Other Notable Outdoor Blogs

Grind TV                                                                              http://www.grindtv.com/fitness/reasons-trail-run-cold/#h3djUuX3so9PEqlR.97

Never Stop Exploring                                              http://neverstopexploring.com/2016/03/29/12241/

National Geographic Adventure      http://adventureblog.nationalgeographic.com/2016/03/22/14-year-old-ashima-shiraishi-climbs-hardest-boulder-problem-ever-done-by-a-woman/

The Goat                                                                            http://www.backcountry.com/explore/type-ii-fun

Adventure Journal                                                                                                          http://adventure-journal.com/2016/04/coming-of-age-in-a-wild-place/

Don’t Miss the Meaning

T.S Eliot once said “We had the experience, but we missed the meaning”. I think this is a valuable reminder that we can take lessons from our everyday (and outdoor) experiences and use them to better ourselves for the future, if we just take the time to reflect. It is so easy to let valuable moments pass you by without thought. It takes practice and intention to transfer the thoughts from a single moment and find similar patterns in the bigger picture of your daily life.

David Kolb created a great model that explains how we process an experience and transfer knowledge through something called the Experiential Learning Cycle (ELC). The cycle starts by simply having a ‘concrete experience’. The second step of the ELC is ‘reflective observation’. This entails thinking about the experience you just had in a factual way. Simply put – what happened? Next in the cycle is ‘abstract conceptualization’. How did you feel when the experience was happening? What thoughts were going through your head and how did you react? Through abstract conceptualization, you reflect on whether or not your behavior in this particular situation is part of a pattern of how you respond to similar situations. Do you often find yourself feeling as you did in this moment? The last stage in the ELC is ‘active experimentation’. This is when you take what you have learned and apply it to new situations. How can you try to better yourself and relate to the world around you in a more productive way, given what you have observed about yourself in this moment?

I realize this sounds very nebulous. Let me give an example…

Lets say my concrete experience was that I just went hiking and got caught in an unexpected rain storm. Then through reflective observation, I concluded that I got stuck in a storm I knew nothing about without any gear to protect me from the elements. I ended up getting super cold and ultimately had to cut my day hike short because of my discomfort. Then, through abstract conceptualization, I ask myself why I got in that situation? I concluded that I didn’t check the weather, did not observe the changing weather patterns, and did not think to have rain gear in my pack. This all boils down to me simply not being properly prepared. Then I ask myself, are there other instances where I go into situations unprepared?  If I’m being honest with myself, the answer is yes. For example, I frequently go to class without having read assigned powerpoint in preparation for class and am scrambling to get assignments done. This leaves me feeling stressed and ultimately less successful than if I had thought ahead and completed my tasks in a timely manner. Then through active experimentation, I take these observations and ask myself how I can do better in the future? Maybe I can try to start checking relevant information in advance and making to-do lists so that I can combat my tendencies to go into situations unprepared.

learning-kolb

I think that this concept relates back to the emotional component in the 8 dimensions of Wellness. If you are able to reflect and gain better self awareness on how your behavior and interactions impact your experiences in life, then you will be a more emotionally stable individual.

For more on Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle, check out this website:  http://www.simplypsychology.org/learning-kolb.html

 

Understanding the 8 Dimensions of Wellness

  1. Emotional— This refers to your ability to cope with the stresses and changes occurring in your life. A person who is emotionally stable is able to cope with losses, express themselves effectively (this includes the full spectrum of emotions), and adjust when things are out of their control.
  2. Physical— This has to do with how we take care of our bodies. This includes having healthy eating habits and engaging in the 5 elements of fitness which consist of flexibility, muscular strength and endurance, cardiorespiratory endurance, and body composition on a regular basis. A person who is physically well exercises 75-150 minutes a week depending on intensity and makes efforts to drink lots of water and eat plenty on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats.
  3. Intellectual— This refers to your ability to push yourself cognitively, challenge your mind, and pursue new knowledge. A few examples of ways you can further your intellectual wellbeing is to learn new skills, read books, engage in puzzles and brain teasers, and juggle a full schedule.
  4. Social—Having a rich social life means meeting new people, maintaining friendships, and being content with the amount of time you spend with others.
  5. Environmental— Environmental wellness is rooted in respecting the earth and everything it provides us with. An environmentally well person is conscious of their ecological footprint and recycles and conserves resources whenever possible.
  6. Financial— This has to do with spending within your means and  being financially stable. Ideally, you are able to save a bit each month and not live from paycheck to paycheck.
  7. Occupational— Occupational wellness has to do with finding a fulfilling job that makes you feel like you are a valuable contributor to society.
  8. Spiritual— Being spiritually well has to do with being at peace and seeking purpose in your life. For many people, this is tied closely to their religion.

