The Power of the Wilderness
Do you find that being in the wilderness (alone or with friends) improves your mood? Does it help you get past a bad experience? Is it refreshing? I am currently chilling in Afghanistan (no need for thanks, as I’m here for self-serving reasons), and it’s given me a lot of time to think about how much I miss the mountains. I told a friend of mine (let’s call her Sarah Kool) in the medical field that the outdoors might be helpful for “bad calls.” I also did some research.
It has been suggested that decreased nature experience may help to explain the link between urbanization and mental illness. Check out this snippet from a study (http://www.pnas.org/content/112/28/8567) by Stanford:
“One mechanism [toward increased mental illness] might be the impact of nature exposure on rumination, a maladaptive pattern of self-referential thought that is associated with heightened risk for depression and other mental illnesses. Findings of the effects of a relatively brief nature experience suggest that feasible investments in access to natural environments could yield important benefits for the “mental capital” of cities and nations.”
Being outdoors helps improve your mental health. It alters the way the brain functions at a basic level, shifting bloodflow, hormone levels, and altering our perceptions of life and ourselves. Parts of the brain that normally light up when we’re having negative thoughts stay quiet when we’re in the outdoors. In other words, being outside “benefits human cognitive function and mood.”
Perhaps, in my opinion, it’s partially from being away from everyone telling you what you’re supposed to be—how sexy you should be, how much money you should have, how cool your friends ought to be…all that junk. Instead, you’re appreciative. Appreciative for being alive. For seeing such beauty. Smelling such sweet smells of life. Feeling gentle breezes.
I hope that you can join me and the others on here in the wonderful outdoors! “Yet He frequently withdrew to the wilderness to pray.” (Luke 5:13) At least for me, it’s very healthy.
“A mountain is the best medicine for a troubled mind. Seldom does man ponder his own insignificance. He thinks he is master of all things.” —Finis Mitchell, “Wind River Trails”
With love, always.