food terrorist, a lunatic…The promise of a diet is not only that you will have a different body; it is that in having a different body, you will have a different life. If you hate yourself enough, you will love yourself. If you torture yourself enough, you will become a peaceful, relaxed human being.”

That’s what I believe dieting is really about - torturing ourselves, telling ourselves we’re not quite good enough and talking nastily to ourselves until we measure up.

I’m sure many women have had these thoughts:

‘I’ll be happier when I lose a few kilos’,
‘I need to lose some weight and tone up for this event’,
‘When I have the perfect body, then my life will be perfect too.’

Now here’s my story.

Over 10 years ago, I graduated high school. 

During my closet declutter (thanks to reading The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up) I came across the dress I wore at my graduation and thought...hmm, maybe I should try it on?

A potentially dangerous practice I know. But guess what?

IT FIT.

Enjoy the major flashback and daggy current day photo below.

I felt happy. And astonished. And angry and defeated. All at once.

I wouldn’t say I’ve continually been obsessed with dieting (and like most people have never actually ‘succeeded’ on any eating plan) but goddamn I’ve thought a lot about gyms and boot camps and quinoa and ‘starting afresh’ on Monday since I first wore that dress at the end of high school.

And guess what? It was for nought.

I am pretty much the same size I was back then.

I’m not telling you this to rub it in. I’m telling you because I was surprised. And because I realised I had wasted an enormous amount of energy and time.

If you take anything from me sharing this pretty personal experience, take this:

Don’t waste as many years as I did wishing you were a few kilos lighter. Don’t waste the amazing organ that is your brain reading about calories and HIIT workouts. It is not worth it and no one ever really finds success in this area.

Go and call a loved one. Go and read your favourite book. Go for a walk outside. Go and live your life. And for god’s sake, go and throw out all the dieting junk that has never brought you any fulfilment.

You deserve better.

Want to know more about intuitive eating and how it has helped me find my natural weight? Health coaches Paige and Simi run a brilliant course I've taken called Finally Free. I'll tell you more about how I've used their techniques to find freedom in future posts.

And here's one more quote from Geneen

“It's never been true, not anywhere at any time, that the value of a soul, of a human spirit, is dependent on a number on a scale. We are unrepeatable beings of light and space and water who need these physical vehicles to get around. When we start defining ourselves by that which can be measured or weighed, something deep within us rebels. 
We don't want to EAT hot fudge sundaes as much as we want our lives to BE hot fudge sundaes. We want to come home to ourselves."

My Social Media Purge

 

Around two months ago, I went through a total social media purge. It was spurred on by my goal this year to no longer stress about my weight, and involved wiping my phone clean of any diet / fitness / health-related accounts that were not creating positivity in my life.

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Feedly (my blog reader) were trawled for accounts along these lines, and I also deleted any apps that were bringing me down – namely, MyFitnessPal.

Motivation Turns to Demotivation

In the following weeks, the epiphany struck. Accounts I thought were ‘encouraging’ me, like Lorna Jane, Tone It Up and Tracy Anderson, were really just blasting my subconscious day after day with perfect meals, sculpted abs and twice-daily workout check-ins.

And you know what? The overarching feeling was that I was not good enough. Not even close to being good enough.

I wasn’t cooking clean enough meals or meal prepping enough food. Working out three times a week was not going to cut it, if I was going to reach these aspirational heights.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Moments of Clarity

Since the social media cleanse, my mindset and outlook have improved remarkably. I am no longer absorbing messages of health and fitness perfection every time I look down at my phone.

I actually now feel a jolt when a random photo or article shows up in my feed of someone at the gym in perfect neon workout gear.

Your Turn to Cleanse

I think this cleanse could work for so many of you, and not just in the area of health and fitness.

Are you into fashion? Or interior design? Or travel?

Are the accounts you’re following in your interest area making you feel motivated and positive? Or are they making you feel less than, like you’ll never achieve the perfection beaming at you from your iPad?

Go and look through your social media accounts now and really assess the content you’re consuming. I think you’ll be back to thank me.

Ahh, much better.

Ahh, much better.

My Favourite Health and Fitness Instagram Accounts

And if you are into health and fitness, here are six inspirational accounts that make me feel great when I’m looking through my Instagram feed.