To learn more, check out the link below:                                http://www.samhsa.gov/wellness-initiative/eight-dimensions-wellness

Hike More, Sleep Better

An NCBI study states that “when people are exposed to sunlight or very bright artificial light in the morning, their nocturnal melatonin production occurs sooner, and they enter into sleep more easily at night. The melatonin rhythm phase advancement caused by exposure to bright morning light has been effective against insomnia, premenstrual syndrome, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).” Similarly, an article in the Scientific American tested the impact of natural light on a persons sleep habits when being compared to primarily artificial light sources. They stated that “after the week’s study indoors, the Colorado subjects went camping in the Rockies. Instead of artificial lighting, they had only sunshine during the day and campfires at night. Wright estimates the light from the sun was four times as intense as what they experienced indoors. The nature of the light also changed during the day. Think of the bright white light of midday and the golden glow that often precedes sunset. After their week of camping, researchers measured the subjects’ melatonin levels again. The researchers found that the onset of melatonin shifted two hours earlier, and the subjects’ actual sleep shifted more than an hour earlier. Their bodies were recalibrating themselves, Wright explained.”

In addition to the positive effects of sunlight on sleep patterns, exercise in general is proven to help you fall and stay asleep better. The Sleep Foundation states that “A nationally representative sample of more than 2,600 men and women, ages 18-85, found that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week, which is the national guideline, provided a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality. People also said they felt less sleepy during the day, compared to those with less physical activity.” From experience I can attest to the positive effect of exercise on sleep patterns. On days when I exercise, I feel like I have exerted enough energy to rest with a fatigued body and a calm mind.

If you want to check more check out these links below: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/trouble-sleeping-go-campi/ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2290997/ https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/study-physical-activity-impacts-overall-quality-sleep

If You Love It, You Will Protect It

The dimension of wellness that I’m touching on in this post is the environmental aspect of wellness. It is our duty to care for the environment that we get so much from. With that being said, taking your exercise outside can help save on electricity and reduce the demand for gyms popping up on every corner. Some cities, including Charlotte, are creating Fitness Zones in parks which incorporate gym equipment into outdoor park areas for public use. There is also a fascinating movement (primarily in Europe) to create green gyms that convert the energy made by exercisers to power the very building they are working out in. One US based green gym is the Green Micro Gym in Portland, Oregon.

Additionally, by exercising in green areas we are reminded that our wilderness areas are invaluable, which further encourages us to care for them. Why would anyone care for something that they don’t know anything about? Respect and appreciation is crucial in order to get people on board with protecting our environment.

Check out the links below to find out more about these green exercise alternatives: https://www.tpl.org/our-work/parks-for-people/fitness-zone-area® http://www.thegreenmicrogym.com

Side note: If you want to make sure you are interacting with nature in a responsible way, check out the 7 principles of Leave No Trace, which were created as a way to help leave nature as untouched as possible while enjoying the outdoors. Learn more at this link: https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles

The Secret to Staying Fit: Find Something You Love Doing

Have you ever been running on a treadmill in the gym and you could swear you’ve been going strong for at least 20 minutes only to look down and see that 5 minutes have passed? *raises hand*

The fact of the matter is, we all live busy lives and if we don’t enjoy the form of exercise that we choose to take part in, we won’t make time for it. Unsurprisingly, NCBI conducted a study and found that ‘lack of time’ and ‘dislike of exercise’ are two major barriers keeping individuals from exercising. This is where I urge people to think outside the box. You are not limited to resistance machines and treadmills to get in shape, you have all of the great outdoors on your side! Go for a trail run, walk your dog, take on paddle boarding or check out rock climbing. Try as many activities as you can until you find the one that speaks to you. Outdoor activities are so multifaceted that its easy to forget that it is even exercise. You quit doing it for the calories that you burned and you start doing it because you get hooked on the fresh air, the freedom, and the task at hand. I am a true believer that we make time for what we love. For example, I am always to busy to fold the ever-growing pile of laundry in my closet, but I am never too busy to grab a coffee with a friend. We prioritize what is important to us, which is why I find time to get outside. For me rock climbing, hiking, and trail running are the activities I get lost in. Its only when my muscles are exhausted and I am out of breathe that I am reminded that what I’m doing is not only good for my soul, but for my body as well. Getting adequate physical activity is a crucial component to a healthy life and is 1 of the 8 dimensions of overall wellness.

