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CONTENTS HEALTH & WELLNESS MAGAZINE
Dean Midyette EDITOR
Steve Hubrecht STAFF WRITERS
Lorene Keitch, Dauna Ditson ART DIRECTION & DESIGN
Justin Keitch, IgniteCreative.ca ADVERTISING SALES
Amanda Nason COVER PHOTO
N E W S PA P E R
Box 868, #8, 1008 – 8th Avenue, Invermere, B.C., V0A 1K0 Phone 250-341-6299 | Fax 1-855-377-0312 columbiavalleypioneer.com email@example.com This material, written or artistic, may not be reprinted or electronically reproduced in any way without the written consent of the publisher. The opinions and statements in articles, columns and advertising are not necessarily those of the publisher or staff of Vitality. It is agreed by any display advertiser requesting space that the owner’s responsibility, if any, for errors or omissions of any kind, is limited to the amount paid by the advertiser for that portion of the space as occupied by the incorrect item and there shall be no liability in any event greater than the amount paid for the advertisement.
6 PLUG: YOUR MIND ON DIGITAL 8
UTHENPLUG: YOUR MIND ON GREAT OUTDOORS 10 HACK VS. HIKE: 12 GOING SOLO: THE ULTIMATE DISCONNECT 14 CAN WILDERNESS HAVE WI-FI? 16 UNPLUGGING: PERSONAL TALES 20 TRENDS: FENG SHUI GARDENS AND FOREST BATHING 22 HE WHO CUTS HIS OWN WOOD IS TWICE WARMED 24 THROUGH THE LENS 26 TIPS: TWEAK YOUR PHONE. . . OR GET RID OF IT ALTOGETHER 28 GO AIRPLANE 28 TREAT YOURSELF 29 TOWARD THE SKY The science of technology, nature and your brain
Four local writers dish on loosening the digital tether
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EDITOR’S NOTE But all this comes with a cost, and science is just beginning to get a glimpse of how alarmingly steep that cost may be: Soaring rates of mental health problems; epidemic levels of distraction and stress; what psychologists call “weakened real life society”; the ability of a select few to subtly manipulate many, undetected. And that’s not even touching on the political implications. Yet there is a ray of hope. Science is also emerging on a potential antidote, one the Columbia Valley has in spades — the great outdoors. Recent studies indicate time in nature correlates with a sweeping range of physical, mental, emotional and psychological benefits. Will nature be the cure-all for the looming ills of modern life’s hyper-stimulated, constantly connected new digital reality? Vitality delves into the topic in this year’s issue in search of answers.
Photos by Katie Watt
The rapid rise of digital technology has made life marvellously convenient and turned feats not long ago considered the stuff of science fiction into every-day occurrences. Grandparents on the other side of the country view babies through computer screens. Items simply not available in small towns such as Invermere can be effortlessly purchased online and delivered to your door. Almost the entirety of human knowledge is available at the click of a button. Aside from peering into the growing research, Vitality examines some exploding nature-based health trends, such as forest bathing and healing gardens, and offers tips on minimizing digital stress, getting away from your phone, and even how to use your phone to disconnect. And there’s more: four local writers share personal tales of unplugging; Dave Quinn appraises whether or not wilderness can have wi-fi and offers a meditation on the happiness that can flow from tapping into your inner hunter-gatherer; and Jesse Bell goes for the big unplug — no screens, no town, no people. Disconnect from the digital, plug into what matters, and start reading about it right here. Really, put that phone down and get reading. Steve Hubrecht
CONTRIBUTORS Justin Keitch
Plug: Text by Steve Hubrecht | Photos by
Katie Watt, Kundai Mangundya and Getty Images
t’s been a long day. The kids are asleep, work report finished, and house tidied. Time to check in with friends and family on a few social media feeds. Just for 10 minutes or so, then in bed early. Yet there you are two hours later, still slumped on the same couch, your smartphone’s eerie blue light flickering on your face, eyes locked in glazed focus on the screen, scrolling and swiping. You glance up at the clock. What the heck, how did it get so late? Oh well, an inadvertent mistake, and a pretty harmless one too, right? Wrong. The process that glued you to that phone is anything but inadvertent. And there are an ominous number of early indicators in a growing number of fields suggesting it’s not exactly benign.
Digital technology has, in just a few decades, become near ubiquitous. The programs, devices, apps and platforms of the largest tech companies pervade every aspect of life. And therein lies the problem. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Google, YouTube and the like operate on business models that rely on grabbing every bit of attention, and every scrap of data, from you they possibly can. It’s their job to keep you constantly wandering further down the virtual rabbit hole. And they’re good at it. Really good. Unfortunately what’s great for tech companies’ bottom lines is not so great for your mental health. In fact it can be downright detrimental. “There’s very little definitive experimental evidence, but early results suggest we should be concerned. People seem to experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, boredom, loneliness and bullying the more time they spend online. The mere presence of phones in the room makes us less socially engaged, and less creative,” says New York University, Stern School of Business associate professor of marketing and psychology Adam Alter. An emerging handful of studies, published in recent years by universities and public health organizations, highlight links between
YOUR MIND ON DIGITAL
skyrocketing rates of depression, anxiety and even suicide and the ever-increasing reach of social media and digital devices. The trends cut across economic, ethnic and rural-suburban-urban divides, and even extend from wealthy, developed countries into developing ones. The problems affect every age group, but are particularly acute among teenagers and those in their early twenties (the socalled Generation Z), prompting some post-secondary institutions to talk openly about what they term an exploding student mental health crisis. Why the negative impact? “Phones and the content they convey are designed to be as interesting as possible, but most of that interest doesn’t come with legitimate benefits. Instead we’re presented with hooks that appeal to us so much that they remove us from the real world while we spend an average of four hours per day glued to our screens, and that excludes television and personal computer time. The content we experience online is also skewed — we see the highly curated top five per cent of other peoples’ lives and assume ours must therefore pale in interest,” Mr. Alter told Vitality. Knowing other people’s social media feeds are rose-tinted versions of reality doesn’t seem to soften their blow to your psyche. York University associate professor of psychology Jennifer Mills, Mount Royal University associate professor of psychology Malinda Desjarlais and University of Victoria physical and health education assistant professor Sam Liu each echoed Mr. Alter’s concern about the kind of 24/7 social comparison facilitated by social media and smartphones and the attendant (and potentially corrosive) effect this has on identify and self-esteem. Indeed a study published last year in a prominent medical journal outlined a new mental illness called ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’, in which people undergo plastic surgery in order to look like the selfies they post online — selfies
filtered or otherwise altered to states of unrecognizable (if not unrealistic) beauty. But that’s not all. Clinical levels of perpetual distraction, unhealthy amounts of sleep disruption, obsessive fear-of-missing-out, spiking stress related to online work tasks creeping into all hours of the day, a drop in much-needed personal and family down time, and greatly reduced face-to-face contact and conversation (what some call “weakened real life society” and an associated lessening of empathy) are rising phenomenons that many health professionals blame on digital technology and social media saturation. So why don’t people just put down their phones?
