For many, the holidays are a time of joy, family time, and festivities; but for others, the holidays can be a source of anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses due to certain holiday stressors. As the holiday season approaches, we can take this opportunity to shed light on my favorite way to relieve stress and be truly present for the holiday season by unplugging and experiencing the great outdoors.
Mental illness ends up affecting up to 80% of the population at some point in our lifetime according to the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. That’s a pretty staggering number when you consider each of these people as individuals. No doubt every one of us has either experienced or know someone close to us who has suffered from some form of mental illness. With the pressures and expectations many of us and our young people are experiencing, mental health awareness is more important than ever.
Adding to the normal stressors of the holidays, today’s prevalence of technology and social media hasn’t helped. Don’t get me wrong, technology can be a good thing – it allows us to connect to others more easily than ever before, it provides access to more information than we could have ever dreamed and helps different areas of our lives progress and develop in positive ways. However, as with anything – what can offer blessings, can present some curses as well.
With each of us becoming more and more reliant on technological devices and the applications on them, it’s no wonder behaviors have changed…not all of them for the good. Any amount of research on social media and the impact on one’s mental health will uncover countless studies that all point to similar findings: too much social media negatively impacts our self-esteem human connection, memory, sleep, attention span, and mental health.
What’s an Antidote?
Everyone’s health and circumstances are uniquely theirs. However, there is one common antidote that can help: unplugging and spending time in the outdoors. For over 20 years, I’ve witnessed the transformation of many lives, as people from all kinds of backgrounds and circumstances spend time in God’s creation at SpringHill. Granted, there are a number of critical factors involved in these transformations – the presence and recognition of God’s love being the most significant. However, the location and environment of SpringHill Experiences are not an accident. Being outside, amongst nature and the beauty of the outdoors, is a healing component to our souls.
In fact, the previously mentioned consequences due to social media can be reversed and improved by increased time spent outside! Time outdoors connects us with something greater than ourselves. An A Huffington Post article written several years back cited multiple findings that proved the following seven things about spending time in the outdoors:
- Getting outside makes exercise easier
- It can spur weight loss
- Nature increases brain function
- It increases our vitamin D intake
- Helps the aging process
- Wonderful for stress-reduction
- Makes us happy
The health benefits are apparent, and we also know that this is no accident. We were meant for connection with God, and what better way than to spend time in his creation?
Decreased Screen Time + Increased Outdoor Time = A Healthier, More Joyful You
The facts are out there: getting out from behind our screens and into nature does wonders for both our physical and spiritual selves. It’s why cell phones are off limits during our campers’ time at SpringHill. There’s no constant checking of social media to distract them from Christ’s message. Instead, kids find faith in having fun in the outdoors and building friendships. And, it works – they wouldn’t have it any other way.
By enjoying the beautiful environment around them, without technological distractions, they are encouraged to interact and talk to other kids and their counselors. This helps build interpersonal skills and takes them away from the computer screen and into real, face-to-face interaction with others – not to mention increasing their ability to appreciate God’s creations that are all around them.
I’ve seen it for myself. The power of unplugging and, instead, exploring, racing, tumbling, connecting with real people, and taking in the beauty all around us. It is our hope that disconnecting with technology and connecting with nature and loved ones will not only help manage the stress of the holidays—but manage the stress of everyday life.
To me, there are few more important topics than this, and so I wanted to make a few recommendations for those of you interested in deeper insights regarding technology, its effects, and our innate need to connect with nature.
- Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, by Sherry Turkle
- Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, by Richard Lou
- The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age, by Richard Lou
Happy Holidays! I know the weather often presents a challenge connecting with nature this time of year, but it’s never too early to start looking ahead to the summer at SpringHill. I’d love to talk to your group about how we create the SpringHill Experience.