Last night I gave my 10th and final speech in the Toastmaster Competent Communicator book. It was an inspirational speech and had to be between 8-10 minutes long.
I really struggled with this one. I think I felt intimidated by the idea of speaking for 8 minutes straight without notes. The previous speeches were all 5-7 minutes.
I surprised myself by actually memorizing most of the text below. I did end up going off track a couple of times, but for the most part I stuck to the script.
My dad came to watch me speak, and as weird as this sounds, I think that may have made me more nervous. But I was happy he was there.
Anyway, here it is. Below that is a list of the other speeches I’ve given. It has to be submitted to TM headquarters and then I’ll get a certificate to prove that I’m a Competent Communicator. Hah. I think I have a lot more work to do before I really feel competent!
Good evening fellow Toastmasters and guests,
Take a moment to think back to when you were a kid. I’m willing to bet that one of the phrases your mother used most was, “Go play outside!”
If you were like me, you played outside in any season and any type of weather. Like me, your mother may have had to call you in out of the rain or the snow for fear of you getting sick. If you were like me, you could have stayed out in the elements, no matter what. There was so much to do and explore outside. It was exciting! We rode our bikes every day. We spent hours playing games and inventing imaginary worlds. We could be as loud as we wanted – yelling and laughing was acceptable outdoor behavior. Even I was alone, I enjoyed exploring the great outdoors, pretending to be a scientist or a researcher like those I saw in National Geographic articles. I’m sure I wasn’t the only kid who loved playing outdoors.
Fast forward to your current age. How much time do you spend outside now? How often do you go play outside?
As adults we get sucked into lives that keep us indoors. In this day and age, there is so much to distract us from the natural world. If you have a corporate job like I do, chances are you are stuck inside from morning till night. You’re entitled to a lunch break, but often times it’s easier to stay at your desk to catch up on work, or, if you’re like me, your co-workers see the lunch hour as just another time to schedule meetings.
As adults, we make excuses for not spending more time outside. Even those of us who have a great love of the outdoors can find it a struggle to actually get outside and enjoy it. There are projects to work on. It’s too hot/too cold/too buggy/too humid. If I go out now, I won’t have time for some other thing I need or want to do. I often find excuses to remain in front of my computer until it’s too late. Even in the morning, many well-intentioned alarm clocks have been silenced because I would rather sleep a little longer than wake up early enough to grab a walk or a half hour in the garden before it’s time to get ready for work.
“Well, so what?”, you might be thinking. Grown-ups are supposed to work, be responsible and not be running around outside building forts or collecting bugs, right?
I’m here tonight to tell you that there’s a very important reason why you should make the effort to go play outside every day. And that is: Nature is good for your health!
Think about all the stress that builds up every day from sitting in an office, being bombarded with emails, demands from your boss, that never-ending to-do list, not to mention all of the mental clutter from constant stimulation of your cell phone. You’ve heard that exercise can help alleviate these stressors, but if you are exercising in a gym while listening to music on your phone or watching something on a screen, you are not getting as much stress relief as you could.
Playing outside has a positive effect on your physical and mental health. Disconnecting from electronics and immersing yourself in nature improves mental functioning by decreasing stress, anxiety, anger and depression. Exposure to natural light improves sleep by regulating your internal clock. Not to mention the increase in vitamin D that comes with sun exposure. Getting outside and getting moving helps relax those tense shoulders that come with being hunching over a computer all day, and of course, physical activity helps with weight loss and overall health.
Not only is spending time outside good for your body and mental state, it goes even deeper than that. Being in nature strengthens our connection to our life source. Whether you believe in creation or evolution or something in between, there’s no denying that we are all part of nature on a biological level. We’re not robots. Being in the great outdoors and taking time to observe the world around you can put you in your place. Think about laying out under a shimmering sky of stars, or walking beneath a canopy of tall trees. You can feel just how grand and magnificent nature can be. To me, this is a great reminder that the stress I’m feeling or the problems I am up against in that moment are really temporary and minor in the grand scheme of things.
There is a reason that so many hospitals and nursing homes incorporate beautiful gardens in their campuses. Nature is healing. All that greenery is soothing. It is relaxing & comforting. Nature can also be invigorating – think of being outside when a storm is brewing – you can feel the tension in the air. The gusts of wind and darkening skies awaken a primal energy within us.
Going outside doesn’t require any special kind of skill or talent, and it doesn’t even have to cost anything. You simply open your door and step out. Here are 5 things you can to make it a habit:
1. Set up an area to sit outside. Even if it’s just a folding lawn chair, it will do. Having a designated space to relax will remind you to take some time out of your busy day to unwind. You can even make it a policy to eat meals outside when the weather is nice.
2. If you work at a company that is as meeting-happy as mine, you can mark an hour in your calendar as “busy” or even “out of office” to prevent people from scheduling meetings with you during this time. I like to take my lunch breaks in a park that is close to work. It allows me to take a break from the stress of the office, even if it’s just for a short time.
3. Bring your exercise routine outdoors. Many of the things you’d do in a gym can be brought outside. Walking, running, biking, hiking and swimming are just a few outdoor activities that allow you to enjoy being outside while also getting your exercise. Our state has many beautiful parks and hiking trails where you can get a workout while enjoying the great outdoors. Remember, nature is the original gym – and you can bring dog!
4. Make outdoor experiences a part of your social life. Invite friends for a hike, or choose restaurants with outdoor dining areas. Right here in Wallingford we have Gouvia vineyard, where you can bring a picnic lunch, buy a bottle or two of wine and enjoy the views at any time of day.
5. My personal favorite outdoor activity is gardening. It gets you outside and gets you focused on something tangible. You can choose to do as little or as much as you like. You can start small, by growing a few plants in pots on your deck, or you can go all out and have a huge vegetable garden. Much of the fun of gardening is trying to grow different things and learning from the experience. Planning and caring for a garden is a great way to get in touch with nature in this busy, high-tech, high-stress world we live in.
So while the weather is nice, make sure to step away from your computer, put down your phone and go outside. Look up. Notice the contrast of the green trees against blue sky. Listen to the birds. Take a deep breath. Let yourself feel like a kid again. You won’t regret it.