Fall is now upon us. Depending on where you live, you may have already taken out those long-sleeved jackets, jeans and cardigans. Eating outdoors is one habit that we may think ends with fall. However, my goal this year is to bundle up and brave the cooler temperatures. Why? I have noticed four benefits to my mental and physical health when I sit outside, which result in better weight management, mental clarity and focus.
Eating Slower: Sitting outside gives me calm, which allows me to eat more slowly. I savor my food. I chew more and focus on my surroundings, people watching or nature as opposed to inhaling my food provoked by a lunchroom rush or a glaring computer monitor. I find eating outside taps into the biological zen of calm created by fresh air and colorful surroundings. Because I eat slower, I don't engorge more than I should before my "full sensors" kick in (typically 20 minutes after eating) and I eat just the right amount.
Breathing - I find that the calm from nature and the fresh air remind me to breathe. Not just unconscious breathing but inhaling deeply up to three times. Since the birth of my daughter, I have done a 180 in breathing - none. My yoga practice is nil and I'm not engaging much in cardiovascular exercise so I've pretty much forgotten the deep breath. Sitting outside reminds me to slow down, savor, refocus and breathe. Breathing means I feed by body with oxygen first rather than with other highs such as sugar, caffeine or refined carbohydrates.
Idea generation – This increased focus on breathing allows my brain to receive the oxygen necessary to think more clearly. I find I often release the stress of chores, to do list, or what I should have done yesterday, today etc from my mind. I become in tune with what my body wants and needs-- what my soul needs. From this, some of my best ideas are generated whether it be a business idea, blog topic, refocused goal or just a clearer way to approach the day. It’s Feng Shui for my mind.
Happiness - Breathing deeply, relaxing and savoring it all releases the mood enhancer, serotonin. in the brain. Serotoninis powerful brain neurotransmitter that affects our emotions, appetite, sleep, behavior and more. It is often considered the happy chemical because reduced production can lead to depression. I feel clearer about the goals I need to accomplish - maybe I have even already accomplished one or two of them. Because of all of this, I feel happier and more re-energized about my day. I find I can tackle most problems and most of all, I feel thankful for having taken the time to sit outside.
Tips for how to make eating outside a regular practice:
Prioritize: On warmer days, prioritize finding a way to sit outside for at least 30 minutes to an hour. The best time is during your lunch break. However, if that's not possible, try to enjoy a mid day snack outdoors or if breakfast is feasible, start the day outside.
Bundle up: Always have a jacket/sweater and a scarf handy to ensure you stay toasty during the outdoor session. A scarf is a great addition as it prevents those chilly drafts from sneaking through jacket openings.
Pack your lunch. Packing your lunch allows you to have a satisfying meal and most importantly, it will ensure that you don't spend time choosing a place to find lunch, which can impede on the time you’d like to spend outdoors.
Get support - Enlist friends and coworkers to support your efforts. Challenge them to eat outside with you. Make it a fun way to catch up without having to fight for seats at an eatery or talk above the lunch rush chatter.