When we’re trying to create happier lives, we often need to work on our habits; habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life.
But, in case you haven’t noticed, it can be hard to change a habit!
When we’re trying to master a habit, it can help to try a fresh approach—something that seems more fun or manageable than something like a New Year’s resolution.
So, for the last few years, on the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, my sister Elizabeth and I have given ourselves and listeners a yearly habit challenge: to “Walk 20 in ’20,” “Read 21 in ’21,” and “Rest 22 in ’22.”
People love this approach! It’s concrete, it’s manageable, it’s a bit whimsical, and we’re all working on an important habit together.
Now we’re ready to announce the 2023 challenge…drumroll…
“Go Outside 23 in 23”—go outside for 23 minutes a day in 2023. We’re so excited about this challenge!
About the Challenge
Going outside can include anything from walking to bird watching; from yard work to enjoying your morning coffee on your porch—as long as the door closes behind you, it counts.
We chose this challenge because so many good things happen when we go outside. Going outside boosts our physical and psychological health, gives us more time in nature, and helps us mindfully appreciate the moment and our senses. For instance:
- Going outside often encourages us to move more
- Getting sun in our eyes helps regulate our circadian rhythm, boosts mood, fosters calm, and improves sleep (especially early morning sun)
- Being outside helps us get vitamin D
- We often engage with others when we’re outside, so we’re less isolated
- Spending time outside is linked to improved concentration, creativity, and clarity
- Being in nature has many physical health benefits
- Going outside helps us to be mindful of the present moment and our five senses—obviously, this is of special interest to me!
As you consider joining the challenge, if you’d like to learn more about the value of going outside, check out…
- Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing
- 13 remarkable health benefits of getting outdoors
- 11 scientific benefits of being outdoors
If you go outside for 23 minutes per day for 365 days, that’s 8,395 minutes or about 140 hours outside. Imagine how invigorated you’ll feel by that time outside!
As you consider joining this challenge, here are a few foundational resources about habit change you might find useful:
- My book Better Than Before explores the 21 strategies we can use to build our habits.
- My one-page “Checklist for Habit Change” lists all 21 strategies that you can use to strengthen this habit.
- If you’re struggling to form a habit, take the quick, free Four Tendencies Quiz to find out which strategies will work best for you.
If you’re discouraged because you’ve tried and failed in the past to master an important habit, don’t worry. There’s nothing wrong with you. You probably just set things up in a way that doesn’t suit you. Answers and solutions exist! It turns out that it’s not that hard to change a habit, when you do it in the way that’s right for you. #Outside23in23 is a great opportunity to experiment and learn what works best for you.
If you think it might be hard to hit 23 minutes, remember, everything counts. Park a few blocks away from the store you’re visiting. Walk several blocks to a subway stop instead of going to the closest station. Instead of waiting inside, stand outside while you wait to pick up a child. It all adds up.
If you can, while you’re outside, pay attention. Look at the sky, sniff the breeze, touch the bark on a tree, experience the weather. Allow yourself to experience the moment, with all that it holds.
Participate in the Happier App
New for this year, the challenge will take place in the Happier™ app, a revolutionary tool designed to help users explore practical strategies, build self-knowledge, and apply that insight to develop the habits that work best for them.
The Happier app offers multiple tools to track participation and progress, including:
- Don’t Break The Chain to mark off each day
- Numbers Trackers to log steps and/or minutes
- One-Sentence Journal to record details you want to remember
- Photo Log to create a visual record over time
- Accountability Partners if you’d like to notify a friend, family member, coach, or group about your activities
- Track Your Total to measure numbers that add up over time
Also, Elizabeth and I know that many listeners (including Elizabeth herself) are Obligers, who need outer accountability to meet inner expectations. Even people who aren’t Obligers often benefit from accountability.
So, to make the challenge more fun and to boost accountability, this year we’ve set a participation goal—one million entries logged by the end of 2023.
Every time you log an entry for “Go Outside 23 in 23” in the Happier app, it counts toward this goal. To celebrate hitting the one million milestone, the Happier app will make a donation to One Tree Planted, a nonprofit organization focused on global reforestation.
Remember, by spending time outside, you’re helping to plant much-needed trees in the world.
How to Join
Download the Happier app for free to get started. Once you create your account, you’ll see “Outside 23 in 2023” on the home screen. Tap on it, and you’ll be guided to set up your aim to go outside 23 minutes each day and choose a tracking tool.
The challenge officially kicks off on January 1st, so you’ll have time to explore the app — spin the wheel, get practical tips, enjoy audio content, and more. Or, if you’re feeling inspired to get started right away, you can get some extra days in.
If you’re already a Happier app user, you’ll see “Go Outside 23 in 2023” on your home screen starting December 19th. You can participate in the challenge for free, with or without a subscription, and regardless of how many aims you are already tracking.
Learn more about the app and the “Go Outside 23 in 23” campaign here.
If you join the “Go Outside” challenge, use the hashtag #Outside23in23 to post from your daily time outside on social media. As the Strategy of Other People explains, we pick up habits (for better or worse) from other people, so it’s helpful to feel like we’re joining with others. It can give us accountability; it can help us remember what we want; it can remind us of how great it feels to be refreshed and energized.
Ideas to Get Started
As you think about your #Outside23in23, look for ways to make it easier or more convenient to go outside.
- go outside to give yourself a few pleasant breaks during your work day
- plan to go outside with someone else, as a way to strengthen a relationship
- play with your dog outside—your dog will be so happy!
- invest in clothing, sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, better earbuds, etc. to make yourself more comfortable outside
- identify errands you could accomplish by walking instead of driving
- find a favorite podcast or audio-book that you listen to only when you’re outside (Strategy of Pairing)
- volunteer to work in a public park
- think about how grateful your future-self will be if you develop a habit of going outside in 2023
- consider how others might benefit if you’re healthier, calmer, and more focused
- identify something you want to learn about, such as bird or plant identification or local history, that will take you outside
- identify a skill you want to practice, such as sketching or pickleball, that will take you outside
- identify a feature of your home that you want to enjoy more, such as a patio, front porch, fire pit, or flowering tree
- think of a feature of your neighborhood that you don’t visit enough, such as a garden, park, or walk
- give yourself a fun assignment, like “Take photos of beautiful trees” or “Learn the names of all the dogs in my neighborhood”
What other tips and resources have you found helpful? Let me know! We can all learn from each other.
I’m writing a collection of Secrets of Adulthood and Aphorisms, and here are a few to keep in mind as you plan to go outside in 2023:
- If you don’t know what to do with yourself, go outside.
- There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing.
- To be comfortable, have clothes for sun, cold, and rain.
- If you want to change, it’s often easier to go from the outside to the inside.
- Every couple should have an indoor game and an outdoor game to share.
- We never regret exercising.
- In nature, all color combinations are pleasing.
Join us for #Outside23in23.