mental health and the outdoors
By Madison Austin
Mar 15, 2019

The Key to Better Mental Health could be Found in the Great Outdoors

It’s no longer a secret that many people struggle with their mental health and well-being. Over the past decade, there has been a revolution concerning the way we talk about and treat mental illness. Although there is still much work to be done, things that used to be taboo are slowly growing in awareness. And as our communities learn more about mental health, new findings enable us to help those who may be struggling. And better yet for us, Scouting can help! Not only have we experienced the benefits of Scouting ourselves, but new research (see This is Your Brain on Scouting) has also proven that getting outside and spending time in nature can have a huge impact on our mental well-being. 

In partnership with EternalCore: A God Centric Mental Health Conference, we are taking a look at why getting outside is so important and how you can prioritize your mental health. 

You can attend the EternalCore Conference on March 29th & 30th. We’ll be there talking about how Scouting can help. Learn more and sign up HERE.

The Increasing Importance of Connecting with the Outdoors

While there is no substitute for professional help, connecting with nature can bring many benefits to your health – both mental and physical. 

Happy Valley? Maybe not so much. Or, at least, not for everyone.

In Utah, our rapidly expanding population suffers from a higher rate of mental illness than the U.S. average. In our state, 22.3 percent of adults experienced mental illnesses within a year. The national average was only 18.2 percent. Those percentages don’t even take into account undiagnosed illnesses, or instances when people simply struggle with stress, anxiety, sadness, or loneliness. 

There do not seem to be many answers as to what has caused this mental health crisis, but there are a growing number of studies and campaigns putting forward evidence that a connection with nature makes us healthier and happier people, something that few of us nature lovers would argue with. 

Disconnect to Reconnect

In his book, Last Child in the Woods,  Richard Louv explained his experience growing up outdoors.  Louv coins the phrase “Nature-Deficit Disorder,” something many of today’s youth suffer from. One could argue this excludes youth belonging to a troop, family, or youth group that often goes camping.

Not only does this “Nature-Deficit Disorder” affect many youth, parents and adults can also suffer as well. I appreciate my smartphone and other technological luxuries as much as the next person. But when we let them take over our lives, we become disconnected from the natural world. This disconnect can turn into feelings of loneliness, alienation and depression. 

So, we should instead spend some time disconnecting from our phones and getting reconnected with nature. It can be vital for our mental health and well-being. Like Scouts who can happily be without creature comforts and technology for weeks at a time (think: summer camp), everyone who strives to be at peace with silence and nature will most likely see an impact in their mood and overall health.

Healing in Nature

For people suffering from physical illness or mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, interacting with nature can help control their symptoms or even recover, alongside conventional medication. Sarah Benton, M.S., LMHC., LPC, says in Psychology Today: 

“There is a healing power in nature that cannot be measures nor explained, yet it is very real. Time in the wilderness seems to have a healing effect on even the deepest wounds. It is no coincidence that most of the spiritual leaders and teachers throughout time have gone to the wilderness to find healing and purpose in preparation for their life’s work. One of the gifts of the wilderness is the way it gives us an honest look at ourselves, our gifts, talents, weaknesses, character defects and our true potential are all made obvious. It is this honest look at ourselves that allows us to find love and acceptance for who we are and a vision of who we can become …Many of my clients report that they feel most connected to their Higher Power when they are in nature. Even those who identify themselves as agnostic will often agree that they are aware of this connection.” 

How to Get Outdoors and Begin Healing

Whether you need a wilderness getaway or a quick trip outdoors, we have a place for you. With 13 locations across Utah, our camps are open to the public and available for your next getaway. 

One of our most popular destinations is Camp Maple Dell, where you can either rent a cabin through Airbnb or a traditional campsite. For those in southern Utah, you can rejuvenate in the outdoors and explore the nearby national parks by staying at Zion Base Camp. 

Check out this extensive list of our properties for the rest of our locations. 

Sponsor a Scouting Unit and Empower Youth to Get Outdoors

You can help increase happiness and mental health nationwide by investing in organizations that empower youth to get outdoors. Scouting is one of many organizations that have a significant impact on the well-being of youth and families. A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health took a look at Scouts’ brains as they matured. The study showed that adults at age 50 who had been Scouts (or Guides, the program for UK girls in Scouting) “had an 18% lower odds of …mood or anxiety disorder” compared to others their age.

And, according to a study by Tufts University, youth who spent three years in the Scouting program reported “significant increases in cheerfulness…and hopeful future expectation,” said Dr. Richard M. Lerner, who led the study.

You can get involved in Scouting today and help youth and families remember the importance of the outdoors. 

Learn more at EternalCore: A God-Centric Mental Health Conference

eternalCore mental Health Conference

EternalCore was developed to provide an avenue and community for professionals, patients, their caregivers and the general public. This forum instructs, supports and facilitates learning and continuing education about research and treatments associated with God-centric mental health and how it impacts wellness and increases the odds of becoming sound through the body and minds connection to these principles.

Join with us as we explore and validate these important breakthroughs in the heart-brain connection with wellness and full cognitive advancement our minds were created to achieve.

Register Here!

 

Author: Madison Austin | Marketing Specialist, Utah National Parks Council 

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