According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 50 percent of all mental health disorders begin at the age of 14 and 20 percent of adolescents ages 13 to 18 suffer from mental health conditions. These statistics reveal just how important it is to gain knowledge about how to improve mental health in adolescents and young adults. As Henry David Thoreau knew when he wrote, “We need the tonic of wildness…” our environments play a large role in mental health and overall wellbeing. As adolescents, our brains are still forming and can be especially susceptible to environmental stresses such as excess screen time, over stimulation via bright lights or loud music, or simply feeling out of touch with nature.
Our bodies are actually programmed to benefit from nature, as we are made from natural elements. When we spend time in the engrossing mountains, tall trees, and lush wilderness, our endorphins increase and we become less susceptible to stress, anxiety, and other kinds of mental and physical illness. Nature refreshes us, gives us energy, and reminds us that we are not alone. Additionally, nature can help us get in touch with that “tonic of wildness” that Thoreau wrote about.
Some of our societal advances have done the work of “unwilding” us, or distancing us from our wild natures, which being outdoors can reactivate. When we remember that we are part of nature, connected to something larger and wilder, and we start to sync up with the natural rhythms of the sun and the seasons, our overall mental health will improve. That tonic of wildness will imbue us will a new sense of belonging, peace, and true inner calm that only nature can offer.
RedCliff Ascent is a therapeutic wilderness program, nestled between two mountain ranges in the high desert of Enterprise, UT. We focus on adolescents ages 13-17 who are struggling with various challenges from anxiety and depression, to school abandonment and the need to reconnect with their family. With over 25 years of experience, RedCliff uses a relational model and narrative therapy to drive an outcome and an evidence-based approach. RedCliff Recovery offers an experience like no other through a proven, 12-step, adventure-based wilderness program. For more information, call us today: 801-921-8488.