They say the easiest job in the world is being a weatherman in San Diego – “uh, it’s gonna be nice.” In San Diego, you know most days are going to be 75 degrees and sunny. What’s interesting is that, regardless of where we live, most of us are no different: we spend almost every passing hour at a comfortable temperature.
At home, we set our thermostats where we want them. When we get in our car, we have heat for the winter (and now heated seats) and AC in the summer. Hell, some cars even have different temperature settings for the driver and the passenger! We have temperature controlled environments at work, supplemented by personal heaters to make sure we feel just right all the time. We’ve arranged our lives to make sure that we almost never have to be uncomfortable. It’s pretty great. Except that it makes us extremely averse to being outside.
There is no temperature control when you’re outside. You simply have to deal with it. And people who spend their entire lives inside temperature-controlled buildings have a hard time dealing with it. Their body’s natural ability to heat and cool itself has been weakened. Their body’s adaptation to the climate around them has been weakened. The result is that most adults are miserable if they’re outside for too long. Which is a serious shame, since we thrive when outside.
I’m convinced that the higher rates of depression and aimlessness in our generation are tied to two things: (1) too much time spent indoors (2) looking at screens (computer, television, tablet, phone, etc.). We are people who are meant to get out and move. Run, walk, jump, climb, throw, push, pull, swim, wade, shoot, punch, wrestle, and roll. While the Urban Ninja product is great, we were meant to do these things outside. In the elements. In the heat. In the cold. In the rain. In the snow. Whatever.
We need to read. We need to write. We need to think and reflect. But being outside provides a re-set to our bodies and minds. When we sit inside, our world becomes very small, extending no farther than our four walls, and sometimes no farther than the screen we’re looking at. When we go outside, our world expands. The skies around us deepen our sense of wonder. The grass and trees and rivers and streams help us to reconnect with what’s primal inside of us. The animals and insects us remind us of our place in the world.
When’s the last time you got dirty? Really grimy from dirt and sweat? When’s the last time you walked or played in the rain? When’s the last time you went for walk in the winter? Or played in the snow? When’s the last time you waded a creek or river? Or swam in the lake? When’s the last time you climbed a tree?
When you get outside and move, when you exert yourself out in the elements, you connect with those things inside of you that were made to hunt, fight, and protect. Those things have been dulled by years of sitting inside looking at computers and phones. They’ve been dulled by Facebook and Twitter. But they can be sharpened, easily. Get outside and do things. Stay away from the planned and structured. Go off the course, regularly. Find something new. Don’t worry about the chance of rain. Go anyway.
But my kids . . . ? Don’t worry about it. The larger problem will all of this is that we’re raising kids who are just like us. They’re “freezing” after being outside in the cold for a few minutes and “burning up” after being outside for brief period in the summer. We’ve taught them that they need hot chocolate after every trip outside in the winter or Gatorade after a few minutes outside in the summer. Really? This mindset makes them just want to sit inside all day and play video games as middle-schoolers. The temperature is never as nice outside as it is inside. Teach them to live outside. As I noted in last week’s post, we can’t teach what we don’t model.
The cool thing about our bodies is that they adapt and respond to exposure to stress. When you expose your body to the climate, it becomes acclimated. You get used to the level of heat and cold where you live. One of the truths about life is that the more you expose yourself to hardship, the stronger you become and better able to deal with hardship. The result is that the more you get outside, the less you are affected by the weather. Unfortunately, the converse is also true. The more you live your life seeking comfort, the more precision you will require in order to be comfortable. The more comfortable you make your day-to-day life, the softer you become. This is not the man’s life.
Wear sunscreen. Stay hydrated. Watch for tornadoes. Sure, do all of that. But get outside. Get moving. It’s amazing how hiking several miles in the cold and rain cures existential crises. You see very few people who regularly get outside and move becoming drug addicts, questioning their gender, or dealing with depression. They’re connecting with what’s deep inside of them, which brings about a satisfaction and contentment that will never be found online. It’s not a cure for everything, but it’s a cure for many things.
The official start to summer is this weekend. Resolve to spend your summer outside. More walks through the woods. More outdoor workouts. More campouts, at least in the backyard. More fishing. More kickball and wiffleball and backyard games. More cookouts. More scraped knees. More climbed trees. More waded creeks. More discomfort. More sweat. More dirt under your nails. More wet clothes. More laughs. More peace. More memories. More joy.
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