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Thursday, October 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Ammi Midstokke: Prescription grade outdoor therapy

Ammi Midstokke Correspondent

My favorite thing to do when I’m feeling sorry for myself is feel sorry for myself. The human capacity for wallowing in self pity exceeds some of our most well-developed tools of survival: avoiding family holidays, getting drunk at our best friend’s wedding, eating fast food to save time, etc.

The topic of being incapacitated by our own misery comes up often in my office, where withdrawals from Oreos and corn chips seem to catapult patients into the catacombs of their souls. Subconscious stories of misery and deprivation that have not seen the light of day for decades are discovered there.

I would like to think I’m rather an expert on this because I have a tendency to do stupid things and then feel really sorry for myself about them. I like to wear my burden like a badge on my sleeve. Case in point: I gave up coffee this year. I feel sorry for myself every…single…day. I whine about it incessantly. I blame it for everything from my forgotten wallet to my slow running pace.

Some of my patients suffer a different kind of misery, such as anxiety or depression, chronic pain or discomfort. Their ability to become incapacitated by their thoughts and a belief that those things control their choices dictates their lives and borders on tragic. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Whatever the condition, part of the prescription is always the same: Go outside.

The resistance is incredible. The list of reasons to not go outside are issued forth with the rapidity of an automatic weapon, sprayed around like little explosive excuses, a shield of defense designed to keep one in a place they feel is familiar, and thus safe.

Here’s a little truth though: You can wallow in your discomfort inside or you can wallow in it outside, but only one of those has the potential to make you feel better.

A walk is not going to cure your back pain, but it is going to give you a better outlook about it. It will not eliminate your anxiety, but the endorphins released can aid in calming such conditions. That’s just the beginning.

Outdoor therapy has been long-applied in Europe as a prescription for many ailments. And for good cause: Countless studies show that going outside, regardless of the intensity level, improves your endorphin production (those are little happy hormone messengers), has a positive neurological impact, and improves biochemical feedback.

Amazingly, it doesn’t just improve them while you are outside walking for twenty minutes. It increases them for the rest of the day. People sleep better at night. These well-rested citizens wake up the next day and have better cognitive function and – here’s the special part – the desire to go outside again.

The cascade of positive effects is nearly unstoppable. Only self-pity seems to be stronger (it’s like the dark force of reason).

In all my years, I have never – not a single time – had a patient come back and say, “I really wish I hadn’t gone outside.” Regrets are not made in the outdoors. Changes are. Changes of perspective, changes of health, and changes in overall happiness.

Get your prescription dose today. Whatever barrage of excuses you have to hide behind, shove them aside and go breathe air, watch trees, and consider the possibilities.

Trust me, you won’t regret it.

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