When the world around you becomes quieter, does the world inside you become louder?
When we have the opportunity to spend time in the outdoors, in the countryside, the beach, the moorlands, the mountains or on the water, do we use the opportunity to its full potential? Are we really able to reconnect with ourselves and the natural world or are we just spending time at an environment and going through the motions?
In this blog we take a look at the outdoors and how it can really support and develop our mental health and our mind-set.
We all have physical health.
We spend time, money and energy looking after ourselves, we talk to doctors and nurses when we feel ill and we discuss our physical health with our friends and family with no second thought. It is accepted that we all have physical health….
We all have mental health.
The majority of us spend very little time, money and energy looking after our mental health.
We often ignore that niggling little feeling or dismiss it entirely. We don’t give it any time and many of us won‘t visit a doctor or nurse or even talk about it to our friends or family.
Just like healthy eating, doing regular exercise and focusing on our physical health we need to spend some time and energy focusing on maintaining our mental health.
What would change if you spent a little more time and energy on your mental health?
“What surprises me most is “Man”, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he doesn’t enjoy the present; The result being he doesn’t live in the present or the future; He lives as if he’s never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.” Dalai Lama.
A taboo subject - stigma, awareness and education.
Who talks about Mental health?
Our own mental health can be such a difficult subject to discuss.
It is like our own breath, the beat of our heart, it is completely individual and unique to each one of us and yet we all have one.
Talking about it to others can make us feel insecure, exposed and vulnerable.
There may be absolutely no requirement to talk about anything, life is good and we can enjoy the amazing Adventure that is life, other times we may really want to talk to someone, we are experiencing some sort of change or a challenging time and life is a little bit of a mis-Adventure.
It’s ok not to be ok.
Many people will refuse to acknowledge any flaw exists and so there is nothing to talk about.
We wear a mask and outwardly project that our inside world is all good.
How many times have you answered, “I’m fine” when you actually feel ‘under the weather’.
What would have changed if you had talked about how you were really feeling?
How would you have changed?
For some, finding solace in a bottle of something, doing lots of physical exercise or something similar is a way of controlling emotions and keeping a lid on things. It’s common to use crutches like this as a method of normalising, controlling or self-destructing while trying to appear ’normal’ to those around us.
In the military, as well as many other walks of life, it can be regarded as a weakness to show any sort of flaw in your physical or your mental health.
A big step to take is to notice and take stock of how you’re feeling, really acknowledge about how and what you feel. In order to do this we often need the time and the space, which empowers us to take a step back and look inside ourselves. When do you have these opportunities?
For some, it can also be useful to have an awareness of the barriers that prevent us from being more than we can be.
Stigma can be a barrier to this and there are a couple of stigmas attached to the topic of mental health.
Overcoming the stigma that ‘it’s not ok‘ to talk to someone, anyone, about how you feel can be a huge, difficult step to take.
Not only is it a huge step to admit to yourself that there may be an issue, but you also are opening up to those who mean something to you.
You have all the strength you need and your amazing, taking the step can be a huge challenge and it can be a huge relief once you have done it.
Talking to your best friend, your mum, your dad, your brother or sister, even someone you meet on a course or Adventure can be a massive undertaking and can have seriously rewarding consequences and light the fuse to great change.
A stigma or belief only exists if we continue to give it energy. Talk to someone and know that, it is ok, not to be ok.
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Today’s society is changing. There is a heightened level of awareness around mental health, more and more people are acknowledging the impacts of the things that we do in our day-to-day lives can have on our well being.
While our awareness grows of others and our own mental health, we must also become aware that we are sometimes feeding in to other stigmas, stigmas that are created through stereotyping, pigeon holing and the methods used by main stream and social media to represent either the conditions that some people may suffer from, as well as the types of people who may suffer from them. For example, millennials, the armed forces veterans’ community, the homeless, the class system…
The level of awareness is healthy in today’s society and to progress it forward further would now be to have a healthy awareness with an open mind rather than relying on what media sources tell us or portray people.
