Gratitude isn't always easy

Until the onset of this summer, my family had a practice of giving thanks for something before our evening meal.  Once the routines of school ceased, we somehow... forgot. We got busy moving house, not everyone was home all the time, we found that most evenings we were busy just DOING all the wonderful things we loved to do. So...our practice of being thankful - along with some other good habits like brushing teeth every night, and going to bed at a reasonable time - fell by the wayside.

When the shit hits the fan and life gets busy, it can be so hard to keep a positive outlook. The exhaustion. The very real physical, emotional and mental effort it takes to get through a day can really sap my energy, and some days it can feel so inauthentic to muster up Gratitude. There is still, after all these years of spiritual practice, a little voice within me that still says "How trite! How can you say you are thankful for your family when (really) they have annoyed the hell out of you today with their neediness and whining". Ouch. Am I really such a horrible person?

When I quiet that horrid voice, I find that I miss the repetitiveness of the daily Gratitude Practice - family, food, sunshine, friends. Yawn.

I miss the insights: Chickens. Mudboots. Spiderwebs. Icicles. Toilet Paper. The Supermarket. Teachers. Friends. Airplanes.

One particular morning last winter, my newly-5-year-old daughter gave thanks for the sunshine that had just risen on the lake outside our window. She was right, of course - it sparkled on the ice surface, with a rainbow of muted colors that somehow we had missed seeiing until that moment. Almost every day last winter she gave thanks for the warm air coming out of the Rinnai, for music and for her friends.

I am so thankful for her ability to see what I cannot...really, for my incredible life - the places I get to call home, my loving family spread far and wide, the people who swirl around me.

Every day is different: small things to honor in our lives - sometimes mundane, always essential, and yet it's not always easy to see and feel the connections.

Stepping outside each day helps me reconnect with the essential practice of giving thanks for everything I have.

So this month we start over.

What are you thankful for, today?


The very things that we treasure and love have come to us over time.

The habits that support us the most aren't created overnight.

Spectacularly beautiful moments are not on the calendar.

Wonderful things do happen. Often.

Awe is a state of mind.

Be kind to yourself. Take it slow. Breathe. Step outside, for YOU.

With love,


Paying Attention

THEME OF THE WEEK: Paying Attention

How can we support our own best selves?

How can we pay more attention to our lives - to the things we do every day, the people we welcome into our private spaces, to the thoughts we entertain, and the habits we allow to continue?

Mindfulness, of course. But how?

Seek happiness in the little things...the swirl of the butter on your toast in the morning, the rustle of your shorts as you walk down the path... the look you share with a friend that turns to laughter, the moment where you delight in the feeling of the breeze in your hair, or the bird call you hear as you open your car door.

These small gestures, sounds and moments of awareness become a part of your "happiness blueprint" as they become more conscious. A detailed plan, of sorts...a "map" of experiences and possibilities that are the structure upon which you can build your day - the little things that you really do need to have in your life, and which accumulate into a sense of belonging, subtle joy, and deep contentment.

I'd love you to bring as many nature and outdoor experiences as you can into the picture, into your "blueprint"... in whatever way you can!

After some time - perhaps not very long - you will notice yourself begin to crave mindful moments every day - to connect with the fresh air, the light, the contrasts and patterns, and the surprises that nature brings. 

Pay attention, and reap the benefits!

Wishing you a fabulous day :) xx

5 Ways to Stop Stressing Out

Stressed out? Overwhelmed? Need to take a chill-pill?

Feeling stressed out is our physical and emotional response to feeling as though we don't have the resources to deal with a challenge we have in front of us. It feels AWFUL, and often it can make us feel as though EVERYTHING is insurmountable.

Before you grab that bottle of Xanax, I have some amazingly simple ways for you to reduce your stress levels and get your juju back... QUICKLY!

1. BREATHE. Sit upright in your chair, or on the ground. Put both of your hands gently on your the sides of your ribcage, and breathe in deeply enough to feel your hands move apart. See if you can actually feel your diaphragm (the wide flat muscle under your lungs at the base of your ribs) broaden and stretch out, and then collapse again as you breathe a long breath out.

Breathe in and out 10 times.

