You would’ve thought when we made the decision to transition from Active Duty to National Guard and move sight-unseen to Alaska I was already someone who wanted to spend every minute in nature.
But that was so completely not the case.
What I had, instead, was an idea of how going outside could help other people, like my husband. Combat had left him dealing with emotional baggage, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury (TBI). He seemed better when we went camping, so that’s what we did. So why not move to a place where he could go camping and hiking all the time?
I never really stopped to think about me, what I needed or how heading into nature could change my life. Like many military spouses, getting my family taken care of was my first priority. “Self-care” was a pedicure appointment. And then I discovered the power of my own daily nature habit.
Maybe you’ve heard my story during the InDependent Summit. After living in Alaska for a year, I realized that I was missing out on what nature could give me by simply not exploring its possibilities. And so I set a challenge for myself. What would happen if I went outside for at least twenty consecutive minutes every day for a year?
Today, after more than 1,700 days of spending time outside every day, I have seen the endless parade of ways this habit can change me. And among them is the truth that real, deep care for self leads to becoming. For me that looks like complete self-confidence.
Imagine the stark limits on your life if you only ever did things in which you had complete expertise or experience. You rarely tried anything new. You never learned a new skill. You rarely tested a new hobby, tried a new restaurant, visited a new road. You avoided the unfamiliar. Until I started spending time outside daily, that was me. I did my best to only do things that I knew I could succeed in. I leaned on the safety net of the familiar. And it kept me from fully becoming.
My daily nature dose gave, and continues to give, me a gentle on-ramp to confidence and becoming. No matter what you do outside at any moment, you will absolutely encounter something completely new to you. New leaves, different weather, a change in the breeze—all small steps that when layered, teach you that change or the unexpected can be safe. Do this enough, and suddenly attempting a new hobby or hiking a new path doesn’t seem so risky or uncomfortable.
Those layers build until one day, like me, you no longer really worry about running a trail alone or camping by yourself. You have the confidence and skills, or you know you can figure it out. The constant new and change in nature has taught you that you can easily and safely pivot, leaning into the unexpected.
That becoming doesn’t just stay outside. It comes to your inside life, too. When I face an unexpected risk or challenge in my work or military home life I know that I can safely and confidently tackle it. After all, I hiked that mountain. I started that camp fire. I took my kids on that backpacking trip. I can do hard things. I can do this.
So can you.
If you need a little help building a daily nature habit or don’t know where to start, you can listen to my podcast, Humans Outside, for regular help from outdoor experts who are keeping their own nature-focused life. You can also register for the Humans Outside 365 Challenge, which comes with help for building and keeping that habit over the course of a year.
Amy Bushatz is a journalist and the Executive Editor of MIlitary.com. When her husband, Luke, left the active-duty Army in 2016, the family moved sight-unseen to Alaska. Amy Bushatz has two young sons and two dogs. She is the host and producer of the Humans Outside podcast. Amy spends her time ultra running across her local mountains and plotting ways to spend more time in nature.