We have a deep psychological connection with our food. I often discuss this with my nutrition clients. For many, food is a therapeutic escape. I love food. I think it’s awesome; however, it’s not my therapy.
My dad showed me a much different therapy that has since shaped my life. I don’t know if he intended that, but it is what I found.
When I was little, my dad would take me to the park early in the morning. Just after sunrise, we would quietly leave the house to let my mother sleep. There, we would go on loose stone trails. The trails could potentially make a great deal of noise if you didn’t walk appropriately. I’m sure I wasn’t the quietest and, if I was anything like my son, I asked a thousand questions.
We tried to be a quiet as possible in order to be one with nature, to appreciate this little glimpse into life. We took inventory of deer, foxes, herons, chipmunks and squirrels. We knew all the spots.
There was a spot where we would take a handful of seed and hold our hands outstretched above our heads. If we were still and calm enough chickadees would fly down, land in our palms and eat. To this day, I love walking through the woods, disappearing into nature. As I write this, I am sitting by the water of Devil’s Hole. Here, I can disengage, unplug, and just think.
I tend to do my most therapeutic and thoughtful writing in these spots. It’s always fun because I don’t know what I’ll write about, but I know I’ll be alone and the water will drown out all of the other noise.
Nature isn’t my only therapeutic outlet. My dad showed me another: exercise.
It started on early weekend mornings. We would get up very early – probably around 5:30-6 a.m. There wasn’t any talking. My dad would walk in the room, turn my light on and leave. That was the extent of my alarm clock. I would wake up, put on a couple of layers of clothes and head down to the car. We would get in the car and begin our 25-minute drive, again with very little talking.
We would drive on these long, straight roads without much traffic. I took this route so many times that I knew by the bumps exactly where we were without ever opening my eyes. Our destination was my uncle’s house. We would pull in, quietly open the garage door and then walk down into the basement.
Here is where I was first exposed to exercise, but more specifically weightlifting. I was exposed to all of the traditional body building methods; there were plenty of muscle and fitness magazines – Flex, Natural Bodybuilding, etc.
The music was loud, and there was a bonding that would happen every time. The mutual suffering through something brings people together. It brought us together.
It also provided this amazing release of frustration, aggression and tension (and still does). You could push the weights, pull the weights and hit the bag. It provided me the ability to vent the steam valve without lashing out on others.
What started as therapy has become my life and my career. I find solace in them every single day. So when I tell you it’s more than just a gym or exercise, trust me it is. I use the gym to cope, to think, to escape, to rage, to clear my mind.
I use nature in much the same way. I have been fortunate that those are the drugs I have chosen to be my therapeutic agents.
We can always change the way we react and adapt to stress. It takes time and patience. Find a healthy escape and nourish it.