Having an open mind reduces judgement, it allows us to become educated and make informed decisions around the subject.
To learn is to live and to live is to have an Adventure!
While most mental health conditions will have text book symptoms and manifestations people will demonstrate those symptoms and the condition will manifest itself in an individual way.
We all have our own model of the world.
We can all suffer from a common cold or flu but how we deal with the symptoms and how we present ourselves while we suffer from that cold or flu can be very different.
Learning about a condition, remaining open minded and aware that the stigma or the way some want you to see the condition may not be the way it is presented by many.
For example PTSD within the veterans community is not presented the way many mainstream media outlets and some story writers want you to see it, the drunk, angry, abusive veteran who doesn’t have anyone close to them and goes day-to-day, alone, barely functioning and suffering flashbacks and other issues…. many of us do work, function highly and manage our symptoms quietly, behind the scenes so that it doesn’t show to the outside world.
Our values and ethos remain strong and we are driven to maintain an outward face of normality.
Do the research, talk to each other, understand and learn about the model of the world of the person who has the condition. In the long term it will eliminate the stigmas and boost and develop the awareness.
It is only positive to be open and engaged in learning.
The outdoors as a mental workout.
What does all this have to do with the outdoors and nature?
It is important to have a brief understanding of the above so it allows us to engage in a conversation about the range of tools available to us all as well as opening the door for us all to explore ourselves.
The outdoors can have a huge impact on all of us. It can create opportunity for us to reconnect with the natural world around us, the world which we originally come from, and that we have lost so much contact with as we have developed in to a race who want everything immediately, and as easily as possible.
We are losing the art to survive and not just by way of foraging or hunting for food, materials or shelter.
Adventurous activities can create opportunity for us to test our resilience, push our boundaries, create goals and to achieve amazing outcomes!
It can allow us time away from our every-day environment, our screen and technology, or vehicles and the noise and distraction of work or home stress and pressures.
It can allow us to lessen our impact on the world around us, draw our energy inwards and experience ourselves from feeling the earth below our feet to the beating of our own hearts, the smells of the trees and flowers, the noise of the birds and the breeze and the gentle swaying of the trees or the turning of our one shared world.
‘Its quiet…too quiet...’
To set an effective ambush we must establish and set everything up well in advance, hour’s maybe even days before the target approaches.
The reason is because of the amount of disturbance and the impact we have on the world around us when we move in to that ambush position.
This is where the cinema classic ‘its too quiet’ comes from. We have disturbed the natural world and it has fled to get away from the unnatural things. It takes time for things to return to normal and the unnatural quiet disappears.
During this unnatural quiet our thoughts can really become apparent, like the tinnitus ringing in our ears, our inside world can become much loader, much more noticeable and this can sometimes be overwhelming! How can you make it stop? How can you regain control?
Just like the team setting up the ambush our world can have the same impact on us.
Our day-to-day activities can act as the team setting up the ambush and our ability to notice and be aware of how or what we are feeling, both positive and negative is lost to getaway to somewhere that represents normal.
In that moment we lose the skills to understand, and we move so we become accustom to a new normal.
As humans we have moved away from the natural world and we have lost our skills to the new normal. Now we sometimes get to a point where we become overwhelmed with things and find it harder to establish control or calm or normality.
Your inside world – a challenge.
So, when the world around us becomes quieter, when we take our time and we have the opportunity to spend time outside, does our world inside become louder? Do we allow ourselves to notice what we notice? Do we really take stock of our own thoughts and feelings and ask ourselves what we can do to better ourselves, to help ourselves, to care for ourselves?
Is it ok to challenge you?
I wonder if, next time you go outside, anywhere you can connect to a positive sense of relaxation, calm, distress or unwinding, next time you go for a walk, a bike ride, a climb, a paddle, I wonder if you can stop, just for a moment and notice yourself…your real self and listen to what you are telling yourself.
I wonder what it would tell you...
You are the Adventure...