Because those phones and the platforms and programs on them are purposefully designed to be as engrossing as possible. The major tech companies employ armies of people, drawing on every trick of persuasive psychology known to humans, to make them so. “They build rewards and goals and social feedback cues into their products to stimulate the same interest as slot machines have been doing for decades,” Mr. Alter told Vitality. “Behind each screen experience today are thousands of engineers who are doing everything they can to capture every marginal minute of your time... the features on our screens are updated constantly based on feedback from usage data and A/B tests. With each change the experience evolves to become slightly more difficult to resist.” Each tiny shred of online data about you – each click, each search, each emoji response — is gobbled up by the engineers and used to hook you even more (former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris likens it to “a super computer pointed at your brain”) — and, of course, to pass on to third parties interested in the possibility of super-targeted advertising based on the deeply personal profile your activity creates. No surprise then that some psychologists are already talking about smartphones and social media in terms of outright addiction. Mr. Alter confirmed that yes, such addiction is possible, “just as you can be addicted to gambling. An experience engineered just right can induce addiction.” Ms. Mills and Ms. Desjarlais both mentioned that compulsive social media use can fire the same reward-centre/pleasure-inducing neural pathways in the brain as substance addiction. Where is this all going? Nobody knows. Psychologically, socially, even politically, it’s un-
charted territory. Some commentators have apprehensively pointed to the potential ease with which companies or outside actors can use technology and social media to emotionally and mentally manipulate people — to essentially hack their minds. (During a secret week-long trial in 2012, made public in 2014, Facebook covertly tweaked almost 700,000 users’ news feeds to see if it could deliberately shape their emotions, making them either happier, sadder or angrier. The results? It did). Other commentators question if these forces pose a threat to democracy itself, observing that in the scramble to grab attention at all costs Facebook, YouTube and others cater to base instincts and inflammatory content, and that to retain this attention, they direct users to ‘you may also like’ content that often only more
deeply entrenches users’ existing views. This, they posit, segments society into fragmented, polarized (and frequently outraged) echo chambers loathe to even consider each other, let alone try to reach the mutual understanding and compromise necessary for functioning democracy (witness the recent swelling tide of anger-channeling populist politicians around the globe). “Google knows everything about you. They pop that into a system, then feed you a constant reinforcement loop. So you go on YouTube and it suggests videos that will bolster what you already believe,” University of Toronto (Scarborough) journalism program director Jeffrey Dvorkin, who studies and writes about social media and democratic practice, told Vitality. “There’s continual reinforcement of your attitudes and ideas. That’s not the way a democracy should work, but unfortunately it is the way a digital democracy seems to work.” Digital technology is here to stay, not least because it provides manifold benefits and does in fact do a lot of good. But that does not negate its potentially darker side, the current — and future — implications of which are still opaque. Certainly it will continue to morph and advance, adapting to and adopting elements of new and rapidly developing fields such as artificial intelligence and human-integrated biotechnology. “We don’t know (what’s ahead), but the widespread adoption of VR (virtual reality) and AR (artificial reality) experiences is around the corner, and I worry that, if we struggle to resist phones, we’re going to really struggle to resist the advanced, immersive experiences we’ll be able to have behind goggles that profoundly remove us from the real world,” says Mr. Alter. What wonderous — and frightening — prospects this entails is anybody’s guess.
Unplug: YOUR MIND ON THE GREAT OUTDOORS Text by Steve Hubrecht | Photos by (left to right) Joe Lucas, Pat Morrow, Marlene Chabot, Katie Watt
he cloudless sky is impossibly blue, the late afternoon sun casting a warm glow across the Columbia River wetlands. The water is still as glass, until a soft breeze ruffles the surface, rippling the grasses and brushing your face as it does. Birds chirp and insects hum. You plop down to soak it in, because hey it’s a perfect day and you feel great. Of course you do — in this moment you feel calmer, more alert, less stressed, healthier and generally happier than you often do. (Perhaps even just reading about and imagining this hypothetical moment, or something similar from your own experience, makes you feel this way). Here’s the thing, though: you don’t just feel that way. You, in fact, are calmer, healthier and happier — demonstrably, measurably, backed-by-scientific-studies calmer, healthier and happier. There is a small but burgeoning body of research highlighting the potentially profound benefits (physical, mental, emotional and psychological) of simply getting out into nature. Great news indeed, given the emerging science on the negative effects of smartphones and social media (see pages 6-7) and even better news for Columbia Valley residents, who just happen to live in one of the finest natural environments anywhere. The potential upshots of the outdoors, according to the studies that have been done, are numerous. A quick list is almost stunning in extent: lower blood pressure; better memory; heightened creativity and problem solving; reduced inflammation; markedly decreased levels of cortisol (a key stress hormone); improved concentration (significantly so for kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder); reduced anxiety; less depression; strengthened immune systems (quite possibly to the extent that a walk in the woods can accurately be described as having an anti-cancer effect); diminished frustration; enhanced empathy; less obesity; sharper vision; better sleep; lower cholesterol; eased muscle tension; and less risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, asthma, premature death and preterm birth. And, not surprisingly given everything above, greater reported levels of happiness.
It’s worth pointing out that, as The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative author Florence Williams told Vitality, this mounting data comes from cellular, individual and large-scale epidemiological studies, and the results hold up even after controlling for income and education. “Many more studies are in the works looking at everything from immune cells to brain waves,” says Ms. Williams. Nobody is entirely sure exactly why and how nature seems to subconsciously and biologically boost both body and mind, but Ms. Williams and Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder author Richard Louv both suggest that biophilia — the idea that humans have an innate tendency (stemming from millennia spent living in mostly natural environments) hard-wired into their nervous systems to seek connections with nature — may play a role. Some hypothesize that organic compounds released into the air by trees and plants affect human brain chemistry. Others point to attention restoration theory, which holds that the outdoors is a perfect salve for the near constant overstimulation of modern life (the continual demands on your attention from digital devices, say). “Natural environments (are) simply places where our brains and nervous systems feel comfortable. We evolved in natural landscapes, and our perceptual systems are built to read the information in those landscapes — we tend not to feel overwhelmed, or overly bored, when we are outside,” says Ms. Williams. “All our senses are engaged, and we tend to be at least moving a little bit. And often we are with other people having a shared experience. This is what our bodies were built to do, and on some subconscious and cellular level, it makes us feel comfortable and content.” Research indicates that even small doses of nature (perhaps just a few minutes a day) can have a scientifically measurable positive
outcome. That said, studies also suggest that the longer a person spends outdoors, the greater the salubrious effects. (Five to 15 minutes outside can boost your mood and your focus, but three days can actually change your immune markers, according to Ms. Williams). As Mr. Louv puts it: “Some experience in nature is better than none, and more is better than some. . . any green space will provide some benefit to physical wellbeing. Connection to nature should be an everyday occurrence.” The type of experience you have outdoors also seems to matter, with studies showing that being more fully immersed in nature correlates with greater benefits. In other words, a gentle stroll in the forest, taking time to smell the flowers (figuratively and literally) may in fact do you more good than a full blast, iPod-in-your-ears, sprint-interval-training trail run through the same forest. The never-ending pings and dings of the perpetually connected digital era make it harder than ever to pull the proverbial plug and make time for nature. But it also means it’s never been more important that we do. “The more high-tech our lives become, the more nature we need,” Mr. Louv told Vitality. This doesn’t mean throwing your digital devices away entirely. Clearly technology has many advantages. The trick is to find a better balance. “It’s best to think in terms of a healthy media diet, which should also include time unplugged, having analog and face-to-face or face-to-tree encounters. There is a beautiful world out there. Our brains crave it and need it to be our best selves,” says Ms. Williams. So go ahead, put down your phone, step outside, find some nature (big or small) and take a deep breath.
