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The Best Things in Life Are Free (and Healing)

“The six best doctors: sunshine, water, rest, air, exercise, and diet.” ~Wayne Fields

I’ve always believed the best things in life are free. Sunshine on your skin next to a body of water ranks up there as one of my favorite experiences. I love nothing more than to be in a pool in the summertime.

Though doctors have helped me with my depression, nature has provided me with my best doctors. When I'm in nature, I feel restored.

When I was a child, I used to like to go on adventures. I would venture off into my parents’ backyard with the neighborhood kids, telling them we were going on an adventure into the forest.

I was a little nature child in love with the flowers, the sunlight, and the trees.

Those were some of my best memories of childhood. But, as I grew older I forgot about the restorative power of nature.

I started working all of the time and using the weekends for chores. I stopped doing the things I loved. I forgot to venture into the forest.

For years, I suffered from seasonal affective disorder. In the winter, a deep depression would overtake me. I was exhausted. I didn’t want to get out of bed.

Being inside felt suffocating. The dark nights and the cold winters seemed to drain my spirit. In the spring, I'd feel reborn.

Once I realized there was a definite seasonal aspect to my depression, I started taking preventative measures. I bought a light box and started getting up earlier each day to get some sunlight in the winter. I made a point to go meet friends and not stay at home all day.

There are many tools I use to cope with my depression. I see a therapist and take medication. But, for me, the best medicine is preventative. It’s getting out into the world each day.

Getting enough sunshine is vital to my well-being. I almost feel like the sun is recharging me when I'm outside. I take a morning walk each day to walk the dog and listen to the birds. I use that time to say positive affirmations to myself and reflect on having a good day.

If I have time, I also take a walk during my lunch break or at least spend some time outside. I remember the days when I would stay inside at work eating my sandwich while staring at the computer. No more eating at the desk for me!

I take another walk when I get home from work. It relieves the stress from the workday and sets me up for a nice evening. These are short ten-minute walks, but they really do make a difference.

After dinner, I try to find some time just for me. Soaking in a hot bath seems to melt away all of my worries.

Being a Pisces, I’ve always been drawn to water. I live in a land-locked state, but take every opportunity I can to go to the ocean. As kids, we used to go fishing on the weekends. I remember how quiet those days were. Just looking at water seems to cleanse the negativity from my mind.

I like to watch the way the sun sparkles on the water and the way it ripples. Water has a very meditative quality. You can’t help but feel mesmerized looking at it.

I don’t always get the opportunity to be near a body of water, but I love the springtime. Opening the doors to let in fresh air after months locked inside is invigorating. I like to do some spring cleaning with the doors and windows open to let in the light and a light breeze.

No matter what time of year it is, proper rest is vital to a healthy body and mind. I used to go for days staying up late and waking up early, and didn't understand why I felt so lethargic and terrible all of the time.

When I don’t get enough sleep, I'm crabby with others, I eat unhealthy food, and I stop being productive at work. I get in the habit of powering up with caffeine throughout the day and not being able to get to sleep at night. The next day, I wake up tired and the cycle begins all over again.

When I do get enough sleep, I have the energy to exercise. The combination of rest and exercise leads to feeling much better.

I can see a big difference in my outlook when I don’t exercise. When I’m active, I smile more, breathe easier, and get more done.

When I skip a few days, I become irritable and tired. I snap at my husband. I don’t want to play baseball with our child. Ironically, using energy to exercise creates more energy for love.

However, I’ve also found that I have to do exercise that I love or it feels like a chore.

I love yoga and taking walks outside. I love Zumba because it makes me feel like I’m dancing. But, ask me to run and I’ll resist and procrastinate.

I want to enjoy exercise and moving my body. When I opt for what I enjoy, I look forward to doing it.

For me, all of the other elements come before diet. Perhaps for others, it's the opposite.

For years, I've battled with trying to eat better. What I’ve found is that when I’m getting the other four items, I naturally want to eat better. It’s not as much of a struggle as it is when I start with diet first.

By all means, use every tool that helps you to enjoy a full, healthy, and happy life. But give nature a try.

Revel in the warm weather! Get out and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. Get some rest, take a nice walk, and eat some fresh, healthy vegetables. End the day with a nice, warm bath.

It may be just what the doctor ordered.

About Melissa McCaughan

Melissa McCaughan, the author of Legacy, is a literal ghost writer, choosing ghosts as the protagonists of her novels. She is currently working on a sequel, Epiphany, coming out later this year. She teaches an Adventure e-course called There’s No Place Like Home: Finding Adventure in Your Own Backyard and writes a blog called Carpe Diem. Follow her on Facebook.

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  • Hey, Melissa!
    The best things in life are free, yes! Our relationships, nature, etc.
    After being inactive for about two months to focus on my career, I’ve been starting to slowly get back to working out.
    I’ve gained a few pounds and I feel so unhealthy! Which is why it’s good to go back slowly.
    I also refuse to sit down at work the whole day. Every couple hours I would get up and walk around for 15-20 mins. It relieves back pain and allows me to stretch my legs.
    Btw, I love Zumba too! 😀

  • Great article Melissa:). As a holistic health and fitness professional I am a huge advocate of getting out and enjoying nature. Going barefoot and connecting with the earth can take it one step further, and activities such as gardening (as long as you enjoy it!) can also help move us closer to nature.

    As you mention, sunshine is so important. It helps regulate serotonin levels, so it’s super important for wellbeing. And I love what you said about doing what you love…because the best type of exercise is the one you enjoy enough to repeat often enough to get a result!

    Interesting that you put diet as secondary, although of course everyone will help their own personal mix of variables that will work best for them. As you implied, when you focus on something like sleep first it will then be easier to make healthier nutrition choices. Funny, I just wrote an article about why nutrition is over rated, and the focus for this was around factors such as good sleep habits, which in turn will make nutrition easier to tackle later.

    One thing I will say about nutrition is that a lack of certain vitamins (e.g. B3 and B12) can contribute towards depression. When I suffered from severe post natal depression my B3 was tested as low, which wouldn’t have been helping. Once I focused on this along with the other factors I was focusing on (e.g. getting out in nature and sleeping when i could as a new mum) I found it really helped in my recovery process. B vitamins get churned through in times of stress, which I was experiencing from lack of sleep and adjustment to being a mum, so it all became clearer once I found my B3 was low.

    Thanks again for the article:)