Winter Camping & Developing Gratitude

By Dr. Elliot Lysyk, DC

I didn’t grow up with much. My single mom worked hard raising my brother and I, giving us a great work ethic. She required social assistance at times, so I was grateful for anything I received. Then, when I was 8, she met our “Dad” who ended up adopting us. He lived on a farm and preferred doing farm work with horses, not tractors, so I was immediately immersed in very hard work. Toughened by farm life and inspired by the personal satisfaction that hard work brings, I’ve become someone who is drawn to making life less convenient. I like living with less, and I value experiences over ‘stuff.’  (And it just so happens that studies show this fosters greater long-term happiness.  Bonus!).

I recognized early on that as our conveniences increase, most of us take them for granted and immediately begin searching for new things that aren’t “convenient” enough yet, forgetting how amazingly easy and comfortable we have it.

So, a few days ago, I decided to head out deep into the forest on snowshoes, eight miles beyond Blue Nose Mountain, armed with a sleeping bag, a tarp, a hatchet, the fixings for a grilled-cheese sandwich, waterproof matches, and warm winter gear. I constructed a lean-to with deadfall, collected firewood, and spent my first night winter camping. To keep myself from freezing, I placed conifer bows on the ground for a mattress and maintained a fire through the early evening. Still, it was far from comfortable and I slept very little. I was reminded that life is so simple just surviving, but highly inconvenient.

Many of my patients have heard me discuss how important gratitude is. As society becomes obsessed with ever-increasing conveniences, there is a tendency to take nearly everything for granted. We hit a button and heat pours into our house. We press the pedal on the right, and we can go nearly anywhere. Our seats are heated, yet we complain that our steering wheel isn’t. There’s high definition, virtual reality and augmented reality. How slow and boring it now feels to see the world play out in “real” time. Why bother climbing to the top to capture that vista when a drone can do it for us in HD? We enjoy all of these conveniences, but are we really grateful for them?

Most of us would benefit from the experience of having less for a while. After my night of winter camping, I’ve never been more grateful for my warm house and soft bed….

 

 

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