Mental health

Do What You LOVE

Posted by Zac Crouse on April 03, 2019
man playing the guitar and singing outdoors

Being Your Best Average Self: Part Three

This is part three of a three part series. Click here to read part one and part two


There's a reason why you avoid your physiotherapy exercises: boredom.

You may do a few leg lifts the day before your appointment. But I'm willing to bet you're not following your daily routine.


Physiotherapy feels good and I'm sure it works reasonably well. [Do your own research. I'm here to promote therapeutic recreation]. But humans tend to avoid things that are unpleasant, uncomfortable, and boring.


I used to go through the same weekly charade before my piano lessons as a kid. "Maybe if I run through those scales 15 minutes before the lesson...."


If you don't love it; or at least enjoy it - you won't do it. So, what's your favourite thing to do? The activity you love?


Everyone needs a meaningful leisure activity. Actually, everyone needs a few. One for good weather, one for bad. One to do with friends and one for hanging out by yourself.


You're going to get more health benefits from doing things outside; but that isn't always practical. At the very least you need one creative activity - like art, music, or building - and one physical activity.


As long as you have interests that allow you to do regular physical activity and have a creative outlet, that's good enough. That's Being Your Best Average Self.


It's also a big part of therapeutic recreation. It’s right there in the word: recreation. Re-create. What is the thing you do that re-creates you?


Therapeutic recreation involves using those meaningful leisure activities to improve the quality of your life. That could mean improving cognition by playing cards, managing symptoms of depression through dance, or recovering from PTSD by kayaking your face off and playing music with your friends. I knew a guy once who did that. 


When I had to figure out my recovery process for PTSD, I decided to take my own advice. 

I did as much physical activity and played as much music as I could; while surrounding myself with my best friends. I packed my life full of all of my favourite things knowing eventually my brain would catch up to reality.


But my PTSD symptoms didn't magically disappear when I finished my kayak trip from the Ottawa valley to Halifax. My health puzzle took a bit of time to put together. I had to get over my aversion to talk-therapy and I had to take some drugs (SSRIs) for a while. This helped my brain calm down and I learned new techniques for dealing with trauma. I also had to make significant changes to my life to reduce stress (i.e. no more touring).


These days my favourite activity is surfing. I'll tell you all about it in the fourth instalment of this blog series.


These are the basics. Can you put ONE physical activity and ONE creative activity in your life on a regular basis?

Good enough.


About the Author 

Zac Crouse (M.Ed, CTRS) is a recreation therapist, musician & expedition kayaker who delivers keynote presentations and workshops focusing on mental health, recreation and leadership.


Zac has a unique ability to discuss sensitive topics with respect and humour. His presentations are designed to engage and entertain the audience through stories, film and live music.


Zac has worked for over 17 years as a frontline practitioner with at-risk youth & families. He specializes in working with individuals who have mental health and substance use issues; and has an extensive background in adventure therapy and eco-therapy.


Zac has instructed at St. FX University for the Faculty of Education and at Dalhousie University for the Faculty of Health & Human Performance. Zac is a contributing author to Quality Lesson Plans in Outdoor Education (Human Kinetics). He has also acted as a consultant in Belize on a national citizenship curriculum for youth. Zac is currently an instructor at the University of Lethbridge Faculty of Health Sciences.


In 2013 Zac released the film Paddle To The Ocean – a documentary about Zac’s use of recreation therapy as part of his treatment for PTSD. He uses this film as part of his work as a keynote speaker and workshop facilitator on the topics of mental health, leadership and recreation therapy.


In addition to paddling class IV+ white water in Uganda, Mexico, the USA & Canada; Zac has circumnavigated the islands of Newfoundland (2006 – sea kayak) and Cape Breton (2002 – canoe) and travelled from Ottawa ON to Halifax NS using only self-propelled transportation (2011 – sea kayak & bicycle).


Zac is extensively certified in water-based sports through Paddle Canada [canoe, kayak, paddle board].