You should notice that your ribcage opens up, and even maybe rises a little with each breath. You will probably also notice that your lung capacity increases a bit each time. Don't force anything, just eek a little extra breath in (and out) each time, and notice the incremental differences. One thing I like to do is to count in and out, and add a number each time - maybe counting to 5 for the first breath, and be at 15 for the last one.


2. OPEN THE DOOR AND STEP OUTSIDE. It really is that simple. When the proverbial sh*t hits the fan, instead of reacting to it as you always do, excuse yourself...head to the door... and step outside for a few minutes.

Take a little walk, sit down in the sunshine, stomp a little bit, go stand in the wind, put your hands on a tree... do something out of your ordinary routine to connect yourself with something bigger and bring a little perspective to your situation.

Once you have had the chance to calm your mind and re-set your equilibrium, you can step back inside, and re-enter the fray!

3. SMILE. Smiling is a sure-fire way to trick your brain into thinking it is happy, even when it's not, because our brains think that when we are smiling... everything is groovy (!)... and go on to release endorphins and seratonin.

It's the same reason we love eating chocolate, or exercising, or having sex... but it's so EASY TO DO, and the logistics are less tricky than have a quickie when you're in a tizzy.


"All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking" (Nietzche)

Walking helps you to calm your nerves, gets you thinking creatively and openly about your problems, and - when taken with a friend or colleague - can also help you to feel more connected to others. 

"Walking is an inexpensive, low risk and accessible form of exercise and it turns out that combined with nature and group settings, it may be a very powerful, under-utilized stress buster," says Sara Warber, associate professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.


Take a piece of paper (it can be a napkin, or the inside flap of a book you are reading, or a receipt!) and a pen, and jot down 5 things you are grateful for.

5 things that when you look at your situation, or your life, stand out as things that bring you joy, peace, pleasure, a sense of belonging, a feeling of freedom, that make you feel strong, or beautiful, or that allow you to have love in your life.

Don't overanalyze it - just write them down.

Then read your list over and actively give a little prayer of thanks for each item. This doesn't have to be a religious prayer - a simple "thank you" will do.

Slip that piece of paper into your pocket and pull it out again a few times during the day and then hide it somewhere you can find it later...


I hope these techniques help you remember that you have the strength and tools you need to tackle ANY challenge, and when you don't there are always ways to figure it out. The first step is a calm mind and an optimistic approach.

How do YOU deal with stress? I would love to hear more great ideas!

Grounding, the earthy kind...

As a kid, I loved springtime - I loved taking my shoes off and walking outside for the first few times and standing in the warming soil. After a winter cooped up in shoes and socks, my feet were invariably thin, white and soft. They would slowly toughen up after 5 or 6 times walking around outside... and the time spent walking tentatively and delicately over rocks, roots and bitumen, and burying my toes in the soil felt exquisite.

I grew up in south-western Australia where most people think it's sunny all year long. It is, actually. But "cold" is a relative term...and when the winter rolled around we would "rug up" - wearing scarves, a long socks, and fleece jackets to combat the (almost) freezing temps... We'd pull our shoes and boots out of storage, gleefully wearing them and stomping around like Paddington Bear in the rain and puddles of autumn and winter.

We are seasonal animals, no matter where we live, and we crave the shift and change of the seasons. I notice this now, more than ever, living in a place that prides itself on having 5 seasons (summer, fall, winter, spring and MUD SEASON!)... but more than that I notice how quickly I shift my perspective as the seasons change. I can forgive the harshest winters in honor of the wonder of the season that is upon me.

Take now, for instance. 

It's May. I am sitting outside, listening to the songs of the birds, and the squeals of my kids as they splash and play by the lake. My feet are deep in the grass, and I can feel the sun on them. I feel in touch with the earth in a way that feels both familiar and strange. It has been over 6 months since I was able to pull my shoes and socks off and connect with the earth in this way and it feels... exquisite.

I had heard of the practice of Grounding... so I googled it, to see if there was something I could do to enhance the experience for myself. Here's what I found...

Our bodies have a high percentage of water in them, which is great for conducting electricity.  Not so good if you get hit by lightning, but GREAT for intentional ionic transfer. The earth has a negative ionic charge, and going barefoot "grounds" our bodies to that charge - we bring the negative ions INTO our bodies by connecting directly with the earth. THIS IS A HEALTH BENEFIT: Negative ions help to detoxify, calm, reduce inflammation, and balance both hormonal cycles and physiological rhythms of our bodies. That sounds good to me.

