“Go outside or get a drink of water.”
My daughter once came home from a birthday sleep-over with this wisdom — the best of all party favors. Her friend was a ranch kid, and the rancher Dad happened by a couple times when one of the teenaged girls was having some problem (imagine that?!). No matter whether the issue was an ache, complaint, or ill will, he always said the same thing: “Go outside or get a drink of water.” Here are my top nine reasons why I think the guy’s a genius:
- Either one creates a pause or break. Time out. But FOR you. It interrupts your thought flow (which is always the real source of trouble) as well as any outside contributing circumstances — an argument, a frustrating project, housework, your dog.
- Both actions immediately connect you to your body. As does the initial decision. It makes you go inside yourself and notice — am I thirsty? Would I rather go outside?
- They are big — not subtle — real movements and so easy to accomplish. Yes, taking a breath is always the best advice, but it’s subtle. The Ranch Zen choices require you walk over to the cupboard, get a glass, walk to the sink, turn it on, fill a glass. And drink. OR you can open the door and go outside. Maybe this requires shoes or a coat. Pants. It’s not hard to do. It’s not a big deal. But it is a deal.
- You stand up and walk at least a few steps. There’s a stretch involved if you’ve been stationary. If you’ve been running around like a chicken, it balances you to very specific moderate level of activity.
- Either choice rests your brain. It’s hard to “empty the mind” on command. But a task like this will do it. You’re thinking of doing this thing — it’s not too small to ignore nor too big to require a lot of thought. It gives your brain a 60-second (minimum) vacation. You might be wondering why it’s effective or — if some Dad’s ordering you to do it — why you have to do it. But even those thoughts rest your mind from whatever was ailing you.
- Change of scenery — you look out the window over the sink. Or go outside and once out there it’s almost sure you’re going to look around a little.
- And you’re going to gulp in air either way. When you get a drink of water, you hold your breath while swallowing… then breathe in afterwards, right? And when you go outside, the air is different, so you feel it — usually draw it in. Whether it’s warmer, colder, fresher, or polluted, you notice it because of the change. So really this dictum’s a highly evolved ranch form of the old instruction “take a breath.”
- You connect to nature. This planet is the watery planet, and our bodies carry close to just that same proportion of water. Drinking water reunites you instantly to nature and to your animal body — that always-immediately-accesible form of nature you carry with you at all times. And of course going outside puts you right in it. Even if you’re in a city, air is our atmosphere and the next biggest defining thing about our planet’s nature.
- It helps to truly nourish — and usually cool — your brain. Air almost always feels cool coming in your nose as does drinking water when it flows down your throat.
For extra bonus goodness, you can consciously draw a breath, look for something surprising, or walk around a little more. But you don’t have to. It all happens and is folded up within that one piece of advice — drink water or go outside. Wait… what if you do both at the same time?? I’m off to find out.