If you do purge, please leave a comment below and let me know any benefits!

Where I'm At: Interview Series - Nat Carter from New Outlook Fitness

 

Welcome to the next interview in the series, 'Where I'm At'. It's a voyeuristic, yet helpful look into the lives of women who are finding where the light plays within them.

Their daily rituals, ways of managing stress and advice to you, the readers, are captured in these interviews.

Nat Carter is a PT and fitness expert based in Sydney. I’ve been following Nat’s blog, Natalie Carter Talks Fitness, and her social media for a few years now. I was really attracted to her uplifting, realistic approach to health and fitness and am very excited to have her on the blog today. Nat works specifically with women to help them created leaner, stronger, fitter, more confident bodies and trains both online and face-to-face with outdoor training groups.

I’m pretty sure you’re going to love Nat too – her views on work/life balance and everyday living are very similar to the values of Where the Light Plays. Enjoy!

What is your usual wake up time?

First my alarm goes off at 5.30am then at 5.32am I physically get out of bed.

Weekends can be 7 or 8am. I’m not good at sleeping in.

How do you like to start your day?

I would like to start my day by having a coffee, lolling around in bed, then a workout, then breakfast, but my early morning sessions with clients mean my ritual is alarm, strong long back coffee, out the door, train them, small breakfast then train myself then breakfast number two, followed by more sessions and sometimes a second workout for myself.

Tell us about your commute.

I don’t really have a long commute. Everywhere takes me 15 mins each way. Long commutes don’t work for me – they are personally soul destroying.

I’m lucky I have the ability to work anywhere. I’m the proud owner of big black ute and I freaking love it. It makes me feel powerful on the mean streets of Sydney.

Do you like to plan your day ahead or allow some spontaneity?

I like both. There’s a few things like email, updating social media, writing, training and working with my clients that are part and parcel of each day.

But then I do like to mix it up each day – maybe a sail, a swim, wine and cheese, read a book and other “me time” activities. If you don’t get it by now, I’m a strong believer in work/life balance.

How do you spend your ideal lunch break to recharge for the afternoon?

Not having anyone telling me when to eat and how long I get on a lunch break is the best kind of work freedom I think anyone can have.

I eat lunch at home most days – I love it! Ideally though I could really get used to long lunches at really amazing restaurants, but I wouldn’t get a whole lot done that way.

What kind of workout schedule do you (try to!) adhere to?

I’m most productive from 6am–2pm, so I generally cram everything into those hours, including my own workouts. When you have a business it never really just stops, but the great thing I remind myself is my choices belong to me and me alone.

I used to work with clients from 6am–7pm, 5 days a week, and that led to burnout, little time for myself and made every day feel like Groundhog Day. Now I work less, earn more and feel so much better!

I keep my workouts different and mostly outdoors. I’m lucky I know what I’m doing (being a PT) so I can generally stay on track and motivated. Variety is the key for me.

How do you like to end your day?

Watching a nice sunset, wine, food and couch with my partner and the cat.

What time do you doze off?

I’m such a nanna, 9–9.30pm.

What do you aspire to every day but never / rarely actually do? (you can tell me, we all have them!)

Meditation and yoga! I feel so much pressure (mainly from Instagram) but I actually hate both of those activities so I think “why bother?”. I also hate doing what everyone else does just because it’s cool. I prefer reading, having a massage, being on the water or just being silent (I love being by myself).

Any advice for women trying to find ease in their every day? (Ed: I freaking love this answer)

Do what you love! Don’t feel bad if you choose to stay at home with the kids or if you want to be the corporate bossdog – go ahead! Remember you have the power to control your day.

Work with the clients you want to work with, the ones that bring out the best in you so then you can in turn bring out the best in them. Set up your day to get the best out of yourself.

Always do a workout – even if you think it’s too short or you don’t have time, just do it. You always feel like a powerhouse afterwards and you perform better during the day. You will never regret looking strong and tight – never ever!

Network with other women. A problem shared is a problem halved. Don’t bitch, but you get my drift.

Earn your own money! The freedom, joy…ah! It’s amazing!

Finally, can you give us your quick go-to recipe after a busy day?

Nothing is easier than a protein-rich stir fry. You think calling for takeaway is quicker but it’s not – this is!