FREE MASSAGE: remember those Reflexology charts of the foot? By walking barefoot, you activate so many more reflex points than by walking in flat innersoled shoes. It's a foot massage! For free!

Here is a visualization activity that is a little woo-woo but I found it really worked! If you want to dive deeper, click on the source link :).

With both feet firmly planted on the ground, energy flows up through the right foot, up the right side of the body, crossing over to your left side, flowing down the left side, and out the left foot, back into the Earth. You can think of the body as a having a upside down U shaped channel through which this energy flows, with your right side receiving energy up and the left side sending energy back down. Consciously rooting yourself into the Earth helps to complete this loop, forming a strong connection with Earth energy, in turn strengthening and focusing your own energy, preparing you to connect with those existing on the Earth plane, or on other planes, such as the Spiritual Realm.

To visualize this happening, simply place your feet on the ground, hip width apart, imagine energy coming up through your right foot, travelling up your right leg, your thigh, your hip, your stomach, your chest, and through your throat to your crown. Then imagine this energy flowing back down through the crown, following the left side of the body, until it exits through the left foot, back into the Earth. Give it a color that resonates with your connection to the Earth - gold, dark brown, red clay, moss green, ocean blue - whatever feels right to you.


As I watch my kids play outside, and connect with my own feeling of connectedness and flow from playing outside (as both a kid and adult)... I am inspired to find ways to bring more of that simple freedom into my own outdoor experiences.

It starts with feeling grounded and connected, and goes from there. It takes courage to spend time to toughen up your feet, to get in touch with the soil... not to mention a few toe-stubs, ouchies, bug bites and the issue of dirty toenails...but by the smiles on my kids faces... I'm thinking... "it's totally worth it!".

Not another thing on the To-Do List!

When I ask people what their biggest barriers are to getting outside, "work" is often at the top of the list.

Having to go to work and earn a living really gets in the way of our opportunities to relax, our ability to manage stress, and it's hard to feel like we have enough TIME to DO ANYTHING.

When we get home from a long day at work, we have house-work to do, and paying-bills-work, and playing-with-our-kids-work, and cooking-work, and laundry-work and... heck, even the commute to and from work is, well, work!

What about those lucky people who get to to work from home? Well, it's hard for them too... they don't even have the opportunity to leave their home and get outside by default - they are in the house, working, from the minute they wake up until the minute they get to bed - with all the same pressures - except they don't even get to be outside between the house, the car, the office and back again - unless they head out for a meeting or to go to the bank or go to the store to figure out what to eat...and organizing all of that can seem like a lot of... well, you know...

Then there's the parents who stay home with their kids - what they wouldn't do for a little adult alone time, where they can actually sit and eat their lunch in peace - inside OR outside. Their day is full of worky-work-work, too...

Who wants YET ANOTHER THING to DO on their TO DO LIST?

Not me.

But...! I hear you say... Going outside isn't WORK! It's PLAY! I just don't have TIME to DO IT.

Are you SURE you don't have time?

I know I am guilty of getting sucked into Facebook for more than 20 minutes at a time. I look down to just check one thing, and POOF! THERE GOES TWENTY MINUTES! I also don't always do a good job of scheduling my day ahead of time - sometimes a whole day goes by and I realize I COULD HAVE gone outside if I had been more focused on it...but the day flew by and there I was, inside all day ... AGAIN...

So why should we even try, if it takes such an effort? Is it really worth it?

Spending time outside in your work day will:

- improve your focus,

- help you to be more creative,

- increase your happiness levels,

- improve your attitude, and

- up your energy level.

So the real question is - why don't we do it MORE?

I don't think it's a lack of TIME. I think it's a lack of STRATEGIES...

HERE ARE 10 WAYS YOU CAN BRING THE OUTDOORS INTO YOUR WORKY-WORK LIFE... no matter what your day looks like!


1. Plan a lunchbreak where you are outside. Take your brownbag lunch out to the street, and sit and people-watch. Or - better yet - find a green space near your work and sit there.

2. Plan your next check-in meeting or brainstorm OUTSIDE. YOU WILL BE SURPRISED at how AWESOME it is! Getting people outside can really shake things up. A walk-and-talk with a colleague, mentor or mentee is an amazing way to get creative and find connection.


