The nature-nurture debate has sparked interest in recent years, as people have observed the impact of environmental factors in changing one’s behavior. Most psychologists argue that people’s experiences are shaped by both their nature and how they’ve been nurtured, rather than one or the other. As environmentalists have noted that the human mind is filled as a result of experiences, researchers are beginning to ask what kind of environments might best support personal growth. They have found a myriad of reasons why nature itself is nurturing and suggest that wilderness therapy programs may be an effective way to motivate behavioral changes.
4 Ways Nature Can be Nurturing
- Teens are removed from stressors of an urban environment.
Teens today spend more time indoors and connected to wifi than in nature, connected to their surroundings. It is easy to get sucked into by social media, constant texting, and schoolwork and distracted from the present moment. Spending time outside involves unplugging from technology and taking “time off” from stressors in one’s everyday life.
- Time in nature reduces physical stress.
Many researchers have observed a decrease in both the heart rates and levels of cortisol of participants who spent time in the forest compared to those in the city. Even a view of nature out a window is associated with lower stress and higher life satisfaction.
- Spending time outdoors can renew energy.
Teens often get up in cycles of stress and struggle to find the motivation to hit the “reset” button. Natural environments offer a restorative effect for people struggling with fatigue. The beauty of a natural environment has the power to inspire a sense of inner peace and belonging in the universe. Participating in adventure activities doesn’t necessarily require prior experience and builds teens’ confidence by boosting their energy.
- Wilderness environments help fight feelings of depression and anxiety.
Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues may all be eased by some time in nature — especially when that’s combined with exercise. One study found that walks in the forest were associated with decreased levels of anxiety and bad moods, and another found that outdoor walks could be “useful clinically as a supplement to existing treatments” for major depressive disorder. Nature offers a variety of positive experiences that challenge teens’ beliefs that many situations in life are hopeless and meaningless.
Wilderness therapy programs combine elements of traditional therapy, like individual, group, and family therapy, with elements of nature therapy, like a natural environment and adventure activities, to transform the lives of teens.
Wilderness environments offer a shift in perspective that help teens feel more connected to themselves and others and encourages them to reflect on how their emotions affect the choices they make. Teens transition from wilderness programs feeling more resilient and confident about overcoming other obstacles in their lives.
Trails Carolina Can Help
Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program that helps teens ages 10-17 who are struggling with mental health issues and risky behaviors. This program uses adventure-based therapy to help students gain a new sense of self-awareness, confidence, and independence. Trails’ unique family programming involves parents throughout their teen’s journey and encourages them to explore what a healthy relationship would look like. The skills they learn throughout the wilderness program offer long-term benefits towards their ability to successfully self-navigate in the real world.
For more information about wilderness therapy, call 800-975-7303. We can help your family today!