Super Quick Stir Fry

  • Brown 150g of chopped meat/chicken/fish with an onion, ginger and garlic and move it around constantly
  • Add 3 cups chopped veg (colour always wins here) and keep moving it
  • Next a few splashes of soy sauce
  • Then a sprinkle of chilli flakes
  • Finish with a flourish of sesame seeds
  • Serve with rice, noodles or just on its own.
  • Simple, quick and keeps your waistline in check. Splash out with a small glass of vino or a few small squares of dark chocolate.

Thanks Nat! Go and follow her now at:

Blog - http://www.nataliecartertalksfitness.com/

Instagram (if you are a fan of wine, cats and sweaty face selfies, definitely go here!) -instagram.com/newoutlookpt/

Twitter - twitter.com/NewOutlookPT

Nat can also be found at New Outlook Fitness, her Sydney-based fitness company.

How I Save Time, Money and My Health: Meal Prepping

As resistant as I am to it sometimes, one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself, time-, money- and health-wise, is start meal prepping.

    

It kind of happened by accident. At my previous job, the office was in a less than desirable location, with only one cafe in walking distance. Yes, one. And we called it ‘the truck stop’. Think fried food, bad coffee and soggy foccacias. Appetising!

I had never really brought my lunch to work before this job. I knew I should be saving the $$ but it seemed fairly boring and tedious to me. Ah, how age makes us embrace the boring and tedious!

When I started at that job, I was super lazy with lunches. Two minute noodles, cuppa soups, dry rice cakes - let’s just say I was not looking forward to lunchtimes.

So I started to Google recipes you could cook in bulk and freeze. It took some time to get in the habit, but I can honestly say that (most weeks) I’ve never looked back. Below are my main learnings from a few years of meal prepping.

 

Make your list

Planning is key. Over time I have built  up a bank of recipes that I enjoy and can make in bulk for lunches. I always thought I could remember the tasty things I had made, but I’d generally end up googling new recipes from scratch each week, which wasted some time.

I’ve now got a running Google Doc that I add to as I find recipes I like, and each week (usually around Thursday or Friday, as I grocery shop on the weekend), I go into the document and see what looks good for the following week. This also includes any dinners I might be cooking at home.

Now I’m not completely strict, so I usually make one dish in bulk for lunch, have it for three-ish days, then buy my lunch for a couple of days.

I make a grocery list in my phone and then when I’m out and about on the weekend I pick up all the ingredients I’ll need.

Bonus tip:

If you’re thinking of getting into meal prepping, I’d also recommend grabbing some new tupperware containers. They’re fairly inexpensive and it’s more motivating to use new ones, rather than having to hunt around for random lids of old takeaway containers you’ve had for years.

 

Set the scene

I usually set aside around an hour each Sunday to get the cooking done. But, like most ‘good’ habits, sometimes we lose momentum.

If I’ve had a few too many vinos the night before or I’m just fed up with being a grown up (does anyone ever feel like that or is it just immature me?!), I bemoan the idea of spending time on a Sunday stuck in the kitchen.

When this kind of thinking strikes, I gently remind myself that it’s only one hour out of my whole day and I try and set a motivating environment.

I’ll make an icy smoothie to sip while I cook, I’ll find a fun Spotify playlist to listen to or, when I really need motivation, I’ll put on a Nigella cooking show and let her propel me forward.

And if I really can’t face it… see below...

 

Get a step ahead (inadvertently)

Like most habits, I try to allow for some flexibility in the meal planning. If a friend wants to grab dinner on a Monday night or we have a farewell lunch at work on a Friday, I don’t say no because there's a tupperware container waiting for me in the fridge.

If I won’t get to eat a meal I’ve made, or if I’ve cooked extra, I throw it in the freezer and watch the containers build up.

Then when we’re away for a weekend and I have no time to cook, I can defrost a few containers for the following week’s lunches.

Also, if we’re too tired to cook in the evening or my husband is out, I can pull something out and voila, dinner is served.

This also works on those Sundays when I really can’t face the cooking - I know something will tide me over from the freezer and give myself a break if I need it.

It does take some discipline and preparation, but I no longer feel guilty about spending money on lunches and I can make much healthier choices with the right planning.

Want a peek at my recipe list? Want to share some recipes you like to cook in bulk?