3. Instead of emailing someone to deal with an in-depth (or a prickly) communication, drop by and ask them for 10 minutes of their time, and take the meeting outside.

4. TAKE A "NO-SMOKO". Remember the olden days - when people would go outside for a smoke-break (a "smoko" is what we call it in Australia), and that it was considered totally cool? As in, it was NORMAL? I remember feeling envious and wishing I could take 5 minutes out of every hour to step outside. NEWSFLASH! YOU CAN! Just DO IT! Just go for a nature break instead of a smoke-break!Just tell your colleagues "I'm taking a no-smoko, be back in 5!"

5. Feeling stuck? Head outside. Or at least to a window and open it up wide! Feel the breeze, breathe in some fresh air. Walk around and get some fresh perspective. I know one person who has told her boss many times that "a run would really help me solve this problem"... and now it's a joke between them - now when her boss has a tough question or issue to deal with, she will say "it's time for you to head out for a run right now then come back and help me" - HOW COOL IS THAT?!


6. STICKY LOVE-NOTES and SCREENSAVERS! Write a positive affirmation along the lines of "I love my lunchtime walk" or "I am happier outside" or "A WALK HELPS ME TO SOLVE COMPLEX ISSUES"... The statement has to be a "now" statement, and "I" statement and should have an "I am doing this" quality... Put these self-love messages in key places - on your bathroom mirror, on your computer screen, on your phone's screen, on the center of your car steering wheel...

7. PARK YOUR CAR a couple of extra blocks away from work, so you get to have a calming walk in and out of your workplace (or park your car a block from home!)

8. Bring sneakers into work, or put them by your front door WITH SOCKS IN THEM... AND A HAT, AND A WATER BOTTLE!


9. If you know someone who is trying to improve their life (at work, in your neighborhood, another mom, whatever) - losing weight, dealing wtih anxiety, wanting to manage their feelings better, be more outdoorsy... whatever it is... you could buddy up and set a few objectives - one walk a week together... or one picnic lunch meeting a week... or maybe an after-work debrief walk once-a-week? Having a friend who can motivate you and keep you accountable is a great strategy!

10. Tell whoever you live with that you are wanting to get Happier Outside, and so when you are done with work, you want to find ways to bring more outdoor activity into your lives. They will PROBABLY surprise you with ideas, support, and a willingness to be involved.

After all, being outside is actually more about PLAY, than about WORK...

I think Earth Day should be every day, Mummy!

"What's Earth Day, mummy?".

"Well, you know how we have special days like Mother's Day to remind us to think about special people in our lives?


"Earth Day is kinda like that. It reminds us to think about the Earth, and to change our actions to make sure the Earth lasts a long time".

"Why do we have to think about the Earth?"


What would you say?

Because it's in trouble,

Because it's our home.

Because it's our responsibility.

Because we love it.

Because we can.

"What actions do we need to change?"


What would you say?

The small things.

The everyday things.

Public Policy.

People's habits.

Big Business.


We need to change the things that we can control...



"Picking up rubbish?"


"Being careful with water in the shower?"



It's a start.

Also - spending time outside every day, so you can feel connected to the earth, to the air, to the trees and water.

The more you love the earth, the more you find ways to look after it so it lasts a long time.

"OK mommy, I think I get it. But I think Earth Day should be every day"


How do YOU celebrate Earth Day? Tell us on FACEBOOK.


A book to read:

BOOK: EAARTH, by Bill McKibben. This is not your father’s Earth. Climate change has already permanently altered our landscape. “This is the current inventory: more thunder, more lightning, less ice. Name a major feature of the earth’s surface and you’ll find massive change,” McKibben says.A sobering but ultimately optimistic look at where we stand now, and what Bill McKibben thinks we should do about it.

Some gorgeous visuals to remind you of the immensity of our beautiful planet:

MOVIE SERIES: EARTH, A NEW Wild (PBS). The earth as it really is, with humans in the picture. Episodes include "Home", PLains" "Forest" "Oceans" and "water". Stunning, immersive cinematography, worth a watch!

VIDEOS: Life On Terra (on Itunes or at their website)

Now in its 10th season, LifeOnTERRA is the award-winning sci­ence and nat­ural his­tory pod­cast series that explores the natural connections that propel life on Earth. Overseen by graduate students in the MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking Program at Montana State University, TERRA distributes independently produced science, nature, and environmental films. We are proud to bring you these unique stories from around the globe that celebrate the wonders of the natural world.

