How to Include a Nature Routine Into Your Work and Family Life
Welcome to this episode of The Determined Mom Show. I am your host, Amanda Tento, and I have the lovely Sandi Schwartz with me, and she is the author of Finding Eco Happiness Fun Nature Activities to help your kids feel happier and calmer.
And today we are gonna talk about how to include a natural routine in your work and family life. We have not had anyone that’s an expert in basically anything like eco-happiness or nature or anything like that.
How did you get started?
I’ll have to take you back to high school when I was in high school and I think it was 10th grade and I was part of the Nature Defense Club, and we went and cleaned up the dirty polluted local rivers. And that was a very jolting experience for me, and that changed my life.
I continued to be involved in the environmental club at school and taught recycling to younger kids. Wrote my college essay on that, cleaned up, and went to college as an environmental studies major. And then went on to get a graduate degree in government with an environmental policy focus.
I’ve been a long-term, long-time environmentalist and my goal is to save the planet. But then on the parallel trajectory were my struggles with stress and anxiety. And that was really, I can go back to being a young child and having an upset stomach and sweaty palms and nerves, and in math class or birthday parties.
And it was, it happened in college and then it came to a head actually when I was going through infertility, which I imagine many of your listeners probably have dealt with themselves. I was going through infertility, which is very stressful and anxiety provoking.
It triggered a lot of anxiety and I went down a path, a journey to figure out, what can I do. I started to delve into the world of positive psychology and its tools that we hear about every day, like mindfulness and gratitude practice, healthy diet, exercise, and then nature. It all came together like my appreciation and love and care for the environment.
I realized that it could also really serve as a medicine to me and many others. And so that’s why I decided to really, I’m a writer and I wanted to dive in deep into this topic. There’s a lot of amazing new research about how nature can benefit. Our health and happiness. So that is why I coined the term Eco Happiness and wrote the book.
It did open my eyes to, my passion, and then my passion for writing came later. I wish I had majored in English. But I majored in environmental studies and I do, I remember taking some great English classes in college as well.
You have the best of both worlds. You can write, you’ve written a book, you’re an accomplished author, and you still have all of, the scholarly background in Eco Science.
What is a natural routine?
You have to brush your teeth every day. And we just do that. We know we have to do it. We know we’re gonna, I go to the dentist twice a year, it’s just part of what we have to do. And then you’ve also heard that we need to exercise. Why do we need to exercise? We’re getting this input from. Health professionals, exercise, get up, and move around.
Healthy diet, and drink enough water. It can become overwhelming. Mindfulness, it’s really to me, mindfulness, and I’ve done a lot of research and reading about mindfulness because at first, it seems overwhelming and complicated, but it’s just stopping and being in the moment.
I took something like mindfulness. I have a whole chapter in my diary. I start with the basics of mindfulness, the basic research, and why it’s beneficial, and then I look at it through a natural lens.
I wanted to provide all this information on how to be mindful of nature outside, even inside just looking at a plant or even on your, on the tv, or, on your computer.
I love watching those quick videos of a flower blooming. It’s like a fast pace, of something that happens, in 48 hours or something.
That is so inspiring. And so even if, this isn’t just about immersing yourself out in the woods for days at a time. It’s by taking, it’s taking a couple of minutes here and there throughout your day and building in that nature routine.
I once wrote this article, it was cool. I tend to get very, I get, I’m very impatient, I’m working on my patients and I hate wasting time. One of the worst things is sitting at a red traffic light. And I once did this piece all about being mindful and this had nothing to do really with nature, but it gives you the sense of it.
At a red light, how can you turn that red light, which is so anxiety provoking and negative, turn it into a positive like it’s a green light to be mindful for that minute that you’re sitting there and instead of letting you know, your blood pressure goes up?
Now you bring nature in, you look around, look for the trees, the flowers, the clouds. And then the best thing is you do that with yours. So that they’re learning this skill. It’s not something you may do every day, but those days that you’re feeling a little bit more rushed and stressed and you keep hitting those lights instead of getting mad, it’s like we have to tell ourselves no.
Let’s just try to at least appreciate something. And it gives us more benefits. It’s more beneficial if we’re looking at nature. We are animals at the end of the day like we have an innate need. And to be connected to nature that’s, living inside all day long and not getting outside is not what we were made for. So yeah we now need to take those moments. So that’s one really simple trick.
The other thing I was gonna say even earlier was food. It’s interesting. I know I have a whole chapter on food and some people might be like what does food have to do with nature? But food, real food, and Whole foods are natural. So something as simple as a mindful eating practice, at breakfast or dinner with the kids. Let’s say you decide to serve grapefruit before dinner.
Just taking that one or, you have the grapefruit, you talk, you look at the color, you discuss the color, you take a whiff of it, you smell it, such a very soothing citrus fragrance. And then you take that wand, see a bite and you just savor it. And even if you just do it for a couple of minutes as you begin your meal, that in itself is connecting again, mindfully to nature, and then it might spur conversation.
