A Breath of Fresh Air: the outdoors as a source of well-being

With today’s anxiety-provoking times, I have read a lot about nature baths and the importance of spending time outdoors. How it reduces stress and anxiety. If you want to know more, the David Suzuki Foundation explains the phenomenon well.

It got me thinking about how my relationship with the outdoors came about.

At the beginning of the year, secondary 2, I’d just changed to a new pavilion. The school divided the first years from the rest of the students. So I was now heading into the large building that used to be occupied by nuns.

The hundred-year-old building, the stone walls, the five floors so long to climb, full of people; I had just read Harry Potter recently, and I felt a bit like I was in an unreal world, lost in the long corridors.

So, feeling confused, and a little stifled by this new reality, I look over the extra-curricular activities guide. I come across the announcement of the outdoor club. More of a musician than an athlete, usually it was the art and music classes that appealed to me.

What hooked me…the group outings? It was the emphasis on having fun while moving rather than performance. If there was one sport that I’d done a lot of before, it was camping and hiking, activities I felt confident in.

P.S Thanks to my parents for that! I may have complained on the many hikes we did, but today I only remember the positive 😊

So I registered!

Each outdoor outing (4 per year) was a source of excitement, planning and serious organization. We left with the nuns’ old 15-passenger vans. Imagine a big, steel-blue Westfalia, with benches that smell like old rags and a suspension system that leaves something to be desired. A real “trip”! Clearly, not the most legit school transport in 2020.

There must have been 15 students, 2 teachers, made up from all high school levels. I made friends in other years, including 2 girls from secondary 5; accomplished, confident girls. Big sisters. I’d never had that, it was inspiring and reassuring.

In short, just the preparation and transportation was already a worthwhile adventure!Le bien-être

 

 

Our First Outing

A hike in the White Mountains in the United States, in October.

My equipment: my mother’s old sleeping bag I think, you know the sleeping bag without the tags to say what temperature it’s made for. An old, copper orange floor mattress, inflatable at least. New hiking boots (a birthday gift). And way too much “stuff”!

We didn’t sleep much.

We were soaked because it snows in October in the White Mountains.

We ate a strange supper, because the person who was supposed to drain the pasta dropped them on the floor.

So we ate a lot of misery, didn’t we?

 

Outdoors

It was incredible.

I was never part of a sports team to participate in weekend tournaments, or to go to the Jeux du Québec. I cannot talk about that experience, which must also be a memorable one.

But I do have a weakness for my outdoor version where I experienced a lot from the simple fact of living as a group in the wilderness.

When your friend is a little bit afraid of the dark and asks you to stay awake when she goes to pee in the woods to make sure she’s ok, and you don’t ask yourself if you say yes or no, it’s just a matter of fact.

When someone drops their supper on the floor and everyone gives a little of theirs, even if it leaves them a little hungry.

When around the campfire, we tell riddles and we puzzle them out throughout the whole weekend. And we sing songs. The best laugh!

When you learn not to go crazy counting your mosquito bites by the dozens (or the hundreds?).

But the most important thing, I think, is that it happened without my realizing it. Our teacher never had to tell us “now focus and perform” or “I’d like you to work on that”… it was just a matter of doing it on your own.

The natural elements brought about learning without the intervention of the teachers. And despite all the sources of discomfort I described, I dare to believe that like me, everyone felt good. A well-being that lasted even when we returned to our regular school routine and crossed paths in the hallways. That’s why when we got back; we were already talking about the next outing.

I think that experiences like that can only be experienced in nature.

And you, what do you think? What has the outdoors done for you to keep you wanting to spend your weekends outside?

Sophie

Sophie is guide-kinesiologist and administrative agent at Kinadapt

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