HACKVSHIKE Photos by Joe Lucas, Pat Morrow, Katie Watt and Getty Images
Average smartphone users tap, click and swipe their phones 2,617 times a day. Heavy users typically do the same 5,427 times a day.i A University of East Anglia meta-analysis of 140 studies involving a total of 290 million people across 20 countries found that spending time in or living near green space is associated with reduced risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stroke, and asthma; lower diastolic blood pressure; lower heart rate; less stress; longer sleep; and significantly lower salivary cortisol (a physiological marker of stress).ii Scientists found teenagers who use smartphones, tablets and social media heavily are 71 per cent more likely to have at least one suicide risk factor, and have much higher rates of depression. Lead study researcher Jean Twenge later wrote: “It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen (Generation Z) as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.”iii Tokyo businessmen who walked in a forest twice a day for three days in a row had 40 per cent more natural killer immune cells (NK cells). NK cells are a type of white blood cell that destroys tumours and virus-riddled cells. A month after the experiment the forest walkers still had 15 per cent higher NK cell counts, even though they hadn’t been back to the forest.iv Many Silicon Valley tech executives (including Bill Gates, the late Steve Jobs, and Tim Cook) implement strict limits or complete bans on their own kids’ use of digital devices, citing firsthand knowledge of the dangers as the reason why. The completely screen-free Waldorf School on the Peninsula is one of the most in-demand schools in Silicon Valley. More than 75 per cent of the students have tech executive parents, from companies including eBay, Google, Apple and Yahoo.v Scores on memory and attention span tests jumped 20 per cent after people spent an hour interacting with nature outside, even if
the temperature was -31 degrees Celsius.vi More than 63 per cent of adults in a Gallup poll reported smartphone attachment so strong that they keep it at hand even while sleeping.vii Outward Bound course participants saw their scores on creativity tests improve by 50 per cent after three days of hiking and camping in the wilderness.viii A University of Michigan study found a direct link between increased Facebook use and decreased happiness and life satisfaction, concluding that Facebook “undermines” and “impoverishes” well-being rather than enhancing it.ix Researchers at Chiba University in Japan found that taking a leisurely walk in a forest led to a 12.4 per cent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, a 7 per cent decrease in sympathetic nerve activity, a 5.8 per cent decrease in heart rate, and a 1.4 per cent decrease in blood pressure.x At least 78 per cent of teens check their phones once or more per hour, and 50 per cent say they feel addicted to their phones. More than 69 per cent of parents check their devices at least hourly, and 27 per cent of them feel addicted.xi Multiple scientific studies explicitly link nature activities (fishing for instance) with reduced Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).xii A study of 500 people found that just the presence of smartphones in a room, even when powered off, measurably affected their capacity to complete attention and memory tests.xiii An eight-year Harvard School of Public Health study of 108,630 participants found those living in the “greenest” areas (with the highest levels of trees and plants) were 34 per cent less likely to die from a respiratory illness and 13 per cent less likely to die of cancer
than those living in largely paved areas. The researchers were stunned to find that strong a connection.xiv Mice exposed, in a study, to light and sound patterns designed to simulate multitasking with multiple screen devices (smartphones, desktops, laptops, tablets) were significantly compromised in their ability to navigate a maze, and had impaired learning and worse memory than normal mice.xv A Chinese study showed markedly lower levels of three key indicators of inflammation among elderly people if they spent time in nature.xvi A two-year study of 2,587 teens showed those who use social media with “high frequency” (many times a day) are literally twice as likely to develop Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.xvii People who took a 50 minute walk though nature on a campus had markedly less neural activity in areas of the brain associated with mental illnesses.xviii
A small but rapidly growing number of former tech industry executives and insiders have detailed how many tech companies specifically engineer their products to stimulate a release of dopamine in users. Dopamine is the short-term reward/pleasure-pathway neurotransmitter associated with addiction to alcohol, gambling, and drugs such as opioids, amphetamines and cocaine. There is even a Silicon Valley startup called Dopamine Labs that openly boasts it can make other companies’ apps more addictive.xix In a study on the effect of nature on vision, a school in Taiwan promoted outdoor activity at recess, instead of letting students stay inside to use their digital devices. It had half the rate of new myopia cases as normal schools.xx Steve Hubrecht i dscout Mobile Touches study. June 2016 ii Environmental Research (journal). Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett et al. July 2018 iii Increases in Depressive Symptoms, Suicide-Related Outcomes, and Suicide Rates Among U.S. Adolescents After 2010 and Links to Increased New Media Screen Time. Clinical Psychological Science (journal). Jean Twenge et al. November 2017 iv International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology. Qing Li et al. JanuaryMarch 2008 v New York Times, September 10, 2014; CNBC, June 2018 vi Psychological Science (journal). Marc Berman et al. December 2008 vii Gallup Inc. panel survey. July 2015 viii Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings. PLOS ONE (journal). Ruth Ann Atchley, David Strayer, Paul Atchley. December 2012 ix PLOS ONE (journal). Ethan Kross et al. August 2013 x Japanese Journal of Hygiene. Yoshifumi Miyazaki et al. September 2011 xi Lake Research Partners. Common Sense Media project. 2016
xii European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (journal). Peasgood et al. April 2016; Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being (journal). Andrea Faber Taylor et al. August 2011; American Journal of Public Health. Francis Kuo et al. 2004 xiii Clinical Psychological Science (journal). Adrian Ward et al. April 2017 xiv Environmental Health Perspectives (journal). Peter James et al. April 2016 xv Scientific Reports (journal). Dimitri Christakis et al. July 2012 xvi International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Mao et al. March 2017 xvii Journal of the American Medical Association. Adam Leventhal et al. July 2018. xviii Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences (journal). Gregory Bratman et al. July 2015; Landscape and Urban Planning (journal). Gregory Bratman et al. February 2015 xix The Guardian, March 4, 2018; CBS 60 Minutes, April 9, 2017; Washington Post, December 12, 2017 xx Ophthalmology (journal). Pei-Chang Wu et al. May 2013
GOING SOLO THE ULTIMATE DISCONNECT Text and photos by Jesse Bell
Editor’s note: Jesse Bell goes for the big unplug. No town, no screens, no cell signal, no people, no sunshine — no problem.
he stillness in the darkest woods is at once dreadful and divine. Every breath of wind, every water ripple, every flutter of leaf and tumbling rock seems to speak in whispers, with secrets.
On a solo hike one spring, in 60 millimetres of pouring rain, I found myself wandering in those darkest woods, wondering at those secrets. The flutters and ripples whipped and churned, and the next morning I reemerged a little different. It was mid-May when I decided to venture from the comforts of home — from the warmth of my furnace, buzz of television and beeping of cell phone — and onto the shores of a hidden lake for my first solo camp. Solo by mistake, of course; the gloomy weather forecast dissuaded a friend who was set to come with me.
But I was restless. Spring was taking far too long to become summer. I packed to go alone: A 10-year-old tent all but lost of its waterproofing, my Jetboil stove, a dehydrated meal, a sleeping bag, a Thermarest, hiking boots, a tarp, a toque. My dog too, of course. I drove 20 minutes out of town and parked along the wood’s edge. Ten minutes up a trail worn with the sandals of last summer travellers, the bars disappeared from my phone — it was then, and only then, that I realized I was alone. There was no comfort of a text to break the stillness, the only sound a splashing of my boots in puddles not ephemeral; weeks, it seemed, since the last sunshine. The dog and I reached the first lake but we had further still to go, another hour along the valley. We crossed fossilized ripples in ancient rock, passed orange Indian Paintbrushes flickering whenever drops of water landed on their petals. When we reached the third lake hidden in a hollow beneath 500 feet of cliff, I realized the true extent of the forecasted precipitation.
The rain fell hard. The lake in turmoil, secrets and whispers drowned out by a relentless tempest. I panicked, grabbed the tarp, placed my tent on the slab of rock overlooking this third lake, magical despite the misfortune of rain. Clip, clip. Assembled. Tent unzipped, backpack in. The dog shivered in stillness awaiting further instruction. I was afraid he’d saturate my dry sleeping bag, and strategically laid out my bed in accordance. When I finally invited him in, it was to lay quietly on the Mexican knit blanket I carried for him. “Now what?” I said aloud. The dog looked up at me, tilted his head. It was only 5:52 p.m. I waited as long as possible to eat, then boiled water in the Jetboil to cook my dehydrated beef stroganoff. The steam billowed from the bag when I opened it to devour, warming the cold tent as rain tumbled in waves outside the canvas. No leaks, I thought. Finished with dinner and the dog fed, I replaced my coat, grabbed rope, and headed back out to a nearby tree. The importance of a proper bear hang lingered amongst the cracking branches of creatures who weren’t really there, except in my head. I looped the rope around the smooth surface of a rock, and chucked it up and over the branch of a dying poplar 50 feet from camp. Got it. Heaved once, twice, and my food sack was 12 feet up, high enough for peace of mind. I tied a knot, and walked back to sanctuary. It was then I saw the pooled water collecting at the corner, spilling down the rock slab I so brilliantly pitched upon. I dug the heel of my boot into the composted dirt atop the rock in an attempt to redirect the flow; a ditch to the left, a ditch to the right. That’ll have to do, I thought, and crawled back inside. Robert Frost’s poetry entertained me. When perhaps two hours passed, I heard them for the first time: the forest whispers, no longer drowned out by falling rain. Unzipping the vestibule I peered out to watch songbirds twitter and harmonize between pines, celebratory cousins singing together as they soared over the lake, pristine — its stillness otherwise unseen. It was the most peaceful part of the night, for my tent later did flood, at midnight. My toque became a sponge, and I slept only a wink before daybreak, when lake and cliff clung with ominous fog. I packed my tent, sopping wet, and with the dog hiked back to the forest’s edge. At 8:05 a.m., when the service bars of my phone reappeared and with them a remembrance of life outside these woods, I stowed the device back in my jacket pocket. For I’d lost it, the need to be connected, and had no real desire to disconnect from the darkest woods. Not quite yet.
