A family walks through a forest on a path. The parents push a child in a stroller while two children ride bicycles behind them. Everyone looks to be enjoying themselves. Parks and Recreation. Spark Solutions.

Parks and Recreation – A Key to Wellbeing

It’s June again! This means we’re celebrating Parks and Recreation Month, proclaimed by the Government of Saskatchewan and 30 communities across Saskatchewan. Parks and recreation have been central to our wellbeing over the past year. Outdoor parks have been where many of us have had to engage in our recreation and physical activity. In fact, going outside for walks has been key to maintaining and regaining my mental and emotional health, and has been the almost exclusive site of my social life. This has been the case for many others as well.

I have developed a new appreciation for parks over the course of this pandemic. I’ve also developed a stronger interest for leisure activities. I’ve made an unofficial goal to seek out as many adventures as I can this summer. So far, that’s included driving to new parks outside of my neighbourhood and day trips out of the city to hike new trails. It’s also included visits to provincial parks and checking out local tourist attractions like the Remai Modern art gallery and the Forestry Farm Park & Zoo. Because of these activities, I’ve felt happier and more optimistic, experienced an increased connection to my spirituality, felt greater connection to those I go on adventures with, and had greater connection to my community.

So Many Benefits

My experience isn’t unique. Participating in recreation and spending time in parks contributes to greater life satisfaction, increased mindfulness and happiness, lower stress, plus many other benefits. Mutz and Muller (2016) found that teen participants reported an increase in life satisfaction, mindfulness and a decrease in demand after a multi-day hike through the Alps. As well, participants scored higher in life satisfaction, happiness, mindfulness, and self-efficacy and lower in perceived stress after having spent eight days in the wilderness of the Norwegian Hardangervidda region, miles away from the next locality.

Here at Home

Back here at home, Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association found that parks and recreation are leading factors by which people in Saskatchewan measure and assess their happiness and quality of life. Outdoor parks, playgrounds, and paths, indoor recreation facilities and organized recreation programs are rated widely available, valuable and of good quality. As a result, respondents of that survey felt that people in Saskatchewan have a very good quality of life.

2 Hours Is All You Need

When we spend time in nature, our self reporting of good health and wellbeing significantly increases from when we don’t. All it takes is 2 hours per week. White and colleagues (2019) found that it did not matter if this was through one long stint or multiple, short stints. It’s fortunate when we experience our recreation and sport activities in nature- we experience the benefits from participating in an organized activity, and being in nature.

How do you plan to get outside and celebrate June is Parks and Recreation month? What are your plans for experiencing nature this summer? My goals remain the same. Gather with friends and family and experience new sights and places. And celebrate our ability to! I hope you celebrate too.

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