Recharging the brain

By MarthaFitat55

photography of woman surrounded by sunflowers
Image shows a white woman in a field of sunflowers with bubbles in the air around her. Photo by Andre Furtado on

Earlier in the week I was talking to a mom with elementary aged children and she described how they try to get out at least once a day. Sometimes she calls it gym and off they run; sometimes she goes out alone to give herself space.

Now that the snow has melted in my area of the country, going outside is hugely appealing. There’s something about being outside under a big sky that recharges the brain and makes working outside seem fun and invigorating, even if the only thing you’re doing is yanking weeds by the handful.

Maybe because we couldn’t move freely outside at the start of the pandemic it became even more important to bring the outside in. if it wasn’t blowing a gale or pouring rain, I’d open the windows every day.

I don’t have a lot of houseplants because we have people in our house with allergies, but I love looking at something green and growing when everything looks bleak during our very late spring.

I read an article about starting vegetables from root ends and now I have five celery plants sending up lovely vibrant shoots. I’m told they will turn into fully fledged celery stalks in about five months, so every week I start another in hopes that by midsummer I’ll have enough for a substantial fall harvest.

I’m planting a garden for real this year. I remember when we had strawberry beds: they were a lot of work to keep weed free. According to WebMD, the energy expended by gardening and yard work generally is pretty good:

  • Shoveling snow: 400-600 calories per hour
  • Heavy yard work (landscaping, moving rocks, hauling dirt): 400-600 calories per hour
  • Raking and bagging leaves: 350-450 calories per hour
  • Gardening: pulling weeds, planting flowers, etc.: 200-400 calories per hour
  • Mowing the lawn: 250-350 calories per hour

About five years ago I heard a presentation by a neuroscientist who said our best brain work can take place outside under a big sky with the sun shining. At the very least we can give ourselves a big mental boost by being in the open air and we can give ourselves a great physical boost by walking, playing, or working outside.

With all the concerns about being inside re: the risk of transmission of COVID-19, our best bet for staying physically and mentally well can come from being outside, safely distant from others, or by playing with others who are within our bubble.

It’s been a long grey winter and spring for us, literally and figuratively. I’m looking forward to embracing the outdoors more fully this year.

— MarthaFitat55 lives in St. John’s.