HAVE WI-FI? IF A CELL PHONE RINGS IN THE WILDERNESS…IS IT STILL WILDERNESS? Text by Dave Quinn | Photos by Katie Watt and Dave Quinn
he late Art Twomey defined wilderness as “anywhere you could be eaten,” reflecting the idea that humans need places and experiences where we are not necessarily at the top of the food chain to truly appreciate ourselves and our surroundings. And if anybody had a right to try to corner such a moving target as the definition of wilderness, it was Art. He spent much of his life searching out the last wild parts of the world, celebrating them and trying to protect them. Art, who was tragically lost to a helicopter accident in 1997 on the way into his backcountry lodge southwest of Kimberley, was largely responsible for the realization of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Provincial Park, which sits south and west of Invermere, and which constitutes one of the largest remaining roadless protected areas in the southern parts of Canada, and indeed North America. There is an ‘official’ definition of wilderness on this continent. The 1964 US Wilderness Act outlines wilderness as an “area where
the earth and its community of life are untrammelled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” The US Wilderness Act has unfathomable control over how landscapes are treated, and holds sway over 765 designated wilderness areas across that country, comprising nearly 450,000 square kilometres (52 per cent of which is in Alaska). A friend who manages wilderness area trails in southern Montana tells of summer trail work using only horses and crosscut saws. US Wilderness Law prohibits wheeled conveyances and motors in order to preserve the experience and character of wilderness. That’s right: no mountain bikes, no chainsaws. Canadians are hobbled with much less strict, much more subjective definitions, but the absence of roads is often used as a yardstick for wilderness. It makes a handy measure since roads represent more than their face-value in terms of impacts on a natural area. The physical act of building a road is the most obvious erosion of
wild areas, and poorly built roads often fail or add excessive sedimentation to downslope creeks (in this way roads can impact bull trout or cutthroat spawning habitat that might be kilometres from the actual road). But the real impacts of the road are the industrial and recreational activities that follow. Heavy industry players, such as those in forestry and mining, are often the builders of roads, and the removal of trees and holes in the earth are fairly obvious signs of the end of wilderness. However, trees do grow back, and wellplanned and properly cleaned-up mine sites can have short-term impacts on a landscape. However the advent of the motorized age means that even old roads now deactivated to protect wildlife have become targets for off-road vehicle recreation, which goes essentially unregulated here in B.C. Even roadlessness is perhaps today no longer the ultimate gauge of wilderness, as vein-like nets of mountain bike trails spread outward from our communities. Is it still a wilderness trail if 200 mountain bikers hoot and holler and skid along it on a busy day? One of the biggest challenges to today’s definition of wilderness is that other beloved ‘W’ word: wifi. In a desperate bid to lure visitors and meet the demands of modern society, Parks Canada, along with many private campgrounds and backcountry lodges, now offer wifi as an amenity. This seems painfully ironic, in that there is (or at least once seemed to be) an assumed escape from amenities and all they entail in the traditional family campground weekend, or the wilderness hike. Now we leave it all behind to….take it all with us? On a gorgeous November day last fall I was blessed to be at the top of Banff’s Sulphur Mountain, overlooking the Bow Valley and its ring of wild mountains. Was it wilderness? Maybe not, given the highway, railway, and town below, but it boasted a wild and stunning vista nonetheless. The group of high school students I was with had dutifully selfied the heck out of the view, then promptly returned to their hunched-over, thumb-powered Instagram and Snapchat lives, oblivious to the beauty laid out before them. Wilderness, or in this case the wild, seemed somehow lost on them compared with what their devices offered. Wilderness is essentially a human construct. We get to define what it is, where it is, and how much of it should remain. However there are few one-way streets in the universe, and wilderness is no exception. If we as humans influence the wild, wilderness must therefore influence us as well. With this in mind it is worth considering an evolving definition of wilderness that keeps pace with our modern world, one that factors in unseen waves and hidden distractions to all that humans were meant to be. One that considers the following question: can there be wi-fi in the wilderness?
UNPLUGGING PERSONAL TALES
CONFESSIONS OF A CELL PHONE ADDICT
By Leah Scheitel Illustration by Elizabeth Segstro
f we went snowboarding and didn’t Instagram it, does it mean that it even happened?”
Halfway between Lake Louise and Calgary my friend asked me this, in earnest. We had just spent a classic day in the mountains, listening to punk rock and riding with friends, and we were so enraptured that we didn’t use social media to document the fun – we just had fun. And it was then that I realized how deep our dependency on social media, enabled by constant smartphone use, has become. Our great day didn’t mean as much because we couldn’t brag about it on Instagram. Full disclosure: I am addicted to my cellphone. This addiction has a name – nomophobia – which describes the irrational fear of being without a cellphone. I have all the classic signs: mindlessly checking my phone when I’m bored, jumping to it whenever it bings or tweets, and having my mood affected by social media feeds. At its most debilitating point, my addiction wouldn’t let me get through an hour of yoga at home without an overwhelming desire to check social media and text messages. It was the ultimate contradiction — stretching for serenity with a phone under my nose. I’m not alone. According to Statistics Canada, 77 per cent of Canadians own a smartphone and 25 per cent opt to pay for 5 GB of data or more per month. Both rates have never been higher. Clearly we are more hooked on our cell phones and their mobile, data-using apps than ever before. Everywhere people go, they go with phones tightly clutched. In an attempt to tame my addiction, I spoke to Mount Royal University associate professor of psychology Naomi Grant, who was only too happy to proffer advice on overcoming nomophobia. Her top tip? A social media detox, which she says can clearly lay out how much time your addiction chews up and how it makes you feel. Initial experimental research indicates people are happier when not scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, and there’s even a term — “upward comparison” — coined to describe the feelings of
inadequacy and envy that can stem from too much social media. “Nobody is posting photos of negative things (on Facebook). They are posting about their vacations or beautiful cookies they made – it’s all the positive spin, (but) it’s not reality,” says Naomi. “You’re thinking those people are better off than you, when in actuality they’re not.” For the truly addicted, she advocates going to places where having your phone in hand isn’t socially acceptable. “Put down your phones and experience,” she says. “Do anything other than looking at your phone.” Heeding her advice, I replaced my Facebook app with My Addictiometer, which monitors how much time I spend with my blasted phone in my face. And, in the biggest baby step, I joined a yoga studio, forcing me off my phone for at least one hour a day. It’s not much, but it’s the first step on the road to recovery.
STILLNESS WITHIN By D. M. Ditson Illustration by Elizabeth Segstro
hat’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done? For me, it’s not the time I bottle fed an adult tiger or the night I spent alone on a platform in the jungle in Belize. Instead, it was turning off my phone.
