Photo of the bulletin board outside the College Outdoor office
Photo by Aidan D'Anna

Students seek new ways to maintain wellness

Even though most traditional sports have been relegated to personal fitness exercises because of COVID-19, and outdoor activity now means a socially distanced walk in the woods, it is still important for students to stay active and stay healthy.

College Outdoors (CO) provides Lewis & Clark students with the opportunity to engage with the nature of the Paci c Northwest through their hiking, backpacking, skiing and rafting programs. Despite some modifications to their programs, CO is still the easiest way for students to engage in structured outdoor activity.

Michael Mulrennan ’22 is an assistant leader for CO and leader of the CO Open House program, a biweekly information session aimed at attracting new participants to CO.

“In normal years … we would go and take our vans and travel to places outside of the Portland area,”Mulrennan said. “But due to the restrictions put in place to keep students safe … we can’t go off campus, so everything has to be within walking distance.”

CO has begun to utilize the Riverview Natural Area behind Griswold Stadium and Fir Acres Theatre for hikes, as well as leading hiking and ethnobotany trips through Tryon Creek State Natural Area. CO is making these modifications not only to meet COVID-19 regulations, but because they believe they can reach a greater number of students this way.

“(Staying closer to campus) has been a good way to get folks who maybe can’t afford trips through College Outdoors in normal years,” Mulrennan said.“It’s been a lot more inclusive for folks who might have a couple of hours on a Saturday or a Sunday to just get out and do a hike through Tryon or Riverview.”

In addition to physical fitness, there are also opportunities for students to engage in exercises related to their mental health. For example, the Office of Spiritual Life is hosting a weekly guided meditation session via zoom this semester that is open to all LC students.

Jeanne Lilly is the contemplative and spiritual life coordinator at LC, as well as the leader of those weekly guided meditations.

“Normally we would hold our sessions in person in the basement of the chapel,” Lilly said. “But like so many other offices we have had to start doing a lot of our work online through Zoom.”

Similar to the nature of the CO trips, Lilly’s meditation sessions are open to all LC students, and are aimed at attracting the widest audience possible. Anyone is welcome, and all students are encouraged to participate.

“I want to support students who find that in this time of their life, some regular practice would be useful,” Lilly said. “(The weekly meditations use) general mindfulness meditation, in which we begin by settling in, and focusing on the breath of body sensations. Then we notice thoughts arising with the encouragement to allow them simply to pass if we can.”

Both Lilly and Mulrennan agree that supporting one’s physical and mental well-being is extremely important during this uniquely challenging time.

“Even just getting outside … was incredible, just exploring a new part of what is basically our campus that I had never explored before,” Mulrennan said. “I know that our participants also had a good time and … it was a chance for them to get off campus.”

Lilly stresses the mental wellness one can achieve even while staying in one’s room.

“I think that my connection to a higher consciousness is extremely important during this time, and I know it is for many people,” Lilly said. “(There is research that suggests that) if adolescents have a connection to a higher consciousness, it buffers them against mental health problems.”

CO is leading a backpacking trip through Tryon on the weekend of Sept. 26-27, and the Office of Spiritual Life hosts weekly meditation sessions on Thursdays at 4 p.m. In addition, if you would like to receive the newsletter for the Office of Spiritual Life, please contact spirituallife@lclark.edu.

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