One’s teenage years can be a tumultuous transitory period. Many young people are on a search for where they fit in the world. It can be a difficult, stressful time in their lives. An extended break from the pressures of school, family and even friends can make a profound impact on teens, both within their minds and how they see themselves as part of a larger world. An adventure in nature can help teens overwhelmed by the changes in their lives slow down and focus on how they fit in. Here’s a look at how ecotherapy can benefit young people.
A nature visit, even for a short time, reduces stress and clears the mind. The more time spent in natural settings the more profound the impact. As a team leader, a weekend hike and camping trip with your team of teens will slow and refocus their minds on the tasks at hand. In an age where digital media is so readily available, some space from the constant expectation of peers can be a relief. Scientists have found that rumination, when someone dwells on sad or negative thoughts, is significantly reduced by extended or frequent doses of nature. Whether you take your teens on a day hike or a weekend adventure into the mountains, make sure everyone in your group has the proper equipment. As a team leader, you should be well-equipped and prepared, not just with equipment, but with an understanding of the natural environment.
How Nature Connects
Teens look for connections in the world they can trust in. They seek personal connections that help them to understand who they are, in addition to connections to the wider world. When you’re walking along the river, on the trail or on top of the mountain, your knowledge of the natural setting can help teens draw connections between plants, animals and even the weather. Human’s are yet another piece of this coexistent puzzle. With a thorough understanding of how humans connect and preserve natural settings, plants and animals, teens can naturally feel a more concrete sense of belonging in a world that seems disconnected from their convoluted lives.
When you explore the natural world with your team, insist that all electronic devices are left behind in the car, or at home. Nature can boost creativity and focus, but if the teens in your group are constantly on their smartphones or have their earbuds in while on the trail, they aren’t engaged with the environment around them. In fact, a study showed that a four-day-long nature trip boosted creative problem solving in students by 50 percent. One of the controls in this study was that the sample group had no access to technology while on their trip.
Extreme Measures, Not Needed
The benefits of ecotherapy don’t require week-long, four-day, or even weekend trips. Studies have shown that as little as 20 minutes a day away from technology and the hustle and bustle of the grind can have a positive impact. As a team leader, you’ll likely have a relationship with parents as well as teens. Inform parents that they should encourage their teens to spend at least 20 minutes a day outside, away from digital technology. A study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology has found that this habit can increase energy levels and awareness.