Hitting his head whilst exiting a dungeon during a castle trip with his primary class would turn out to be life-altering for Nat Spring in many ways. After initially being diagnosed with concussion this turned to Post-Concussion Syndrome and he now continues to struggle with challenges caused by the head injury, including suffering from severe fatigue, sensitivity to light and noise, poor concentration and memory loss. Also, he’s been unable to return to his love of teaching.
But it’s also had a life changing effect in other ways. He started to set himself challenges, to move forward by focussing on what he could do. This lead him to his Wellbeing 40 Day Challenge. To tour Scotland by cycling everyday for 40 days. But also to inspire others, to pass on the importance of getting active, being outdoors and improving your wellbeing one day at a time.
Nat sent us a fantastic write up of his experience, explaining more about how much of an impact this challenge made on his life, how he wanted the support from others to be their own 40 Day challenge and the massive benefits from regular activity outdoors, no matter how big or small that may be.
“With the support from Alpkit Foundation and others, I was able to cycle for 40 days, exploring and discovering wild places around Scotland. My plan was to cycle for 40 days in Scotland with the purpose of aiding and expediting my recovery from a head injury. My second goal was to include, motivate and impact at least 40 other individuals along the way.
The main focus of these challenges was and is to help folks establish wellbeing habits in their lives. My journey took me through the Borders, the Lothians, the Trussucks, up past Killin and Schiehallion on route to Inverness. I then travelled across to Aberdeen, down to St Andrews, before returning home to North Berwick.”
On my trip I learned about pacing myself and taking notice. If I went too fast I would struggle later in the day. I had to set an alarm to remind me to stop and eat, forcing me to take regular breaks. Stopping to take photos also helped me to slow down and take notice of my surroundings. Most effective was recording unusual sounds that I came across each day.
Using a sense that I did not use regularly, was much more effective than I imagined. Months later, I still have vivid memories of where I was and what I was doing when I recorded each sound. Most memorable was listening to an owl as I lay in my tent in the middle of the night.
By cycling and being outdoors, in all weathers, made me feel connected not only to my surroundings but to myself. I have found in the months since returning home, when I am stuck and cannot think or feel disconnected…. I get outside. This gives me space and permission to reconnect. It blows the cobwebs away and enables me to focus on what is important and forget about the small stuff. It gives me the gift of perspective. I returned from my adventure definitely further down the road of recovery than when I left.
Not only am I physically stronger but I have gained confidence in my ability to be resilient despite my head injury. My journey has taught me that it is not only a good idea to get outside regularly but that it is actually an essential ingredient to my overall level of wellbeing. I learned that by using a different sense helped to heighten my experience of the here and now and in turn made me feel more present. What a blessing getting outdoors and exploring wild places has been, who would have thought?
Over 70 people signed up to do their own 40 Day Wellbeing Challenge. It has been humbling to see the effect the challenge has had on folk.”
After registering the 40 Day Well Being Challenge as a CIC, the Covid-19 pandemic unfortunately impacted on a lot of Nat's plans for taking it forward, however it hasn't stopped him getting out. Nat went on to complete a 100 day challenge, making sure he got out everyday and this has continued to help his over-all wellbeing, but also helped him start doing something he had always hoped to be able to do. Chasing a bit of a dream. @natspringphotography