By Julie Gregory, Chief Health Liaison for Apollo Health

And so, it begins — the craziness of the holiday season. Starting with Halloween and marching on for months through Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, and New Year’s celebrations. This can be a time of warmth, connection, and lots of delicious foods, but it can also be a time of stress and general excess. Many of us have additional holiday expectations imposed upon us, making it more difficult to practice the protocol. It can be especially tricky to fast and find KetoFLEX 12/3 friendly foods. And temptation is all around! Prior to adopting my new lifestyle. I would typically gain ten pounds around this time of year, only to lose it after the New Year. I recall feeling awful, bloated, brain foggy, and irritable. If you can relate, I have the perfect remedy for all of the stress and excess that can accompany the holiday season.

Go outside and take a walk every single day. That simple piece of advice can serve as the perfect antidote to the holiday season. If you’re new to exercise, start slow. Work up to thirty minutes or more of brisk walking. As you’re able, intersperse your walk with periods of running. Being outside, breathing fresh air, and ideally getting close to nature offers a wealth of healing.

Benefits from a Nature Walk

● Improves circulation
● Increases cerebral blood flow
● Boosts ketones
● Heals metabolism
● Improves cardio-respiratory fitness
● Increases vitamin D
● Provides stress relief
● Offers brain stimulation
● Increases detoxification
● Upgrades your gut microbiome
● Upregulates immunity

For me, spending time in nature is so much more. It’s a way to ground myself and remember where I came from. As a child born in the early 1960s, I spent the majority of my youth outside in nature. I had three brothers (all very close in age), and we were a merry tribe of hooligans. Our house was adjacent to what appeared to us as an enormous forest. In reality, it was a few wooded lots that had never been developed in our neighborhood. To us, it was a magical place where we built tree forts, dug underground tunnels, rescued injured animals, and sucked on sassafras branches while pretending we were drinking root beer. We created our own little home away from home. 

Along with other neighborhood kids, we would gather in each other’s yards to play pick-up games of baseball, soccer, or basketball. In the summer, we set up badminton nets and croquet hoops and often played outside until the lightning bugs came out. At mealtimes, each family in our neighborhood had their own signal to call the children home. Our mother had a whistle, while other families had gongs or iron dinner bells.    

With permission, we could hike or bicycle down to the local creek to feed mulberries to the turtles or to the shores of Lake Michigan just to swing on the thick, gnarled vines that hung from the trees at the top of the sand dunes. We dared one another to swing out as far as possible, then let go, only to tumble to the bottom of the towering dunes. We had contests to see who could swing the highest.

In the fall, we gathered tart wild apples that had fallen from local trees to bring home to make applesauce. I remember feeling proud I could contribute to our meal. My brothers and I would try our best to catch the bright-colored leaves before they fell to the ground. After raking enormous piles, we would jump in and mess them up, only to have to start all over again.  

Perhaps the most magical time of all was winter. After a snowfall, we would brace for the cold with many layers, mismatched mittens, and hand-me-down winter coats. I recall a sense of awe as I opened the door to a transformed white fairyland. There was always a hush that accompanied heavy snow. It felt like nature had taken a pause, but not us. We would drag our sleds up to the highest hill and whoosh down, racing one another. The hike uphill felt very long, but so worth it to enjoy another run. We would stay out as long as we could until our little noses and cheeks turned bright red.

With every walk I take outside, I remember who I used to be. The rustle of leaves, the smell of decaying earth, and the whisper of the wind all welcome me home. Every single step heals me. This holiday season, honor yourself with a daily walk outside. Allow nature to remind you of your beautiful, glorious essence — forget the obligations of the world, and return home to yourself.     

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