Let your brain relax in the wild

🌲🌳🌲🌳🌲🌳

Welcome to At The End Of the Day. I’m Hannah Sung and I write this newsletter for a people-first perspective on the news. If you want to hear this newsletter become a podcast, support ATEOD through Patreon.

The first week of my commitment to rest in July was easy peasy. I could’ve blasted off from my desk like a billionaire going into space (without a look back over my shoulder at the earthly mess I was leaving behind).1

With each passing week, however, I’m reading more news and it’s adding back all the levels of anxiety. For example, I don’t think there’s any greater existential angst than knowing what’s happening with the planet. The news on wildfires in Canada and the U.S. are daily reminders.2

I’m doing my best to hang onto my commitment to rest (for myself, my family, my community) and limit my social media use while doing a few simple things to restore.

So far this month, I’ve spoken to therapists who talked about:

🎵 Choosing a get-up-and-go song

👀 Getting off screens to rebalance how we spend our time

Today, I’m saying:

🌲 Go outside!

I’m evangelizing as I write just before my family heads off to a bird sanctuary (yes, my child has grown his pandemic obsession; I’ve learned a lot about birds by osmosis, AMA).

A post shared by @at_the_eod

Living that bird life


Getting outside and enjoying summer is everything you need right now.

We all know it but somehow find ourselves making excuses for why we can’t make the time to let our brains relax in the wild.

ATEOD reader Colin Harris connected with me last year when we were talking about the viability of outdoor schooling in a pandemic on Twitter. In his book, “Take Me Outside,” he writes:

A recent study showed that 74 per cent of Canadian adults would rather stay inside than head outdoors, even though 87 per cent know that going outside is good for them. Should we just accept this new reality? Are we even conscious of this shift?

It’s not just adults who are spending less time outside; younger generations are too, and it’s a terrible trend, pandemic or not, for our physical and mental health. So why aren’t we spending as much time outside?

If you ask my kids, the stickiness of Netflix and Minecraft are siren songs. For me, their grown-up handler, my compulsive work productivity is my trap. I know I have to keep myself in check to model decent behaviours for them.

So this summer, I’m resisting whatever reasons we stay indoors and I hope you can, too. 

Spending even a little amount of time in nature can give back huge rewards in mental health, even just 15 or 20 minutes a day. The benefits are so clear that there’s an initiative called PaRx, that encourages Canadian doctors and nurses to prescribe a nature walk for better health.3

And the best part of being outside during a pandemic is that it’s a safer way to socialize. 

If you don’t have a 10-year-old aspiring ornithologist dragging you outside every day, you can show up to a hiking group alone and still walk in the woods with others. Find a group that leads public walks or hikes.

One such group is Let’s Hike TO. They focus on hikes that welcome people of colour and newcomers to the region. 

When Let’s Hike TO co-founder Camara Chambers first arrived in Toronto from London, England ten years ago, she was desperate to navigate her new city and meet people. When a colleague invited her on a group hike, she began to learn the ravines of Toronto and quickly became a volunteer guide herself.

Her love for hiking grew but she noticed, as a Black woman, that she wasn’t seeing the same diversity in the city’s green spaces as she did elsewhere. So she decided, along with co-founders, to create a diversity-focused hiking group.

What first drew you to leading hikes?

CC: I grew up in the huge city of London, England, so outdoor activity was not something I did as a kid. When I moved to Toronto and a colleague invited me on a hike with a local hiking club, I immediately fell in love with the simplicity of being outdoors in nature, breathing fresh air, and hearing relative silence. 

What benefits do you personally get out of being outdoors?

CC: I love the feeling of walking on trails, especially unpaved ones. Hiking is a chance to get out of my own head and be in a space where everything is just so simple. 

Why do you want to focus on people of colour and newcomers?

CC: When we looked at our local hiking groups, we saw a lack of diversity that did not represent the rich city we live in. Folks of colour can be just as outdoorsy as anyone else, but the outdoors community doesn’t always reflect that.

Being a newcomer can be incredibly isolating, especially if you move alone, and sometimes it can be hard to find your community. Hiking in a group can be the perfect way to build community and explore at the same time.