It was July 2014. I had just arrived at Spirit Rock Meditation Centre in California and was about to begin an 18-day silent meditation retreat. The teachers encouraged the students to surrender our electronics to be locked in a safe for the duration of the retreat. I’d developed post-traumatic stress disorder when I was 18 and spent more than a decade in denial. It was only six months earlier – when I got dumped in my therapist’s office and my life fell to pieces – that I understood that my brain was ill. That’s why I was in California. I was on a mission: I was going to endure a horrendous 18 days of silence, follow the rules as closely as a prescription and emerge healed. I’d walk out at the end, write the final chapter in my memoir and be as good as new. I took a deep breath, powered down and watched the retreat manager tuck my phone into the safe. It was too late not to be in California, too late not to be on this retreat and too late not to do it right. I nested on a pile of cushions in the meditation hall as four Vipassana and metta teachers arrived. Vipassana is a Buddhist practice of cultivating awareness. Metta, which is translated as loving-kindness, is a practice of looking gently at oneself and others. According to the teachers’ instructions, my task for the next 18 days would be simply to watch with kindness as my experience unfolded. As the silent days passed, even my thoughts piped down. One day in the hall my cheek became incredibly itchy. I resisted the urge to scratch and just paid attention to the feeling. It turned into burning. It flamed for a moment and faded, leaving no evidence that it ever existed. I was baffled. Where had the itch come from,
where had it gone and why hadn’t I needed to scratch it away? Then a flash of anger ignited and burned in my belly. I didn’t try to control it or erase it. Instead I asked myself: Can this be okay? The fury flared and flamed, growing until it felt eternal. Eventually – like the itch that vanquished itself – the fire passed away while I sat still and watched it go. The days blended together, a million tiny moments that flickered into and out of existence. I was still years from recovering and years from finishing my memoir Wide Open, but by the time I retrieved my phone I knew I could face the rest of my healing head on, one excruciating but fleeting moment at a time.
POWER OFF, PEDAL ON RIDE LEAVE THE SCREEN BEHIND AND
By Steve O’Shaughnessy Illustration by Elizabeth Segstro
awoke miserably after a cold, uncomfortable sleep. Shivering uncontrollably, I tried to will my lifeless hands into operation, at least enough to pack up my sleeping pad and bivvy. I didn’t even recall stopping my bike last night, hours past midnight, in a nondescript stretch of trail-side bush and setting up my kit. This was going to be the toughest morning yet. Perhaps I could be forgiven for not remembering last night too clearly. I’d spent the past four days biking across the province as part of the 2018 B.C. Epic 1000, including a 25 hour stretch covering 285 backcountry kilometres between Trail and my “campsite” (if you can call it that) somewhere east of Cranbrook. Oh well, no time to waste. I performed my normal routine, which included cleaning up my undercarriage — one area that set me back on the Epic. I had lost some weight and my chamois no longer fit. I didn’t get sores, but what I did get was the equivalent of sitting on 1,000 kilometres of carpet, naked, then being slowly dragged to the end. Maybe I’m exaggerating? Needless to say, it sucked. On this, my final morning before the finish, I would stand and pedal for more than 45 minutes before I was able to actually sit on my bike. Sounds like a blast, doesn’t it? Endurance racing is new to me: I’m far from a contender but the challenge of cycling off road from Merritt to Fernie as rapidly as possible, unsupported, was right up my alley. It transformed the way I ride and has given me memories to last a lifetime.
In a world where it seems we can’t control anything, the trail is the one place I feel in control. There I decide how my day is going to look, when I’m going to turn in for the night — or even if I’m going to sleep at all. For me, cycling is therapy, be it a quick singletrack ride at home in the valley or a pan B.C. race.
The deep focus involved in training for and participating in events such as these is a welcome interruption to the constant stream of information and distraction of our modern life. It allows us to pay attention to more important things. (No, not how much food to pack or where to sleep at night, but about our potential for strength, adaptation and self reliance). We gain perspective on our lives and identity. We learn that happiness isn’t about Facebook likes; it’s about being in nature, listening to our body and falling back to our natural circadian rhythms. We learn to suffer.
I believe that in some way we are all connected, and the Epic drove this home for me. Prior to the race, I vowed to cross the finish line for Ryan Correy, founder of Bikepack Canada and a huge source of inspiration. He passed away from cancer a few months before the race. I’d often talk to him during the Epic. Nearing the crest of a crucial pass, I said out loud to Ryan “almost there, buddy!” At that moment a warm wind picked up at my back, as though a gentle, breezy hand was guiding me to the top. Was it coincidence? Possibly, but it felt like more than that. Thanks Ryan.
UNPLUGGING PERSONAL TALES
etween Storm Mountain and the Radium hot pools there exists a throwback to a simpler time, a world quite difficult to find these days. A vacuum where phone calls can neither be made nor received, where Google can’t provide the answer, where media can’t be social outside of the confines of the vehicle in which you ride. On our first family trip to the valley from Calgary, we thought the commute would be a time for everybody to unwind in a familiar way. The kids could have some much coveted (and seldom given) time on the iPads while the grown-ups had an opportunity to catch up on grown-up conversations, make phone calls without interruption, and listen to our favourite podcasts that come with explicit language and content warnings. I was not aware prior to this first trip that the majority of Highway 93 south from Storm Mountain to Radium is a signal-free “vortex”. With near-constant connectedness and the availability of wi-fi almost everywhere (including while flying 30,000 feet in the air) I did not even realize this could be a thing. Also, rather unfortunately and quite quickly, it became apparent that this same portion of the “vortex” is not conducive to iPad viewing for kids who are prone to car-sickness. My husband declared to my daughter that car-sickness was all in her head, but she countered with the irrefutable argument that while car-sickness could be just in her head, it could just as easily be all over the backseat. We became keenly aware of how technology had become an easy default for entertainment, and in its absence we were left with two bored kids in the backseat — a direct gateway to taunting, bickering and fighting. We had to re-evaluate our situation and come up with a solution to save our sanity.
I N TO T H E
VORTEX By Erin Fetterly Illustration by Elizabeth Segstro
This portion of the drive has now become a time when our family car trips resemble the ones we did as kids in the 1980s, complete with the occasional Blue Rodeo and Dirty Dancing soundtrack. While the downloaded tunes blast on the stereo, the kids make faces in their window reflections, we watch for wildlife (we’ve spotted moose, bears, and many deer), we keep track of license plates from our list of provinces and states, and we all absorb the spectacular scenery of Kootenay National Park. We have a captive audience for important family conversations, an opportunity for each of us to share our goals and dreams, and I can torture my family with my off-key singing. And sometimes after an amazing weekend in the valley, if the stars align, the kids may even take an elusive nap. We have discovered that the “vortex” has almost magic healing properties, as we emerge from the other side feeling more refreshed, rested and knowing each other a little better. We are grateful for the short time in which we all exist together in the car, connected as a family while disconnected from the outside world.
PLANTING PEACE FINDING CALM IN A FENG SHUI GARDEN
By Dauna Ditson
hen Pat Bavin creates a garden, his focus isn’t on seeds, productivity or yields. Instead it’s on creating a sense of balance for the humans who will inhabit the space, wiggle their toes in the dirt and emerge more alive. As a feng shui practitioner, his work is a delicate art of pairing yin with yang and creating just the right harmony between the elements of earth, wood, fire, water and metal as well as with the cycles of nature. “It’s very gut based. It’s very intuitive,” he says. While a slope in the land could be rectified with a heavy rock “to anchor and ground,” he says an excess of sun would go well with a water feature where the beams would catch the ripples. Tall plants could be matched with shrubs, flowers with thorns, and pine trees with plants that have broad leaves. “It’s like a painting,” Pat says, in which a dab of darkness brings out the light. “It’s creating a contrast to provoke curiosity, to provoke interest.” Therapeutic use of gardens and other small-scale natural landscapes has been on the rise since the 1990s, and is backed by scientific studies both in the Western world and in China. Feng shui gardens big or small (even as tiny as a miniature zen sandbox with a little bamboo rake and a single rock) seem to aid healing and increase calm. They’re also a good way to relieve the stress induced by today’s hyperconnected world. Pat’s first priority in designing a feng shui garden – also known as a healing garden – is to assess his clients’ energies and determine
how best to bring them peace. Whether it’s incorporating a particular rock, a labyrinth or a favourite herb, he says healing gardens should fit their users and incorporate their tastes. “It’s really valuable for the health, wealth and wellbeing of people to establish a state of relaxation,” Pat says. “One of the biggest purposes of a garden is to be able to sit and ponder, sit and relax.” Pat, who studied as a town-planning technician before becoming an artist and later moving into the art of healing, brings a detailed, mathematical approach to the aesthetics of peace. Wielding a binder of his sketches, Pat gestures to his intricate colour-coded patterns with arrows depicting how energy moves through the space. “Don’t spend too much,” Pat cautions, adding that over-investing in a healing garden won’t result in increased bliss. No matter how well a garden is designed, he says those who spend until it hurts will remember the pinch when they try to enjoy their garden in the future. When people are stressed – whether over their finances, related to an excessive use of technology or connected to other causes – Pat says healing gardens are places they can go to slow down and fill their senses with the beauty of nature. “If you’re looking for full relaxation, try to make it so it’s soft and cozy,” he says, encouraging gardeners to find harmony in opposites “to really create the sweetest of spaces.”
