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How Muskoka Became My Ultimate Health Hack

Nature's Prescription
I don't know about you, but I just LOVE springtime. Truth be told, I do spend a lot more time indoors when the weather is frightful... And although I'm well aware of the truth of the saying "There is no bad weather, only bad clothing," my preference tends to be for the milder seasons. I know I'm not alone on this one!

Well, now that spring is finally here, I am shrugging off the "winter blahs," getting outside more, and reconnecting with nature! I am so excited for everything that the season has to offer and what it means for me, personally, from a health perspective. I have spent the last 2 decades of my life carefully observing myself and experimenting with everything under the sun, trying to improve my health and well-being. I’ve learned some important things that I’d love to share.

How Muskoka Became My Ultimate Health Hack

But first, a little more about me.

In my teens and early to mid-20s, I faced various physical ailments and mental health struggles. Looking back, I see now that I really wasn’t doing myself a lot of favours (that often goes hand in hand with those years of our lives, doesn’t it?!).

Vintage Hues Collection - Pure Muskoka
Vintage Hues Collection - Pure Muskoka

I smoked, I drank, I ate a lot of junk food, and I stayed up all hours of the night. I burned the candle at both ends, working and living a fast-paced life in downtown Toronto, and although I also had a lot of fun, my life often felt dim and disconnected. I won’t go into great detail, but let’s just say that my overall health was far from optimal.

How Muskoka Became My Ultimate Health Hack

Truth be told, the only time I felt really good was during weekend visits with family, at home in Muskoka. Driving home, I would always notice how the gradual transition from city to “Up-North” felt in my body. I could feel the way the energy of the city buzzed in and around me, day and night, and how chaotic that made me feel inside. But during the drive to Muskoka, more specifically once I passed the north-of-Barrie threshold, I would start to feel calmer and clearer. Once finally turning off the highway, I loved to roll down the windows, breathe deeply, and listen to the sound of the crickets over the engine of my car. The air always felt so soft… And the night sky, so dark.

Heaven on Earth. When in Muskoka, I would always just naturally gravitate to being outside (except maybe in the dead of winter unless it involved some sort of sport or a roaring campfire). It just had that pull on me, and I always felt SO much better in mind, body and spirit, just by being there.

I'm certain this must sound familiar to some of you reading this!

How Muskoka Became My Ultimate Health Hack

Well, if so, I’m here to tell you that it's a very real and positive thing. And if not, well, maybe I can entice you to get outside a little more often!

There is a whole list of reasons (proven by both science and experience) why time in Nature is just plain good for our health and well-being. And while there may not be a single, definitive study that conclusively proves it, there is a large body of research that strongly suggests a correlation between time spent outside and improved health outcomes, which can add years to our lives.

Let me give you 8 ways in which the decision to spend more time outdoors has personally made my life immeasurably happier and healthier:

1. Reduced stress levels:

As I mentioned previously, my younger days of traveling back and forth, to and from the city, made obvious to me the level of stress I operated under in my day-to-day life, in contrast to how calm and relaxed I felt once arriving in Muskoka and getting outside. Nature has a calming effect on the mind and has been proven to reduce cortisol levels in the body, promoting relaxation. My advice would be to get outside whenever and however you can, whether hiking on one of Muskoka's many scenic trails (or in a city park if you live an urban lifestyle), or relaxing by a bonfire under a starlit night sky—spending time outdoors can significantly lower stress levels.

2. Improved mental health:

I am no stranger to anxiety, and I have had my battles with depression, as well. I have learned that there is not a problem in the world that isn’t made better to some degree by a walk in the woods or a quiet, morning paddle. Not only does being surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of nature boost my mood, but they also improve my mental clarity as well. Try it, you’ll see!

How Muskoka Became My Ultimate Health Hack
3. Increased Vitamin D:

Being a sufferer of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), I've noticed a huge difference in my mental health since making vitamin D a priority in my life. Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, which also plays a crucial role in bone health and immune function and reduces the risk of certain cancers. In the milder seasons when I can get out in the sun, I am sure to expose my bare skin every day, even if for a short time. Of course, we have to be careful, check the UV index and use sunblock when needed, but in my mind, getting enough sun exposure is just as important as sun safety! In the darker, colder months, I am sure to supplement with vitamin D drops every day. Increasing my vitamin D is one of the most important and impactful things I have done to improve my health over the past 10 years.

4. Improved Physical Fitness:
It almost goes without saying, whether it's cycling, hiking, swimming, playing sports or doing any other outdoor activity, staying active and maintaining a healthy weight is really important. It improves cardiovascular health, blood pressure, strengthens muscles, and increases our overall longevity. Also, breaking a sweat is an AMAZING stress buster. A good workout has saved my sanity on more than one occasion.
5. Better Sleep Quality:

Have you ever heard of the term "circadian rhythm"? Circadian rhythms are like your body's internal clock, telling you when it's time to wake up, eat, and sleep, and they're heavily influenced by daylight and darkness. Exposure to natural light during the day helps regulate your circadian rhythms, leading to energy during the day, as well as better sleep quality at night. In other words, spending time outdoors can help reset your body's internal clock, which can lead to more restful and rejuvenating sleep.

Vintage Hues Collection - Pure Muskoka
Vintage Hues Collection - Pure Muskoka
6. Increased Creativity:

Have you ever felt inspired to draw, paint, sing, write, take photographs, or fulfill any other creative urges while spending time outside? Me, too! Being in nature inspires creativity because it engages our senses, stimulates our imagination, and provides a sense of freedom from the constraints of daily life. Rewarding ourselves with regular "mini-vacations" outdoors can really help to inspire and motivate.

7. Enhanced Social Connections:

Outdoor activities provide a great opportunity to connect with others and build meaningful relationships. Whether it's a picnic by the lake or playing a team sport, spending time outdoors with friends and family can strengthen bonds and improve overall happiness. Positive social interactions help buffer against stress, anxiety, and depression....Ultimately, human connection promotes resilience, happiness, and overall mental wellness.

8. Greater Sense of Purpose:

Spending more time in nature has inspired a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in my life. By connecting to something greater than myself, whether it's the beauty of the natural world or the sense of interconnectedness with all living things, it has provided me with a higher perspective on life which has been a gift that has changed me for the better.

How Muskoka Became My Ultimate Health Hack

It's such a great list, isn't it?

While I feel that I could delve further into each of these points separately and explore them in greater depth (hey, maybe in future?), I hope I've covered enough here to satisfy my claim. And maybe if you weren't already on board, I've helped to convince you of a few things!

In today's fast-paced, screen-driven, tech-dependent world, the simple pleasures of being outdoors and surrounded by the beauty of nature are often overlooked as a means for creating the incredible health and vitality that we so desire. I feel beyond blessed to now call Muskoka my full-time home again, and have access to its beauty every single day. I hope that my story can help to inspire a trend to get back to our roots, and embark on a journey towards a longer, healthier, and happier life!

Santé!

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1 comment

  • Pat Greenwood

    I agree with you completely! Thanks for reminding me to head for the woods today. I’ve recently suffered a loss in my life and I know that walking in the bush will bring some peace and calmness.

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