Written by the Warrior

 

After a 22 months absence, I finally started to read my subscription of the National Geographic magazine again. And the issue that I started with, very appropriately, was the January 2016 issue “The power of parks, a year long celebration of our common ground“.

In the article, writer Florence Williams talks about the scientific evidence of how being in nature reduces stress and improves our overall health and well being.

The three-day effect theory of David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah, particularly resonated with me. Spending three days immersed in nature, creates what David calls, a kind of cleaning of the mental windshield. Another great point was made by Lisa Nisbet, a psychology professor at Trent University, “People underestimate the happiness effect” of being outdoors. It makes complete sense, as she puts it, since we evolved in nature.

Most people I know retreats to a natural oasis of some sort. Some people have gardens, some live in the country, some own cottages, some go fishing and some have RV’s.

For many years, the back country was my oasis. When I am overwhelmed with the weight of the world, I retreat to places where an hour of paddle or hike, leaves all crowds of people behind. An hour or two of hard work brings me off the beaten path, to places of tall trees and spring fed rivers, of mountains and lakes, of fresh air. There I am awaken by the calls of the loons at dawn and I fall asleep under millions of stars while listening to the howling of the wolfs. Being someone who has always been perceptive to energies around me, in the back country, I can feel the energies around me calming me, recharging my batteries and reinvigorating me.

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It has been 9 years since I have ventured into the back country. And recently on a trip to Parc Omega, I inadvertently tested out the scientific theories discussed in the National Geographic Article.

Parc Omega is essentially an open air zoo of iconic Canadian animals, located near Montebello, Quebec. We spent about 6 hours at le parc on a beautiful sunny day during Easter weekend 2016.

The setting of le parc is in quite a large and beautiful wooded area. From what I can see (from the confines of our car), the smaller herbivores such as elks, deers and boars wander the roads, begging for carrots.

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While the bigger herbivores such as bison and moose, as well as carnivores are kept in large open air enclosures rather than cages.

It is not a cheap place to visit. For our family, it cost $72.

While there was technically a lot to do inside the park, such as iconic Canadian animals to see and feed…

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A sugar shack to eat maple taffy and learn about how maple syrup is derived, a museum about fur trade, walking trails and horse drawn wagon rides…

Judging against a hefty $72 entrance fee and the hour drive it took to get there, each activities was totally unimpressive. For example, I am not entirely convinced that the trees tapped near the sugar shack are even maple trees, they look purely ornamental.

Yet somehow, though I rendered harsh judgements on each activity in le parc, I felt extremely happy and content at the end of the day.

Maybe it was because it was a sunny day. Maybe it was because we went hiking and got a lot of exercise. I think it was actually because we were in a natural setting, surrounded by the energies that calms me and reinvigorates me.

I once worked with someone who was an unhappy soul, and with whom I had the same conversation over many months. He would always tell me that he leads an unhappy life because he has no significant other nor kids, and I would always tell him that happiness comes from within, that an unhappy person would be unhappy with or without a family.

While I stand firm on my belief that happiness comes from within, I now also believe that being immersed in our own nature oasis, whatever that might be, restores us and helps us to be one step closer to happiness.

Of course, it sured helped that we capped a freak’n good day with some freak’n good burgers here (in the town of Montebello)…

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We wolfed down the burgers too fast for me to get a picture. But, I did manage to snatch a photo of le gateau hercule au chocolate, which was freak’n good too!

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“At the end of the day, we come out in nature not because the science says it does something to us, but because of how it makes us feel.” – David Strayer, University of Utah.

I couldn’t agree more.

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