Have you ever gone on an adventurous activity outdoors and felt mentally energized afterward? There’s a reason for this — doing fun things outdoors actually has a lot of physical and mental benefits. The satisfaction you feel isn’t just a feeling of “Hey, this is cool,” there are actual things happening in your brain and body that make you feel good.
That’s why adventure activities and outdoor recreation are a core part of our program at Kaizen Academy. At our residential treatment center, we help teenagers who are struggling with sexual behavioral problems, and some good old-fashioned exposure to Mother Earth is one of the best ways to help someone who’s in stress.
Here are some reasons why outdoor activities are a boon to your brain and body:
- Trees Quite Literally Reduce Stress: Here’s your fun fact for the day: research suggests that trees release airborne chemicals which have a soothing effect on the human body. Exposure to trees has been shown to reduce blood pressure, and lower the level of stress hormones in your body such as cortisol. There’s a reason why people are often stressed in the city and at peace in the forest — it’s mother nature working its magic!
- Exercise Helps Our Brain Feel Better: While we won’t dive into a bunch of medical jargon in this blog post, it suffices to say that there are many chemicals that our brain releases when we get exercise, and not only do they help our body become stronger, they also help our minds to feel more clear and content. People tend to focus on the physical benefits of exercise, but the mental benefits are just as important. Activities such as hiking, biking, and snowboarding all help to release these chemicals.
- Outdoor Recreation Can Replace Destructive Activities: Whether it’s the teenagers at Kaizen who struggle with sexual problems, or someone who has a completely different type of addiction, one of the most effective means of recovering from bad habits is to replace them with more productive ones — outdoor recreation is a perfect fit. It’s also useful for the teenagers at our Utah RTC on a chemical level — new experiences and adventures are a good source of dopamine. Pornography addiction tends to cause dopamine “overdose” in the brain; by replacing it with outdoor adventuring, dopamine is still produced, but at much healthier levels.
- Outdoor Activities are Pro-Social: Isolation and loneliness are the enemies of recovery. Lonely people are naturally more vulnerable, and more likely to sink to deeper lows than someone who’s surrounded by good company. Outdoor activities are ideal for social interaction. Whether it’s a hike which provides continual conversation, or sports which demand cooperation and strategizing, it’s a far better alternative to being sedentary inside of a building.