The Nature of Nature
By Megan Repass, MA, CCTP
Excerpt from The Onsite Journal Volume II
The Nature of Nature: Unlock the Healing Power of the Outdoors
How nature heals
Could you find two hours in your week, just 17 minutes in each day, to improve your mental health?
What if I told you those two hours would also help you lower your blood pressure, cortisol levels and pulse rates, reduce the level of anxiety and negative thought patterns you experience, and increase your creativity and overall personal satisfaction with life?
If it sounds too good to be true, hear me out.
There is a growing mountain of research supporting the outsized benefits of creating space in our often-over-extended lives to spend time outdoors. A simple Google search results in hundreds of quantitative and qualitative research studies supporting the absolute necessity of being outside for our overall health.
Despite the adverse and dramatic effects, our routines rarely take us outside for any significant amount of time. In fact, it’s estimated that Americans spend 90% of their lives indoors.
We are an increasingly urban species.
In 2008 homo sapiens officially became a predominantly urban species, with more than 50% of the world’s population living in cities or towns. Scientists predict that in the next thirty years, roughly 70% of humanity will live in an urban area.
These statistics are an indicator that without some shifts in behavior and intentional effort, we will become further disconnected from nature and green space, spending more and more time indoors.
This research confirms what I see as one of my deepest callings as a therapist—to get people outside in a non-traditional therapeutic setting, to find the healing, restoration, connection, and resilience we all deserve. As is the case for many people, my passion stems from my own experience.
Nature’s role in my story
As a college athlete, my dreams felt shattered when I seriously injured my back in a horse accident. Lucky to be able to walk, but no longer able to pursue athletics, I was lost and became severely depressed. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life when,
by the grace of God, I decided to attend a National Outdoor Leadership program. I spent three and a half months on the trail, backpacking, learning wilderness leadership, exploring the river, and rock climbing. It was so out of my comfort zone, yet it was remarkable how comfortable I became in the backcountry. I rediscovered myself in nature. I connected with a power much greater than me and was instilled with the hope I so desperately needed. To this day when I’m depleted, I find a way to be in nature.
Nature has a way of reminding me just how resilient I am—and how small I am in this world, yet how meaningful I am to my Creator. God used nature to move me from a place of stagnation to a place of adventuring. I want to help other people tap into that place in their soul that comes alive when we embrace all nature has to teach us.
I want to help people unlock the healing properties that I know exist for them just outside their comfort zone in the great outdoors.
How do we get outside?
I am not suggesting we quit our jobs and become park rangers. Instead, I want to invite people to make a few subtle shifts to their routines. All you need to do is commit to 17 minutes in nature a day—or just 2 hours a week!
Research suggests spending 120 minutes in nature per week can drastically improve our overall health. If this sounds too substantial or unobtainable, consider that the average adult spends almost two times that amount of time per day on their phone. The good news for many of us is that research also shows that the time can be spent outdoors all at once or broken up into several shorter outings per week.
An invitation to “be” in nature
Now, before we just decide to take the next conference call outdoors, there’s a catch. Being outside is different than being in nature.
The challenge is to find more space to truly be in nature, an effort that requires our presence and willingness to take the time to become aware of our surroundings.
Like any lifestyle change, intentional, sustainable shifts over time will help us incorporate more green space into our lives. At Onsite, we’ve coined a phrase for the phenomenon of how making small adjustments can have a monumental impact over time. We call it the two-degree shift, and we believe it can change our lives!
Ready to find some green space? We don’t need to wait until we have an entire weekend to devote to getting outdoors. Start today!
MEGAN REPASS, MS, CCTP, LADAC II, CCM, is Onsite’s Director of Onsite Adventures. Blending her extensive time spent as an outdoor educator and backcountry guide with her experience as a therapist, Megan crafts distinct adventures and experiences that provide a deeper understanding of self.
Experience the healing power of the outdoors with Onsite by joining us for one of our week-long Onsite Adventures: The Montana Equine Program, which takes participants packing into the Bob Marshall Wilderness, or one of our Colorado Equine Programs, which are hosted at a beautiful working dude ranch in the foothills of Colorado.