FOREST BATHING IN INVERMERE
By Dauna Ditson
t five degrees below zero, it is so chilly on the cloudy November afternoon when Lana Osborne-Paradis and I meet with Pat Bavin for a lesson in forest bathing – also called shinrin yoku – that we huddle in his truck as he talks about the Japanese practice that has been gaining popularity in recent years. “We have become overstimulated with technology,” Pat says. “We’re hyperactive (and) hyper stimulated with the modern world.” I had intended to record our session but, taking his words to heart, I leave my camera and voice recorder behind when we get out of the truck. At the start of the millennium, science was able to prove what anybody who enjoyed relaxing in the woods already knew to be true: that nature is medicine, that it can bring peace. That research informs the modern practice of shinrin yoku, which encourages using your senses to engage with nature and seek connection with creation. Shinrin yoku has existed for centuries, but was taken up with renewed popularity in Japan and Korea some 30 to 40 years ago, and has since spread around the globe. Here in Canada the number of practitioners and guides has spiked in the past three years.
Pat, Lana and I take our seats on placemats to insulate us from the snowy lawn at Kinsmen Beach, close our eyes and begin exploring one sense at a time. Birds are calling in the distance. A vehicle rumbles past. My hood crinkles as I turn my head.
When Pat invites us to open our eyes, I see more depth and texture in the landscape than I’d noticed before. A dandelion that went to seed is sprinkled with snowflakes that blend into its fluff. Now, senses heightened, we’re on the move, wandering slowly through the trees. They’re mesmerizing. Bark is ripped artfully from the trunks. Moss that looks like snow speckles the branches. Tiny green buds quiver in the breeze. Down at the beach we each find a rock to cradle in our hands. I slip my stone inside my glove and notice it pulling the warmth from my hand. As Pat invites us to consider where our rocks came from, it occurs to me that I’m holding a relic of millenniums past in my palm. After a pause, we move to a ring of coniferous trees. Pat pops an evergreen needle into his mouth and savours the treat. Then he demonstrates how to connect with a tree. Always start by asking permission, he says, before placing his hands on the truck and leaning his forehead into the bark. He recommends that we envision growing roots. I find a tree and rest my head against the bark. It feels solid, supportive and surprisingly comfortable. Anybody can choose to cultivate a positive mindset, Pat says, but nature is the easiest place to start. “I find that being in the forest really grounds me because I am fully engaged with my senses,” he says. “It’s the best reset button.”
HE WHO CUTS HIS OWN WOOD
IS TWICE WARMED
GET OUTSIDE AND TAP INTO YOUR INNER HUNTER GATHERER Text and photos by Dave Quinn
y name is Dave, and I have a problem. I am addicted to firewood. Yes, yes, I know my firewood pile fluctuates between huge and ridiculous, but my excuse has always been that if we don’t burn it this winter, the woodstove will be just as hungry next winter. I rationalize my excess with all sorts of arguments. If I am going into the bush anyway for a bike ride, a hike, to hunt, or for work, I might as well bring back some wood to help justify the fuel my truck burns. Using local biomass to heat my house is far better on the planet than wrecking somebody else’s backyard by heating with the Albertan electricity we buy from coal-fired generators, or with natural gas, the extraction of which is slowly carving up our north and the transport of which requires all sorts of controversial pipelines and greenhouse gas emissions. Surely it must be far better to haul wood off a logging slash pile slated to smolder away all winter than either of these options? Rationalization aside, the reality is that I just love collecting wood. Finding an old chunk of larch snag in a burn pile is like a small lottery win to us firewood gatherers. That clear, dense wood that splits when you so much as look at it, so full of BTUs that you can barely lift the rounds, seems better honoured by heating a family home than being left to smolder. An old friend had a sign in his backcountry lodge that read: “He who cuts his own wood is twice warmed.” I would much rather cart sled loads, wheelbarrow loads, and armloads of heavy firewood than spend time in a sweaty gym. Which is a good thing, as each piece of firewood has to be moved half a dozen times between cutting, splitting, loading, unloading, stacking, and then finally moving it into the house to burn. Maybe this is why firewood is not for everybody. Of the 31 per cent of B.C.
households (35 per cent here in the Kootenay region) that burn wood, many of them purchase split and stacked wood, but it seems to me that this misses the most enjoyable part — the gathering. That same enjoyment found in wood gathering is found in the annual bounties of berries and mushrooms. Growing up on my grandmother’s bumbleberry jam — a delicious mix of wild strawberries and huckleberries — really triggered my inner bear cub, and to this day I commit shamefully irresponsible acts to carve out time to pick huckleberries. I see it in my kids too. Those same little bear cubs who beg for screen time and complain of boredom amidst their mound of toys will happily pick huckleberries for hours, rain or shine. Kids are also fiercely effective mushroom pickers. Among the hundreds of pickers that converged on the burns left by the White River fire this past spring, my kids’ shortened perspective allowed them to find hidden morels that other pickers missed. My two kids and I hauled in more than 30 pounds of morels in a couple hours of dirty, dusty, blissful foraging. My 5 year-old summed it up when she exclaimed “Papa, this is just like an Easter egg hunt, except with mushrooms!” Imagine her disappointment that night sitting down to fresh morel alfredo only to discover that she hates the taste of mushrooms. After a few fresh meals we dried the rest and have a freezer full of morels to add to winter meals that most of us, at least, will enjoy. Here in the Kootenay, gathering is viewed as a right. But as an increasing number of us humans put demands on our forests, we
need to appreciate these activities more as a privilege. Some of these bounties, including mushrooms which appear only after a fire, can sustain some commercial pressure, and there is a thriving, wildwest mushroom-picking community whose dreadlocks and VW vans converge on the burns in the spring, trying to make the most of the windfall that local buyers will pay between $8 and $20 a pound for, and that can bring in up to $50 a pound in Toronto or Hong Kong markets. Wild berries, on the other hand, are a long-term food source that birds, bears, weasels, and humans have come to rely on, and they cannot sustain a commercial harvest without robbing somebody of his or her traditional right, or something of its critical food source. My kids are the fifth generation to pick berries in some of our favourite patches, and for Ktunaxa people that reliance and connection go back even farther. The lesson: don’t sell or buy wild huckleberries. Pick your own. The ultimate outcome of all this hunting and gathering is that it is an active, outdoor pursuit that makes you feel good, while switching on all of the long-forgotten hunter-gatherer switches in our brains that have been there for hundreds of thousands of years. Even better, when you sit down by your warm woodstove on that dark January night to enjoy an elk steak smothered in wild morel pepper cream sauce with huckleberry-drizzled ice cream for dessert, the memories of where that food came from, and the stories that came with it, all combine to make an unforgettable meal and drive away some of the winter darkness.