To learn more about the personal barriers of engaging in physical activity check out NCBI’s article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1805028/?report=reader

 

Disconnect with Technology and Reconnect with Loved Ones

From my background working with college outdoor programs, I have become accustomed to having a ‘no cellphone’ policy when in the outdoors with my participants. Usually participants give me a blank stare and a furrowed brow when I inform them that their phones can be left at home for our excursions, but by the end of the trip they are perfectly content not having their phones as an extension of their body. It is amazing to see how fast a group can bond together when people no longer hide behind and distract themselves with technology. Instead of retracting back into the safe cyber world of tweets and news feeds, people are pushed to relate to those around them on a deeper and more meaningful level. In urban settings, people are consumed by glowing screens. Whether in line to purchase their groceries, at their desk waiting for lecture to start, or at a dinner table sitting across from loved ones, it is not unusual to see a majority of individuals with their head down, tuning out the rest of the world. The Wall Street Journal recently posted an article about the inverse relationship between access to social networking and society’s satisfaction with their social interactions. In other words, relationships of substance are being replaced by superficial ‘likes’ and ‘friend requests’on social media. Instead of putting energy into knowing the people we work and go to school with in any substantial way, we focus on getting more likes and followers on Instagram and Facebook. This behavior makes avoiding person to person interaction easier and easier. However, when you are in the outdoors and out of cellphone signal’s reach, you are forced to connect with those around you rather than connecting to the internet. I have had my most meaningful conversations with friends and loved ones while on the trail or sitting around a campfire. This is where the social element of the 8 dimensions of wellness comes in. Those who have a vibrant and meaningful social life, have higher life satisfaction. Engaging in meaningful conversation with another human being can lead to new perspectives, validation of thoughts, unexpected musings, laughter, recollection of memories, interests in new hobbies, and inspiration for the future. You are bound to find common ground even with the most unlikely of people when put in a situation where there is nothing but you, them, and all the time in the world. With all this being said, I challenge you to unplug and reconnect with those around you.

To read more about technology and it’s effect on sociability check out The Wall Street Journal’s article: http://www.wsj.com/articles/is-technology-making-people-less-sociable-1431093491

The Natural Approach to Combatting Depression and Anxiety

When I am overwhelmed and my head is racing with countless thoughts, I look to the mountains. Nothing clears and calms my mind like a trail leading to who-knows-where. While my default is to take to the mountains, it doesn’t matter what outdoor adventure you choose to embark on, just that you choose somewhere green and devoid of cars and crowds. A study posted in ACS Publications on the effects of the outdoors on mental wellbeing concluded that “compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger, depression, and increased energy”. If thats not enough to convince you to take a hike, a NCBI article regarding the benefits of sunlight, states that by getting adequate exposure to sunlight, you can attain moderately high serotonin levels which result in ‘more positive moods and a calm yet focused mental outlook’. This all ties into the emotional dimension of the 8 dimensions of wellness. Now I know mother nature isn’t the cure for all that ails you, however time outside can alleviate and help manage the symptoms that go along with depression and anxiety. Science aside, there is something about being reminded of how small you are and how beautiful and vast the world is that can help you gain perspective on the things troubling you.

To read more about the ACS and NCBI articles referenced above click the following links: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2290997/ http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es102947t

Its About the Challenge

From my academic and professional background in outdoor adventure leadership, I have seen and experienced the character developing qualities of outdoor activities.

Outward Bound, one of the two leading experience-based outdoor leadership programs in the U.S., base their program off the model that we build strong character by facing challenges and overcoming adversity. This idea was proposed by Kurt Hahn after he had observed soldiers in World War I. He noticed that the older soldiers were surviving and the younger, more fit soldiers were the ones dying. He reflected on this observation and concluded that the older soldiers were more likely to survive due to their resilience and tenacity, something that can only be gained from experience. His idea was then to create opportunities that challenge young adults on a small scale, say on an outdoor adventure trip, in order to bring out those strong characteristics which would then roll over into participant’s daily life.

One example of how outdoor activities have personally impacted my life is the feeling of independence and resilience gained while backpacking. The idea that I can care for myself in the absence of creature comforts and react appropriately to events out of my control (like bad weather or broken gear) is very empowering. This then transfers over to my everyday life, leaving me feeling more confident and capable of handling whatever life throws my way.

Another example of the impact of outdoor activities would be the idea that I can constantly improve at a skill, yet always have room to go back and do it better the next time. When I rock climb, there is always a move I can make smoother or a route that surpasses my abilities. I love being reminded that there is always room for growth, in every area of my life. The most important thing is to keep coming back and trying again and again in the hopes that one day you will finally make it to the top of that once impossible climb.

The idea of challenge relates back to both the emotional and intellectual dimensions of wellness. As long as you are problem solving and stimulating your brain through challenging situations, you are keeping your brain and memory sharp. In addition to that, challenging situations makes you more resilient to future adversity which makes outdoor activities great for emotional wellness.

To learn more about Outward Bound, check out the link below: http://www.outwardbound.org/about-outward-bound/outward-bound-today/