7 Ways Adventures Improve Mental Health
We are currently in the middle of the busiest season for all sorts of adventures: summer! The air is warmer, days are longer, and the sunshine beckons us to be out exploring. I’ve been enjoying the benefits of an adventurous spirit, most of which are for mental and emotional health. I often encourage my clients to adventure in some way. A remarkable thing happens as soon as they begin to consider the idea of an adventure--they start to feel better! I want to be clear that an “adventure” doesn’t have to include days and miles out in the wilderness with massive amounts of survival skills. Adventure means something different to everyone. It can be as simple as taking your daily walk via a different route, or trying a new restaurant. Be creative and courageous! The important thing is that you’re trying something different and looking forward to it.
Here are 7 reasons Adventures are good for your mental health:
Going on an adventure (big or small) is one of the greatest ways to hit the “reset” button. There are all sorts of reasons resetting can be good for mental health. Someone who is consumed with anxious thoughts about finances or a rocky relationship may benefit from simply taking a walk around the block. Rain or shine, this will activate your senses and help you get out of your head. Maybe a heavy rain cloud of depression has been hanging out in your corner for a bit too long. Finding a way to pursue activities you enjoy can create space for more joyful experiences that will drive that little rain cloud away.
When it’s the dead of winter in Western Washington, it’s a lucky day if we even see the sun, and then it’s gone by 3:30pm. It can be really easy to lose perspective and get lost in a woe-is-me, “I’m stuck in darkness forever” mindset (guilty!). Adventure can pull us out of our dark trenches of sad, hopeless, or anxious minds and shed fresh perspective on life for us. Sometimes it takes legitimate effort to remember the good things--those that were, are, or are yet to be.
Whether it’s getting reacquainted with your inner self, spirituality, romantic partner, BFF, or a perfect stranger, bonding is my favorite benefit of adventuring. Even when flying solo, a sense of “bonding,” or connection, can be achieved. There is just something about getting out of our regular habitat and routines that helps foster genuine presence with ourselves and those around us. Feeling connected is one of the best anti-depressants you can find.
Think of the last time you went on a trip somewhere. Do you remember the feeling you had leading up to it? Planning an adventure gives birth to hope, desire, and excitement--which we all need a little more of, if you ask me! Remember, it doesn’t have to be a trip to be adventurous. It can be something as small as planning to make a new recipe this week (or making your favorite old one!), or doing something on a weeknight that you’d normally only do on the weekend. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you’re looking forward to it.
Creativity is a survival skill. Unfortunately, creativity is enormously stifled by anxiety and depression. It is so difficult to use our imaginations when we are overwhelmed, which can lead to “tunnel vision”. When we become fixed on one result or destination, things become pretty bleak really fast. Setting out on an adventure will shift your focus just enough to broaden your scope, and possibly inspire change.
There’s a certain level of risk involved with adventures. You have to be open and willing to try something new, and it might not go the way you planned or hoped. (It might be even better!) Either way, the more adventures you take, the more confident you become in your ability to live through new and unpredictable circumstances. For example, if you decide to take up horseback riding, you will grow increasingly comfortable on the back of the horse. Over time you might challenge yourself to trail riding. This sort of risk taking will strengthen and increase your confidence when facing challenges in all other areas of your life.
Memories can be slippery little devils, but I would hope the majority of your memories of adventuring evoke positive emotions. Humans have an affinity for nostalgia, so creating a collection of memories that remind us of fun, exciting, and creative experiences can be really helpful for combating depressive feelings. When in the thick of a particularly dark season, being able to recall our favorite adventure memories may result in feelings of hope and gratitude, as well as serve as a reminder that depression is not all we’ve ever known.
There are, of course, so many more benefits to adventure-taking than I’ve listed here! I would love for you to share in the comments what you find beneficial or therapeutic about adventures!
Written by Kendra Bralens MA LMHCA
Kendra is a practicing counselor at King Therapy Associates
Find out more at https://kinghealthassoc.com/kendra-bralens-ma-lmhca