USING YOUR PHONE TO DISCONNECT Text and photos by Claire Dibble
ew among us need to be reminded of the benefits of the internet, the relaxation illuminated by a television, or the pull of email, social media, and smartphones. Access to information, efficient communication, creative inspiration, self expression, community engagement, and idea exchange are all worthy of our collective time. For the most part, weâ€™re obliging by spending much of our mental energy invested in screens, whether for work or play. Instinctually, many know that there are downsides too. Some studies show associations between screen time and headaches, poor sleep, overstimulation and ensuing impulsiveness, and even depression. The sedentary nature of viewing screens has a notable detrimental impact on physical health, a growing concern in an era
when sitting for extended periods is considered to be downright dangerous. But maybe one of your screens can also be a tool for taking a break, moving a bit, and finding the present moment. Hereâ€™s how: Start by turning off all screens, other than your phone. Switch to Airplane Mode to avoid distraction from notifications and calls. Close all apps other than the camera. Take a few deep breaths and let your eyes wander. Notice the world around you. Notice what catches your interest. Take a moment to really see whatever draws your attention, captures your curiosity. Then take a photo, or 10. Notice how you feel as you embrace this presence and awareness. Now walk to another spot until something new catches your eye,
and repeat. This can be done during a coffee break, between NHL periods, or while the little one naps. You don’t have to go far; you don’t even have to go outside to find a sense of wonder and calm. But your chances of encountering joy and reinvigoration are greatest when you bundle up and step into the fresh air. Give yourself 10 minutes to explore the ability to notice and photograph things that make you feel good. Do what you wish with the photos. Send one to a friend, post them to social media when you plug back into the world of screens and scrolling, or delete them all. It doesn’t matter. The photos aren’t the important part. They, along with the camera in your phone, serve as a tool for tuning in rather than zoning out.
Tweak phone… your
3 HACKS TO MINIMIZE DIGITAL STRESS By Eric Elliott
t’s the 21st century and despite the advances of modern technology, stress in our daily lives is abundant. No matter where we look, stress is easy to find and hard to get rid of. According to Statistics Canada, 23 per cent of people over the age of 15 report that most days are “quite a bit” or “extremely” stressful, and that number rises to 30 per cent among the 35 to 54 age group. We look to our digital devices for a reprieve from all this, yet more often than not there we find more stressors: a friend who recently lost a loved one; a colleague boasting about the new promotion that we so badly wanted; or an update that a school is changing its curriculum for our kids. Sometimes it feels like there’s no escape. But there can be. Here are three quick hacks to help you regain control of your phone and your mind, and hopefully bring back a bit of calm.
1. Blue light be gone
The best solution is to put all screens away two hours or more before bed. This also forces you to connect with those around you, which likely as not, will help release more of the happy hormones (the kind that help us get the sleep we need). But, if like many others, you struggle to follow through on your good intentions, you can always use the Night Shift mode on your smartphone in the evenings, which will have it glowing in a warmer tone that emits less blue light.
2. Good old analog brain dump An hour before bed use an old fashioned notepad and pen and ‘dump’ everything you have on your mind by writing it down — from how your day went to your to-do list for tomorrow. You’ll be better prepared for the next day, and — critically — you probably won’t lie awake in bed tossing and turning, thinking about that upcoming meeting or important project.
3. Download a breathing app Use your phone to your advantage. There are plenty of applications available on it enabling you to tap into your parasympathetic nervous (rest and digest) system. The one I personally recommend is Headspace. Sure it costs a little bit, but it gives you guided meditations every single day, teaching techniques such as deep-diaphragmatic breathing, which can calm your central nervous system and decrease your stress. The benefits of meditation are endless, the process is not difficult by any stretch of the imagination, and it can take only a few minutes each day.
Blue light is all around us (it’s the light coming out of your smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop and television) and — although environmentally friendly — can have significant negative health impacts, impairing your sleep and circadian rhythms. Many of us spend our evenings in front of the television with the lights on around the house, so we often aren’t eliminating blue light until the moment we roll over and go to bed. Blue light exposure prevents our body’s ability to secrete the relaxation hormone melatonin (yes, even if you ingest it exogenously). In fact Harvard researchers have shown that it can block the production of melatonin for twice as long as other coloured lights.
…or get rid of it altogether
5 GREAT PHONE-FREE DIGITAL DETOX OPTIONS IN THE VALLEY
By Nicole Trigg | Photo by Duncan Whittick
he digital era isn’t going anywhere. iPhones, Androids, tablets, laptops, e-readers, digital dashboards — the list goes on. This technology is intended to save time so we can live life to the fullest, but instead it’s taking a toll on our health.
Eye strain, sleep issues, neck and back pain, less physical exercise, less time spent outside, social isolation, depression, anxiety, irritability, fatigue… problems further compounded by our hyper alert state as we constantly scan for stimuli across multiple devices, resulting in elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is linked to, among other conditions, weight gain, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. But there are ways to counter this digital delirium and bring balance back into our lives, and where better than the beautiful Columbia Valley? Follow these five steps for a detox guaranteed to slow down life’s frenetic pace, leaving you more time to smell the roses. Just one condition: leave your phone at home!
1. Find a trail. Whether it’s the frozen Whiteway, the new West-
side Legacy Trail, or the endless walking, hiking and biking trails, the valley has a trail for every level in every season. Being a regular trail user will get you moving outside in fresh mountain air, plus time on the trails tends to be social with small-town friendliness greeting you everywhere you go.
2. Take a yoga class. There are so many yoga offerings in the
valley. It’s not a matter of finding a class, but rather which one to choose. Yoga is powerful for balancing the physical and emotional
stresses digital devices can cause. According to Deepak Chopra, “Yoga is a state of being in which the elements and forces that comprise your biological organism are in harmonious interaction with the elements of the cosmos.” Waaay cooler than Instagram.
3. Soak in the hot springs. The valley has three — Radium Hot Springs, Fairmont Hot Springs and the natural Lussier Hot Springs in Whiteswan Provincial Park. First Nations have used these for millennia as a powerful healing tool, and so should we. Therapeutic effects include relief from high blood pressure, back pain and stress. 4. Eat a wholesome meal. One side effect of digital dependency
is neglecting to take the time to eat properly. Fast food, microwave dinners and high sugar snacks often take the place of healthy meals, and processed food worsens health concerns. Many local restaurants serve health conscious menu items for different dietary preferences, and if you prefer to cook at home, the grocery stores carry a wide selection of natural and health-oriented products.
5. Enjoy a community event. The valley abounds with events for all ages and lifestyles that help foster relationships in real time. Strengthening social bonds has the wonderful effect of easing anxiety and depression while improving one’s sense of belonging. There’s no place like home. Nicole Trigg is a certified Holistic Health & Nutrition Consultant, yoga teacher and journalist living in Invermere. For help understanding the relationship between lifestyle, nutrition, and overall health and how to apply it in your own life, visit NourishwithNicole.com.
GOAIRPLANE WILDERNESS PROGRAM GETS CLIENTS TO CONNECT WITH WHAT MATTERS
Text and photo by Dave Quinn
evelstoke’s Leah Evans is somebody you just want to be around. The 30-year-old Rossland-born professional skier not only turns heads with big lines in big mountains, but she also really wants mountain lovers everywhere to build deeper connections to the mountains we love, and to our own lives and selves. Her solution? Airplane Mode, a wilderness immersion program aimed at helping us build healthy patterns and technology relationships into our daily lives.
to give people the space to relax, connect, tune in on a deeper level and make new friends. From the last sessions I’ve done, it really changes people.. they actually feel like they went on a personal journey inside the trip.”
“Airplane Mode (named after the airplane mode option on smartphones) is based on the three pillars of connecting with yourself, community, and nature,” explains Leah. “It’s geared towards people that live connected lives, which is almost everybody in today’s society. My goal is
Airplane Mode camps are run on the basic principle “disconnect to connect,” and offer a springboard to healthier living couched in the guise of an unforgettable mountain experience at remote venues such as Purcell Lodge and Valhalla Mountain Touring. Leah is keen to expand the program, and says clearly people crave the kind of connection it offers.
In the program local top-notch facilitators (aside from Leah, these include Revelstoke comedian Katie Burrell and professional guide and yoga instructor Madeline Martin-Prenny) lead participants in workshops and exercises addressing each of the three pillars.
By Jennifer Hillman
ometimes you don’t need go out into nature to disconnect from the endless dings and tweets of your phone. A visit to a spa can do the trick just fine, and here in Invermere one of the best is Columbia Valley Spa and Wellness.