Anything you'd like to add about the benefits of getting outside? 

CC: The past year has been tough for us all, but for some more than others. While going outside does not always feel intuitive, especially if you live in a very densely populated area, finding a piece of green space in the city can be the perfect way to decompress. 


Thank you, Camara, for doing what you do!

I love the spirit of Let’s Hike TO because it takes a seemingly small thing (a lovely walk outdoors with a group) and uses it to chip away at larger issues in the world -- loneliness, mental health, anxiety, connection to nature, racial inequity, building community.

If you want to link up with Let’s Hike TO, find them on their socials: Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

To join a hike, it’s $5 to cover costs (but they will also waive the fee for anyone who can’t afford it). If you’re not in Toronto, google your own locale to find a group like this. Or....start one! 😜

Next week is my birthday and all I want this year is to get into a lake. I won’t be sending a newsletter so I’ll be seeing you in August!

In the meantime, join me on Instagram and know that I’m super grateful for your eyeballs and energy.

I hope you can get outside and decompress.

Thanks for reading,

Hannah

✨✨✨ At The End Of the Day is edited by Laura Hensley ✨✨✨

What you’re listening to

Last week, I wrote about having a theme song to pick you up, and I heard back from many of you.

Thanks to Sarah, Martha, Lindsay, Liêm, Avery, Saara, Jenny, Karen, Joyce and everyone who sent me their songs 🎵 I thought I’d share them here!

Heat Waves by Glass Animals (ooh, I like)

My Head & My Heart by Ava Max (never heard this one!)

Jalebi Baby by Tesher x Jason Derulo (I’m into TikTok earworms)

Peaches x What’s Luv remix by Sickick (What’s Luv is pure nostalgia)

Years in the Making by the Arkells (Yes! And I’ll add One Thing I Know, because the video made me want to dance in the grocery store, a previously mundane place that made nevertheless made me anxious during the height of the pandemic)

Sketches Of Blue by Dzihan & Kamien (jazzy)

Everybody Everybody by Black Box (I laughed and cranked it loud -- thank you, Martha, for sending)

The Whole Of The Moon by the Waterboys (there are some songs that are just in your DNA)

French Toast by Hobbie Stuart (dreamy)

Inner Ninja by Classified (YouTube comments agree this is a nostalgic pick-me-up)

Stars by Kimmortal feat. JB the First Lady & Missy (new to me — so cool!)

It’s My Life by Bon Jovi (as an anthem, this is pretty much a mic drop)

What else I did this week

Occasionally I go on TV, as I did this week, and it’s like a reunion. The technical directors will be in my ear like, “Hey Hannah! It’s been a long time!” And it’s lovely. I was on CTV’s The Social this week with their hosts and guests including Aliya-Jasmine Sovani (we reminisced about old days working at Much together) and author Zakiya Dalila Harris, whose book, “The Other Black Girl,” is on my summer reading list. It was a fun boost just to chat with friendly, open people, some of whom are blasts from the past and others I’m meeting for the first time. I hope you’re getting some of that this summer, too. You can watch this little snippet here.

Further Reading

I started this newsletter when the pandemic began, as a way of trying to process a massive influx of news. Even before the pandemic, I’ve thought a lot about the emotions triggered by engaging with difficult news and how we can be honest about the ways in which those emotions make people react. I’m worried about the growing distrust of news journalism, general political polarization and the changing balance of trust versus misinformation.

My attempt to really rest for the month of July is about needing to restore after a long, exhausting period and to shore up strength for the challenges of social change that aren’t slowing down for anyone.

Right now, one challenging news story for me is about the City of Toronto and Toronto Police violently evicting people experiencing homelessness from park encampments in our city. It’s extremely difficult to reconcile that these actions are done in our name, the citizens of Toronto. This isn’t what people want. This doesn’t put people first. When it comes to what we’re seeing in video shared online, I can’t think of a campaign that does a better job of promoting the push to defund the police. Please follow Encampment Support Network, ALAB Clinic and journalists who refuse to back down when ordered to stay away from documenting these assaults on people living in encampments and their supporters.

Toronto councillor, doctor say city must stop using police to clear homeless encampments, CBC

As a reminder, in Toronto:


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