Add some nature to your weekends!

Urban River and Colourful Sky Wild Here

Last month I read The Weekend Effect by Katrina Onstad curious about the life choices of so many of us, who work too hard and never really have time off.  Part of the reason I advocate for "nearby nature" is that it makes it easier for busy people to enjoy some of the benefits of nature even if they don't have time to get out of the city.  I was happy to see that the idea of time off and rest and recharging was being researched and written about and having been a fan of Katrina Onstad's novel "Everybody has Everything" I knew it would be a great read!

I found that so many parts of this book resonated with me and it was especially wonderful to find that she had a full chapter dedicated to the benefits of getting out to enjoy beauty and nature on the weekends.  For some, prioritizing nature during the week is just too difficult (although I do hope that this blog can help with that!) and here is a book that underlines the importance of seeking nature out on the weekend!

This book provides so much thought and reflection, it's a great read, especially for those who really find it difficult to prioritize leisure.  Katrina points out that in North America we make this a lower priority than other continents (where they may ask "What's your hobby?" rather than "What do you do for work?") and that a weekend of planned activities (especially shuttling family members to and fro) doesn't make a leisurely weekend either.  She reminds her readers that there is a large benefit to unplanned time.

I also like that she advocates for tech free time.  She comments in her book how she felt after shutting off her phone for a day:  "I felt lighter.  My mind was allowed to wander, and it did.  I took in the city, and ran through my thoughts.  In that kind of mental space, epiphanies can occur... I did feel unusually awake... time is a neutral space..."  Nature and tech free time should go hand in hand.  Using a phone camera to capture images is one thing but being distracted by calls, texts or messages truly interrupts what could be a calming, restful space that can help you connect to yourself (rather that all the distractions of the world and stress that you probably would rather leave behind!)

An interesting study (new to me!) highlighted in one chapter, demonstrated that those who use social media and their devices for communicating frequently may have an "Empathy Gap" (the study was on children).  This is due to the fact that conversations through texting do not allow for visual clues.  The lack of physical or face to face connection lessens empathy - humans become reduced to characters on a keyboard.  This makes me wonder if there are parallels to the studies that have shown that being in nature can actually make us kinder and more considerate*.  Could this actually be in part due to the fact that those who were studied put down their devices when they went out in nature?

Winter Walking Path over Wooden Bridge Gatineau Ottawa

She also talks about volunteering regularly (and I say do it in nature!), having fun with your family and spouse (dates, not discussions) and dropping the idea that brunches are a good option for leisurely Sundays.  (I've been thinking about that lately and have an idea for an alternative - stay tuned!)  But what really stood out for me was this study done by a sociologist in Calgary (Robert Stebbins) in regards to SERIOUS vs CASUAL recreation and how one is more beneficial than the other.  I'd summarize the two this way:
Casual recreation is sort of the default response to "I'm bored":  "I'm bored so I'll turn on the TV or start surfing on the internet".  And then it grows into binge watching shows or hours being eaten up online without us even realizing it.  It's so easy to get sucked in.  Even passively watching sports can end up being a sort of casual activity - especially if it's done at home rather than as a spectator event where you are at least surrounded by other fans and enjoying community and actively supporting your local team. 
Serious recreation in contrast is a hobby or skill development where we are actively learning, interacting and/or engaged with our senses, "even if the pursuit is amateur" Onstad notes.  I found this such a great reminder of why being out in nature is so beneficial even when all you are doing is walking - you are engaging all senses, you have dropped distractions (if your device is turned off) and your observation skills can increase.  If you engage in nature in other ways - through a sport such as trail running, kayaking, snowshoeing or a creative activity such as photography, sketching, outdoor dance or an educational approach seeking identification skills or bush survival skills or others (really the activities are endless) the enrichment is even deeper.

Katrina summarizes so succinctly by stating:
"A weekend of purely passive entertainment is a wasted weekend.  Too much passivity breeds absence in lives already starved for presence...  solitary pursuits can get lonely, yet our lives are more designed for a solitary experience of the world than ever before.  Technology is pushing us deeper into our own aesthetic caves." - Katrina Onstad

Let me know if you've read the book also!  I'd love to hear what others think and what great nuggets you took from it.  For now, I'll leave you with Katrina Onstad's Manifesto for a Good Weekend:  Connect. Care. Play. Go Green. Seek Beauty. Do less. Don't make plans, make space. Wander. Wonder. Be. Repeat Next Weekend.

Tree Shadows on Snow Winter Day Wild Here

So what do you think?  Are you concerned with how much casual recreation you take part in versus serious recreation?  Do you know of many friends who have amateur pursuits or hobbies?  Do you have one of your own?

Is it hard to find time for a hobby?  Does your work burn you out that all you want to do on the weekend is some type of passive recreational pursuit?  

(Title Photo Above by Viliam Glazduri (InstagramFlickr500 pxContributing Creative to Wild. Here.)

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