Final Challenge- Soak Up Some Nature

These photos are of the Wekiva River where my hubby and I often go paddle boarding. It's shady and green and gorgeous with natural spring water so clear that you can see turtles walking on the river bottom. We see alligators every time we go and on a lucky day have spotted an otter or two. It's so relaxing and beautiful and healing! 

I'm not sure how many of you are gym rats. I love organized classes too (mostly yoga). But sometimes I feel a little sad watching myriads of people mindlessly walking or stair stepping or elliptical trudging and all missing out on the glorious right outside the gym doors. 

Just in the last week during my morning walks (which my good friend and I have to take super early to avoid the intense summer heat) we have seen a giant grasshopper, an armadillo (yuck I HATE anything with a giant rat tail) and a sweet pair of 3 foot tall cranes.

Nature can sooth your soul and give rest to a weary mind. And I want you to get some this week. 

For every day that you spend at least 10 minutes outside you can claim the daily bonus points. So yes- walk in the evening, swim in the sunshine, run in the sprinklers, walk on the beach and I will even count gazing at the stars. 

And I'd like to share some info on the importance of sunshine in your life. If you have been running from home or the office into the gym and back out to your car-- get yourself some outside time. 

Here's a list of the benefits of daily sunshine from US News and World Report

• Better sleep. Natural daylight helps shut off your body's production of melatonin, a hormone produced at night that makes you drowsy. This can help you maintain a normal circadian rhythm, so you're more likely to feel tired at bedtime when it's dark outside. Going outside for 15 minutes at the same time each day, preferably in the morning, gives your body a clear signal that it's no longer night. Also, forgo the sunglasses if possible, since this will enable sunlight to pass unhindered through your eyes to the brain's pineal gland, triggering the gland to stop releasing melatonin.
• Happier outlook. A type of depression called seasonal affective disorder affects some people during the winter when they don't get enough sunlight. Experts now believe that sunlight has widespread mood-elevating effects, possibly because the "happy" hormone serotonin increases when nights are short and days are long. In fact, psychiatrists often recommend that depressed individuals go outside in the sun for 30 minutes a day. Bonus: You can slather on all the sunscreen you want and still reap the mood benefit.
• Protection from autoimmune diseases. Exposure to UV radiation appears to suppress an overactive immune system, according to an April report published in Environmental Health Perspectives. This could explain why exposure to UV rays may help with autoimmune diseases like psoriasis and lupus; one recent study also suggests it might help alleviate asthma.
• Lessening of Alzheimer's symptoms. Elderly Alzheimer's patients exposed to bright lighting during the day—from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.—got better scores on a mental exam, had fewer symptoms of depression, and lost less function than did those exposed to dim daytime lighting, according to a study published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers attributed the improvement to more-regular circadian rhythms, which are thrown out of whack when advanced dementia sets in.

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