Collage of woman on trail, sunset, and woman by the water

My experience completing the 30×30 Challenge

This blog comes from Lily Carlson, a travel blogger and social media influencer at Lily’s Lens on Life

“Spending time in nature has a way of nurturing the soul”

– Katrina Mayer

Ever since I was a little girl, the great outdoors has been tied to so many incredible memories, including hiking with friends, swimming in the lake with my cousins, fishing with my grandparents. Heck, I even worked at summer camps for nine years throughout high school and university. So, naturally (pun intended), the 30×30 Challenge sounded right up my alley!

The thing is, when I was a kid, I don’t think I ever really thought much about my time in nature other than the fact that I enjoyed it… it was fun. Now, I see that there are so many more benefits to spending time outdoors. By participating in Ontario Parks’ 30×30 Challenge, I’ve also come to better understand the importance of it.

Here are some of the things I learned through my experience of spending 30 minutes in nature every day for 30 days:

The effects of nature are both mental and physical

Sunset over Lake Huron

Sure, as an “outdoorsy” individual, I would totally still agree that spending time in nature is fun. That being said, the benefits run so much deeper than that.

During the 30 days, I found that by spending this time outdoors, I was far more likely to be doing something active, whether it was going for a bike ride, hiking, swimming, or participating in a sport. The reality was, I was often moving around, giving my body some much needed exercise, leading to many physical health benefits.

Woman stands with bike on trail

This also meant that I was less likely to be engaged with any electronic devices. I was more likely to step away from screens, remove headphones, and simply be present. This resulted in further benefits to my mental health and wellbeing.

Less screen time and more focus on the present moment meant practising “mindfulness” — something I don’t think I do as often as I should! I found being mindful in nature significantly reduced stress and genuinely put me in a happier mood. The fresh air relaxed me, the incredible landscapes inspired me, and the experience rejuvenated me.

Furthermore, by spending time in Ontario Parks, and being surrounded by other people doing the same thing as me — enjoying nature, being active and spending time with loved ones — I was encouraged by the positive energy and mutual appreciation for this earth and what it offers us.

Sometimes, it’s a matter of choosing nature

Collage of woman on trail and swimming at sunset

Seriously…as a working adult, “finding” 30 minutes in my day to spend outdoors wasn’t always easy. I quickly saw that it was not a matter of “finding” 30 minutes, but rather it was a matter of “making time for” 30 minutes.

Every day was conscious and intentional. This was kind of awesome because it meant prioritizing 30 minutes in nature, forcing me to take important time for myself by investing in my mental and physical health.

Sometimes, this meant taking my lunch break away from the office in a nearby park, or turning off Netflix before bed to go watch the sunset, or heading outside of town to stargaze late at night.

It also meant making the most of bad weather, at times needing to find ways to enjoy rainfall from a sheltered location, instead of hiding indoors. Other times, it was a matter of choosing to do whatever I was doing, outside (instead of inside on the couch or at a desk), like reading a book, planning out my week, or journalling.

Every day, I was faced with choices of what to do where, and it was amazing to realize just how many things could be done outdoors, or could wait until I took my 30 minutes. It made me see that sometimes, it’s as simple as choosing nature.

It is SO important to make spending time in nature a habit

I found I was more likely to reap the benefits of spending time outdoors as the time became habitual. For example, during the first few days of the challenge, I found it more difficult to “turn my brain off.” It was more challenging to put my phone away, ignore my emails, and just take in all the marvels of nature.

However, toward the end of the challenge, I found I was able to better reflect on the changes in my attitude, and witness the positive effects of nature on my body when it came to my 30 minutes.

I’ve realized through this challenge that spending time in nature isn’t just something I enjoy, it’s something I need. By honouring my body and its mental and physical needs, and choosing nature, I see that I am committing to a healthier and happier lifestyle.

This is what the 30×30 Challenge has meant for me.