Since TERRA’s inception, our thought provoking films have reached over ten million viewers. With each new episode we feature powerful storytelling that showcases the diversity of our planet.

And - some apps (I use them regularly) to inspire you, and help being outside even more fun...:


Yonder is a community of explorers and wanderers, of climbers and bikers, of skiers and hikers, sharing their love for the outdoors every day. Post pics of where you are in nature, find photos of other people - all on an interactive map with activity references. Very cool. Look for Happier Outside on there! We post regularly!


Happy Earth day to YOU.

Adventure is what you make it...

Alastair Humphreys is a guywith an impressive history of adventure. He's trekked, rowed, biked and hiked in some incredible landscapes and across some terribly difficult terrain. He followed his own dream of being one of the Great Adventurers - in the footsteps of some of the great travelers and explorers we all know about (Sir Edmund Hillary, Thor Heyerdahl, or - more recently -  Bear Grylls...). But, interestingly, he now finds himself motivated to bring the essence of what Adventure means to him back into the frontcountry. To the masses, if you were.

Just waking up on a hilltop makes me feel so much happier, and that carries through in other areas. I’d like to help others experience that. I hear from quite a few people who pour out their hearts to me, dads and lads bonding, overworked city types sleeping on a hill. Sleeping on a hill won’t change your life, but it can be a tiny step toward making the changes.

I love his message. I love that he believes that simple experiences, well lived, have the power to change your life. I believe that's at the heart of this mission of Happier Outside.

So, in honor of Alastair - and paying homage to all the adventurers before me (like Isabella Bird, Kay Cottee, and Rosie Swale-Pope), I am excited to create some micro-adventures of my own this summer. I like the idea of camping out in the back yard with my kids (no inside emergency runs allowed) and getting to know the locals (animals that is) - or perhaps we could extend it to sleeping out at the lean-to in the Camden Hills State Park. Perhaps a LOOOOONG walk somewhere, unsupported - just me, my boots and my backpack full of what I need. I also want to do a little overnight sailing sojourn to the islands of Penobscot Bay.

Anyone want to join me?

It's Coming...

Can you feel it?

There is a shift in the air. If you step outside and stand for just a moment, you will notice it. The air is sweet, and moist, and softer somehow. There is also a change in the angle of the sun... the quality of the light is changing, and the sunrises and sunsets have been spectacular this month.

Can you feel the change within you, too?

I know I can... I feel it when I take a walk, or when I step outside in the morning, with my cup of coffee. Sometimes, standing out there, I feel like a tree with my sap starting to flow again - as though I am beginning to wake from a slumber. It feels amazing, and I have to stop myself from running out into the street, waving my hands at the passers-by yelling "look! look!... it's happening!". Actually, I did do that this week...the squirrels gave me funny looks :).

The harshness of the passing season is behind us.

We have a chance to catch our breath, and to move into the new rhythms of this transition feel our way into the busy nature of the coming months.

What will you do this week to celebrate?

I think I am going to take advantage of the lake, and it's current state of frozen tundra, and ski out to the islands and back. Won't be long now, and I'll be on my paddle-board doing the same thing - as hard as that is to imagine.

Taking the time to intentionally move across the top of the water, and really love the state it's in right now, is something I want to do as a way of honoring the change of seasons.

Or maybe I will put together a scavenger hunt with the kids, and look for signs of the season shifting. The birds are starting to return and call to each other, and I think the buds are ready to pop.

Or maybe it's time to call my friends for a last hurrah out at the ski hut. Girls? You there? You hear me?

Let's do this!


My one challenge...

I had the honor of participating in the Pecha Kucha evening on February 27th 2015, and here is the video! In this talk, I challenge the audience to spend 15 minutes a day outside, every day in the month of March. This coincided with the launch of our #15minutesoutside movement, which you may already have been following (and if not... start now!).

That's Alan Crichton introducing me, and if you have ever been to the Waterfall Arts Center in Belfast, ME, then you probably know him. I had never met him until this night, but I left the evening realizing why artists, community builders, activists and inspiring folks of all stripes love the Waterfall Arts Center, and love Alan.

I wasn't the only one presenting that evening. If you want to see the whole show, check out: The Belfast Community Media Page at Vimeo