That’s the beauty of nature, and that’s what is so fascinating about the research in the last couple of decades because cultures, and traditions for hundreds, thousands of years have known this, and as we became more industrialized, we moved further and farther away from it. And it’s just getting back to the basics, to ours.
And doing these simple things. And that’s what mindfulness is like. Mindfulness doesn’t mean you have to go to that 90-minute yoga class. I can’t stand those long yoga classes. I want a 30-minute yoga class. Just enough to like, have a touch of it. Not everybody you know is gonna sit and meditate for that long.
And they say the experts have found like a little bit sprinkled throughout your day, your. Meditation is the same thing as nature. It’s almost better to have a little bit every day than go on that two-hour hike on a Sunday afternoon.
There’s a whole area of research on green exercise specifically, which I found fascinating. So yes, you’re gonna, so here’s an example of running, but power walking. So you can do it inside, on a treadmill, in a windowless environment. Staring at a wall. You are going to get some benefits, you’re gonna get those health benefits.
But if you have a view of the, of a, of the window, if you buy a window and it’s a beautiful scene, you’re gonna get more benefits. And if you go outside for that walk or run now you’re really getting a lot of benefits and it’s utilizing your time more efficiently too. And it doesn’t mean every single day you have to go outside.
The research shows, and it was very recent, a big study came out in 2019 that getting 120 minutes per week outdoors is really where you wanna be. So that’s about 20 minutes. And so let’s say, half the week you’re, and that’s what I do a lot. I try to go on my outdoor walks, but I’ve been playing pickleball sometimes inside, and sometimes outside.
It’s all about balance, but know that you will get more health benefits and emotional benefits if you are exercising. For sure. And we wanna bring that into our kids’ decisions as well, Especially because they’re growing up in a time when the schools are locked down, which is a whole nother issue on the topic.
There are security issues, so they’re, they go outside, but, and it depends where you live, but that’s the whole thing. And then the technology just brings them, it keeps them inside more and more. Because they’re staring at their screens that it’s very, And I say even take them out, let them be on their screens outside. At least they’re breathing in the fresh air.
We’ve made a lot of effort trying to make it. That was the first thing that we worked on in our house. Like when we bought our house because it’s like a 122-year-old house. We made a lot of effort on making the outside space as nice as possible, as quickly as possible instead of working on the inside. Now we’re on the inside, but there’s still, just that having a space that’s peaceful and quiet and just outside is important.
Having family meals outside more, if the kids are reading or doing art or even homework, seeing if they can go out in the back patio. People who live in apartment buildings hope, some of them also have balconies or maybe a community spot where they can get, be in some grass to enjoy.
It’s a matter of utilizing what you have. It could be, maybe you don’t have it at, you don’t have a balcony, you’re in the highrise, but maybe there’s a local library that has some sort of balcony or the local park with the bench and a table.
It’s just again, bringing it into our routine and that just sometimes means exploring a little bit deeper than we usually do.
I have a checklist too. If people just feel overwhelmed, where do I begin? Where do I start? I have a free checklist on my website on the homepage that you can download. It’s like what? A 30-day calendar of activities.
We’ll have a link to that in the show notes, so then that way everyone can access that and also your books, so then that way they can get that. And is there anything else that you would like to share with the audience as far as? Why is this something that they need to start yesterday?
I keep reading more and more about stress and anxiety and what we can do about it. And to me, I feel this is a toolkit. Hold it up. If the sun’s up being a video, this, there’s, this is a toolkit inside. Again, like one chapter on mindfulness.
Another one is gratitude. We hear a lot about, before we go to bed at night, picking three things we’re grateful for. So I do that to give you tons of activities, how to do that, to be grateful for nature, and be creative with that. There’s a whole chapter on creativity.
There are so many ways that we can be creative and keep getting involved with art that has to do with nature. From a nature poetry walk. To make nature mandalas too, again, just sitting on a balcony and drawing or taking nature photos, and, the kids can do that too. Again, I’m not opposed to technology.
You go on a walk or in the backyard, wherever. Kids can take pictures and then see what they can do on Canva with it, or Power on PowerPoint. My daughter’s 10 and she knows how to use Canva. If Canva’s a graphic design, a free graphic design program, if you’re not familiar with it, she can take these images she’s made like a slideshow to music and they can create little TV programs.
You can turn it into a news report, right? About nature and what we saw today on our walk. The ideas are endless. Food with gardening and mindful eating animals. And that’s the other thing that I like to tell people is to start with what you already love, what each child already loves.
One child might be really into sports. So they can focus on that outdoor time. Another might be more into art.
Start with what you love, what each child loves, and then go from there and continue to challenge yourself and next thing you’re beyond an ecotourism adventure.
There’s actually an app where you can take a picture of a flower or a tree and it’ll tell you the exact species of it and so that’s amazing. And that can keep the kids busy for hours.
I so appreciate you being here and sharing this message with us. It’s much needed, and I think you are an angel for evangelizing this very needed message and trying to get us all out of our anxious state of life. I truly appreciate you being here.
I truly believe that, when we’re calmer And happier. It’s a kinder world for all of us, and we all get along and we want our kids to grow up like that. And then it’s being kinder and happier to the planet too.