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Finding gratitude in the great outdoors

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Rediscovering awe in your everyday activities —what every outdoor enthusiast must know.

It’s easy to find awe in nature the first time you experience it. Whether it’s your first sunset in Hawaii, a freshly groomed cross-country trail you’ve never skied, or a stroll through the neighbourhood park with your soul-mate; each of these experiences has the makings of awe—even after the thousandth time.

But as humans it’s difficult to find awe in the familiar. This is because our brain’s natural tendency is to adapt. Adaptation is an unrelenting force that causes you to stop paying attention and take things for granted. Think of your last trip across town on autopilot, where it’s normal to recall less than half the trip.

Adaptation eventually makes invisible what was once spectacular. This force ultimately shifts our perspective on our world to one of not having enough. Unfortunately, when our perspective is “not enough,” our brains revert to survival mode where we are hyper-focussed on negativity.

If you want to experience the awe of the great outdoors every single day, then strengthen your gratitude muscles to develop a thriving mindset that will transform all areas of your life.

Research shows that a more grateful frame of mind helps you be happier, have better relationships, exercise, and sleep more regularly while gratitude insulates you from aging, hopelessness, and depression.

The following suggestions will transform the walk in the park you’ve done a thousand times into a miraculous fireworks display. Next time you’re out, slow down and:

» Imagine every plant as a miracle and see no plant as a weed.

» If dormant, see the beauty in nature as it sleeps.

» See the beauty in plant life that is dead, dying, and decaying.

» Notice the smells, regardless of the season.

» Notice how light affects your perception.

» Listen for the sounds of animals, human activity, and nature.

» Notice the colours—similarities and differences, in particular all the varieties of greens.

» See and feel the texture of plants and the landscape.

»  Notice the energy of the sun, on your skin, and its effect on the environment.

»  Pay attention to the clouds as you pass in and out of the shade.

»  Notice how elevation affects whatev- er you’re doing.

»  See the miracle in water—rain, ocean, lake or pond, river or stream, even a puddle. Notice movement, stillness, colour, or sound.

»  Notice how humankind is intertwined with nature, whether a building, bench, rest stop, sign, path worn in the woods, trail purposefully constructed, wharf that descends into the water. Consider the benefits to you and the sacrifices made by the builders.

»  Notice the weather, arid/humid, cold/hot, windy/calm, and how it af- fects you.

For whatever you notice, I encourage you to interpret it as a gift given solely to you. Don’t expect immediate results, but in time you’ll be amazed. You don’t have to ask every question each time, just pick a few and go from there.

Finally, to set yourself up for success, on a daily basis make a list of what you’re grateful for—just three things every day. It will make a difference on how you see the world.

More Inspiration: Check out our guide to the best wellness vacation spots around the world!

Author: Steve Foran is an author of the book “Surviving to Thriving” a highly regarded speaker and a gratitude coach. He occasionally writes for Optimyz and lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.


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