Leave the hustle and bustle behind, head to Copper Point Resort and weave your way down to the pool level, where you’ll find the little oasis that is this spa. Surrender your phone and other devices upon entering. Goodbye digital distraction, hello serenity. Columbia Valley Spa and Wellness is a full service spa, providing massage, esthetics and salon services, and a vast array of other treatments. Spa Director Dawn Fraser and her friendly staff of topnotch professionals may be small in number, but have more than 100 years of combined expertise, meaning you will be well attended indeed. From the moment you slip into the plush white robes in the waiting room, you know you’re in for a rejuvenating treat second to none. Amid the aroma of calming scents, the ambience of the spa is pure tranquility.
ing you in a state of total bliss. The spa signature facial is another must-try offering. After an initial consultation an esthetician will concoct a truly personalized treatment plan consisting of exfoliates, peels, masks, cleansers and toners, all applied gently and removed with warm towels. You can’t help but walk away feeling silky and radiant.
If you’re looking for full body relaxation, the Grotta Giusti thermal mud treatment is a must. The Grotta Giusti mud, brought over from Italy, has mineralizing healing properties which purify your skin and provide renewed vitality. The heat from the mud, combined with the massage will ease every touch of tension from your body, leav-
Spa clients also have options for food and drink, medicinal herbs to help your body find increased energy flow, access to Copper Point facilities such as the swimming pools, whirlpools and fitness centre, and much more. Indeed the only question you may be asking at the end is ‘why would I ever want to leave’?
TOWARD THE SKY By James Rose
A city’s night sky obscured by neon light Off to the country, to seek a starry night To test our brawn We ride at dawn That morning moon, drives me wild Too long in urban exile
What lies beyond, a paradise To those that can still look And appreciate without no MacBook But somewhere along the way Got to live it day by day That first morning light Like the world is right Smell the forest, feel the sun Gently, slowly, come undone There’s that feeling, sweetly sigh Onward, upward, toward the sky Ain’t nothing like bein’ free Nothing, no, like bein’ free...
There’s laughter on the trail A bird’s song, without fail On the pathway to a peak But first, cross that ragin’ creek My mind on Zen Time and time again The depths of digital vertigo Like you’re lost in Guangzhou Put down the device Photo by Pat Morrow
Be your best in 2019! • New equipment for 2019 • Open from 4 a.m. – Midnight with after-hours keytag access! • Fully Equipped Cardio and Weight room • Over 25 classes per week including Yoga, Spin, Zumba, Qigong and more! • Day passes available • No sign up fees • Friendly, fun atmosphere!
and Yin Yoga Classes Workshops Private Sessions For more information please contact:
Betty Newton, MQT
www.valleyﬁtnesscentre.ca 250-342-2131 www.facebook.com/valleyﬁtnesscentre
Phone/text: 250-342-5736 firstname.lastname@example.org
“Coming up with the concept was perhaps the most challenging part. I spent a lot of time thinking about how technology affects our lives. I wrote quite a few points down on paper — quite a few — researched them all, and then tried to figure out how to translate that to visuals,” says Katie. “I tried to relate it to my own experience. A lot of times it seems the subliminal message from social media is ‘you’re not enough’. We rely on our phones quite a lot these days. When I go camping (outside of cell range), for the first few hours, it seems strange to be so separated from things. But then it starts to feel good.”
some shadows in the images, but not too much, and often the natural light wasn’t quite right. So I started to experiment.”
She tried using a flashlight, which cast too much of a warm glow, before settling on combining a few approaches and then using Photoshop to highlight the blue light coming from the screen. Steve Hubrecht
Photo by Katie Watt
isually depicting the negative cognitive and social impacts that can stem from overuse of digital technology and social media is no easy task, but was one local photographer Katie Watt was game to tackle. The process was anything but simple, with each image in the photo art project Katie created involving some three to five hours of effort.
With her ideas in place, Katie then scoured her house, gathering a number of props (luckily there were plenty on hand), and began figuring out the light for each image she wanted to compose. “I actually learned a fair bit about how to play with light with the project,” says Katie. “Each photo was a balance, trying to use the natural light from the phone or screen and other sources. I wanted
Come and experience the wellness centre at the Radium Hot Springs!
We have a full range of spa services ranging from many types of massage to body & facial care. We use the locally made Om Organics skin care line for all treatments. We also oﬀer a private hot springs plunge pool and steam room.
We oﬀer year-round retreats that blend the Columbia Valley’s outdoor lifestyle with our therapeutic spa treatments. Create your own wellness getaway or contact us about upcoming packages.
Yoga Classes & Workshops
We oﬀer regular yoga classes and workshops at our poolside location. Mats and props are available.
Combine your spa and wellness centre experience with a soak in the healing waters of the hot springs!
LOCATED AT RADIUM HOT SPRINGS IN KOOTENAY NATIONAL PARK 250-347-2288 • email@example.com www.pleiadesradiumspa.com
SUPPORTIVE HEALTH SERVICES By Breanne Massey
he challenges of accessing rural health care and services drove the decision for a pair entrepreneurial couples — Melanie and Keith Irwin; and Alicia and Ryan Shanks — to open up the Pharmasave Home Health Care Centre in 2016 to mitigate the burden of travelling to access medical services. The venture was a natural addition to the existing Pharmasave that the couples already jointly owned and operated locally. “We focus on any home health care aides and equipment to help the people of the valley stay independent and safe for as long as possible,” said Ms. Irwin. “We saw a gap in service here. Because we’re from a small community, a lot of patients here have to travel for services, and that’s generally the population we tend to serve.” Continued…
Continued… Their business sells and rents equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, transfer poles, hospital beds, lift chairs, braces, tensors and compressions stockings, as well as rehabilitation equipment offerings such as balance boards, weights and ice machines. “We saw a gap in service here,” she added, “because we’re from a small community, lots of patients here have to travel for services, and that’s generally the population we tend to serve. We saw a need for the community to have (resources) offered locally to help our own community stay at home as safely as they could.” In addition, Pharmasave (located on the ground level of the Home Health Care Centre) fulfills and delivers medical prescriptions to those suffering from mobility issues. The business has expanded its services to include bi-weekly deliveries for products required for independent living. Fittings and on-site support are provided. For more information call 250-342-1242 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are committed to providing a safe and nourishing atmosphere to feel free, love, laugh and share moments. Hosting a diverse schedule of classes and teachers, we offer creative practices with variants of Asana, Pranayama, Mantra, Meditation and Sacred Touch. Mountain Om Yoga & Wellness Studio Teacher Training is a Registered Yoga School with Yoga Alliance. Please join us for our upcoming trainings: 503 7TH AVE, INVERMERE, BC • 250-270-0056
APRIL 2019 Weekend Immersion, 10 Month Program
JUNE 1st- 21st, 2019 19 Day Immersion
OCTOBER 7th- 27th, 2019 21 Day Immersion
Live Well at Home
with Pharmasave Invermere Home Health Care Centre
Everything you need to discover the path to easy living and an independent lifestyle. Home Health Care Sales and Service
• wheelchairs & walkers • bath chairs and benches • transfer equipment • wound care • incontinence products • urological products • bathroom safety equipment • aids of daily living
• compression therapy • braces and orthotics • ostomy supplies • nursing and pregnancy products • sun lamps • tens machines • sports therapy equipment ...And much more!
Did you know we also offer a rental program? We offer a large selection of rental medical equipment.
Ask your Pha rmasave
Home Health Ca re Specialist!
Pharmasave Invermere Home Health Care Centre
Chisel Peak Medical Building - Lower Level Directly below Pharmasave Invermere 417 10th Avenue, Invermere | Ph: 250-342-1242
Spa SERVICES Monday to Thursday
Discover blissful relaxation and renewal with our personalized massages, facials and spa treatments.
LOCATED LOWER LEVEL
Copper Point Resort
760 Cooper Road, Invermere, BC
OR CALL 250.341.4030
The Columbia Valley Pioneer's feature publication – Vitality, Health & Wellness 2019.