Call of the Wild: How nature can help restore your mental health

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah)- “The question we should be asking is not why does Wilderness therapy work, but why are we still doing therapy on a couch?” says Derek Daley.

Daley is the Marketing Chair of the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council and the Co-owner of Legacy Outdoor Adventures.

From Utah’s mountains to the red rocks, we’re surrounded by nature’s beauty. Now, there’s growing evidence that spending more time out there can have a positive impact on our mental health.

“I needed that extra boost to get out on my own and find purpose in myself, and become a better man…The relationship I have with my family is on a whole new level. Just heading in the right direction..it’s good, it’s great.” says Anthony Sibley, a client at Legacy Outdoor Adventures.
 
“Wilderness therapy is the most effective treatment that I know of for creating change quickly with clients,” says Daley.
 
Legacy Outdoor Adventures is located in Southern Utah, and is also a part of the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council.The council is a network of mental health professionals who believe that nature can be a key part of treatment.
 
“When you take clients who are suffering in life, either because of addiction, mental illness, and generally too much time with technology, just not performing…and you take them to a place in the wilderness, we strip away a lot of the complexity, a lot of the distraction,” explains Daley.

Dr. David Strayer is a professor of Psychology at the University of Utah who has been studying the effects the great outdoors can have on our mental and physical health for the past 10 years. He says the effects are stunning.
 
“First of all, in terms of just our well-being, we feel better, our affect is higher, we’re better at solving problems, our creativity improves, our stress level decreases,” says Dr. Strayer.
 
He says that being outside rests the areas of the brain that are responsible for things such as thinking and planning.

“…So going out on a hike rests those areas, and then when you have to solve a problem or think more clearly, you can do so,” he explains.

Dr. Strayer has seen improvements in patients dealing with simple stress, depression, and even PTSD.
 
“They just become a lot more restored, and kind of more balanced after being in nature,” Dr. Strayer continues.
 
And Sibley, from Legacy Outdoor Adventures, has experienced the benefits for himself, “It’s a really great feeling when you get here, and it feels awesome.”

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