Taking a holistic approach towards mental, emotional, physical, relational and spiritual well-being
What is meant by the inclusion of eco-therapy into this retreat?
Incorporating elements of nature along with the values of authenticity means taking a holistic approach towards mental, emotional, physical, relational and/or spiritual well-being.
Making this connection is made easier when standing beside a land feature eg; waterfall, river, lake, beach, summit or participating in an outdoor activity/pursuit. Whether the connection with nature is an indoors or outdoors experience, turning each land feature into an eco-metaphor gives individuals a working format to construct their own comparative understanding and/or Aha Moments of change.
In each retreat, one or two examples of nature are used as eco-metaphors. The purpose of this is to demonstrate the physical vitality of the ecosystem and how it can enlighten the human personality. The natural environment offers so many psychological benefits that act as natural stimulants of the mind and as an antidote for creating personal well-being.
Before engaging in an indoor or outdoor (weather dependant) eco-metaphor exercise, it is helpful to look at ten health benefits of being eco-active. This will give an easy introduction to the mostly underestimated or neglected wider values of nature.
Unfolding nature’s diversity in the context that ‘healthy living requires the company of nature’ brings home the natural implications of well-being that is accessible to all, without the need of a gym membership or designer sports gear.
“Being captivated by environmental diversity or the inspiration of nature’s sanctuary, is restorative and affirming to the human spirit.”
Nature’s Potential Eco-Health Benefits
Your daily dose of Vitamin D
Maintaining a healthy immune system is helped by exposure to the sun (sensible sun exposure – sunblock does not adversely affect vitamin D levels). Vitamin D is a hormonal chemical which is released into the body by the right amount of sunlight. Vitamin D also known to act as part of the body’s resistance to a range of illnesses.
Decreases depressive feelings or the state of depression
Spending time in the great outdoors with others can help reduce depressive feelings, negative emotional states, attitudes or anti-social behaviour.
Increase personal motivation
There is no doubt that motivation is a strong antidote for encouraging goal setting and accomplishment. Motivation is the stuff champions are made of and forms part of their successful foundation. The benefits of walking, hiking, tramping, climbing, cycling or swimming will leave you feeling refreshed and motivated. The incentive, enthusiasm or impetus for wanting good health needs the company of nature.
Improves your sleep patterns
Having good sleep patterns has a lot to do with having a balanced lifestyle. Spending copious amounts of time indoors and/or being exposed to prolonged periods of artificial light or the blue light from TVs and computer screens can negatively impact on sleep patterns or lead to insomnia or sleep deprivation. Prioritising time outdoors means the natural sunlight can help balance your natural circadian rhythm.
Helps the mind to stay focused
Taking a stroll through a park, hike in the forest or over-night in a hut can be invigorating or restorative as you internalize and externalize a different language with those around you. In this context spending quality time away from your daily routines refreshes an individual’s focus as well as improving cognitive function and problem-solving capability.
Helps balance out stress and anxiety
Busy schedules, demanding timelines and exhaustion can have short- or long-term health and relational consequences. Understanding and applying basic self-awareness, knowing your bottom lines, monitoring individual stress triggers and utilizing self-preservation skills can help balance emotional and psychological well-being. Taking time out to picnic in the natural environment, relax by a stream, the beach, garden or under a tree, looking over a landscape, hill side or mountain range is therapeutic and contributes to balance accumulated stress and anxiety.
A big reason for ignoring the value of scheduling time in nature is procrastination, boredom or being over committed and fatigued. This may stifle the body’s natural highs for making you feel motivated, energetic or content. The body’s natural highs include adrenalin, serotonin, endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin and are known as “happiness hormones”. These neurochemicals play a large part in how we feel, think and act. Having regular contact with the outdoors will help create these happy hormonal highs and keep them in healthy supply.
Exercise helps to refresh oxygen levels, encouragers blood flow and keeps the body moving while getting you in better shape. Even going out for a brisk walk where there is no membership fee or need for special equipment and is as close as going through your front door.
Other Helpful Tips
- Exercise earlier in the day if possible or other times that suits your schedule, but make sure it is regular.
- Avoid temperature extremes.
- Use sunblock.
- Avoid burn out by overdoing it, and do not over-exercise (baby steps).
- Drink enough water/fluid.
- Wear the right gear for the right environment.
- Make the great outdoors part of your lifestyle.
- If going on an overnight hike, take the right gear, leave a plan of your whereabouts, who you are going with and scheduled return and take a locator beacon (PLB).
- Join a walking or tramping club.
Time to Smell the Roses
Just as the earth provides food for nourishing the body, the importance of how nature can nurture the mind and soul of an individual, family and society is another reason for including the values of eco-therapy.
Seeing nature in a holistic sense also helps reinforce the personal perspective of one’s greater-self and purpose. A simple example of this is smelling roses/flowers and noticing how it activates our senses and reminds us that nature has endless eco-values if only we find the time to experience them.
Eco-Therapy – A Contemporary Companion In the Retreat4Change Experience
In the context of Retreat4Change, eco-therapy doesn’t humanize nature but rather explores the synergy or companionship between nature’s physical features, our environmental awareness and relationship with it. Involving the use of an eco-friendly metaphor gives each participant self-direction, as nature becomes the therapist while the retreat director facilitates the experience.
An eco-metaphor is used to integrate one of nature’s physical features to gain enlightenment which can then motivate therapeutic outcomes.
Engaging with one of nature’s living metaphors is a heartening and serene experience from the defeat of disparity.
The inspiration for undertaking an eco-metaphor in nature’s sanctuary strengthens the belief that authenticity is not only possible but already happening in a natural way.
Personal change in this context is contagious. Whether an eco-metaphor exercise occurs indoors or outdoors, all participants are given practical guidelines on getting the most from this nature-based experience.
What is meant by participating in an outdoor physical activity?
This section only applies to a Retreat4Change Programme where an outdoor physical activity (OPA) is being planned. An important feature of an OPA is developing trust, communication, self-assertiveness and confidence. This will help challenge or support one’s healthy assertions, the practice of goal setting and belief in your self-efficacy skills.
From a psychological and/or emotional perspective, participating in an entry-level physical activity (Archery, Kayaking, Low ropes, Abseiling or Team building) creates an OPA template that can help overcome the rigors of self-doubt, inferiority or issues of trust.
Taking back your control from either people, places or things is another powerful reason for being a part of an OPA while experiencing change in the company of like minds.
This outdoor activity may be incorporated as part of a two or three-day retreat or part of an extended Retreat4Change Programme and managed by a professional outdoors instructor.
Programme details, management and logistical matters associated with an OPA will be developed (should the need arise) in consultation with a professional outdoors instructor and covered separately.
“As the earth nourishes the body, nature inspires mind and soul.”
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