This is the time of year that we fall in love with Seattle. The sun glistens on the lake, mountains are picturesque in the background, bicyclists and joggers abound, and it seems like everyone has a happy dog in tow. So why is it that when I ask my patients ‘what do you like to do for fun?’ or ‘Are you enjoying the weather?’ sometimes there is a rather long pause.
Depression is often both the cause and result of isolation and anxiety stops people in their tracks, prevents them from pushing outside of a comfort zone. Often there is a critical voice that overrides the want of fun, the want to be part of the mass exodus to go outside and enjoy the summer. People tell themselves, “You don’t know how to do that sport.” “You are too out of shape.” “It won’t be fun.” “Doing activities alone is sad.” The critical tone becomes self-defeating and instead of experiencing the invigoration of a hike or a day cycling, people watch others enjoy themselves as they peer out the window. It doesn’t help that Seattleites are sometimes hard to engage with invitations because they have pre-planned the three months of summer well in advance, packed full every free moment with scheduled outings. After a few shot down spontaneous invitations to their friends, people can lose motivation to try to find adventure buddies.
You have two options when it comes to adventure, 1) wait for the exact perfect scenario where you feel comfortable and adept 2) through caution to the wind and face what it means to be alone or uncoordinated or a little lost. With option 2, you have the chance to meet new people, have the benefits of endorphins with exercise and the, oh so therapeutic, exposure to fresh air and beautiful scenery. What is the worst that could happen if you were to try something new? Feeling awkward. What is the worst that could happen if you DON’T try something new? Depression, low self-esteem, isolation.
So here are my top ten suggestions to enjoy the summer fun in Seattle even if you aren’t the Northwest poster-child for being active.
1.The obvious is to get a trail guide either online or in a book and go on a hike. Just go. The trails are well marked typically if not a bit crowded. Get a discover pass and/or Forest Service Parking pass ahead of time. Hear the rustling of the wind in the trees and take pause in front of a tumbling brook. Your stresses will melt away. Go by yourself or join a hiking club or meetup.
2. Get a bicycle. It doesn’t have to be expensive but we have the treasure of the Burk-Gilman Trail at our doorstep. On the trail, you will find young, old, fit, not so fit, all sorts. Go at your own pace. If you like it, you can join a cycling club.
3. Search Groupons for outdoor activities. Maybe you just need the right idea for what to do and you will find all sorts of novel activities in Groupon form. Often companies make it easy and inexpensive to take you outdoors and keep you safe.
4. Take a class….. REI, KAF adventures, various mountaineering schools, community center classes; ones that cater to beginners. With a class, you can spend the day kayaking, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, cycling, soccer, Frisbee … you name it. Also, you have compadres in a group and you might walk away with new friends.
5. Check out some meetups. Again, just go. What’s the worst that could happen? You feel awkward but so does everyone else. Break the Seattle Freeze and contribute to the solution of bringing people together. Go to meetup.com and explore groups with common interests, ideally groups who get you outside to get your Vitamin D levels up.
6.Take a book or your e-reader to the park and have a date with yourself. Bring a picnic, water, and sunscreen. Take Fido if he/she can hang.
7. Just go for a walk. Put one foot in front of the other and walk out the door. See where it leads you.
8. Join a club like Evergreen Mountain Biking Club, Cascade Cyclists, or the Sierra Club. They will walk you through learning a new activity.
9. Invite the friends you have to go try new activities like take a ferry ride, visit a festival or outdoor concert, or go to the dog park. Don’t wait to be invited, invite someone else or even a few people. Find friends who are willing to adventure without a lot of advance planning. Being spontaneous is liberating. Friends can be younger, older, different backgrounds and personalities; just don’t pre-judge folks, instead find willing partners.
10. Volunteer! Pasados Animal Sanctuary, The Zoo, pet adoptions, hiking trail clean up, work at a marathon/bicycle race, coach a sport, volunteer at a festival. There is no better way to feel good than to give of your time and energy towards a meaningful cause.
Don’t delay. Summer is upon us. Carpe Diem.
“Do not be timid or squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment”. Ralph Waldo Emerson