Outdoor recreation. Has it cured you?

1:03 p.m. on May 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Recently, I've had some work-related stress to deal with, and started to get more serious about scheduling outdoor time. A long bike ride, a short hike, immediate reduction in stress.  Of course, I've been telling people this for years, but didn't have a visceral understanding of how true it can be.

Has anyone had a similar experience? Have you "treated" any ailment, mental or physical, with outdoor experiences?

2:35 p.m. on May 19, 2012 (EDT)
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I always cure my stress of being in town by going outdoors. But I spend 75% of the year outdoors camping and hiking and only 3 months working.

As John Muir, the father of Yosemite and the Sierra Club said:

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

2:56 p.m. on May 19, 2012 (EDT)
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A head injury sustained as a youth lead to all sorts of issues, most of which are made more manageable by outdoor and physical activities.  That and music are proven positive therapies for troubled souls.

Ed

4:07 p.m. on May 19, 2012 (EDT)
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yep, go hiking biking trapping

4:34 p.m. on May 19, 2012 (EDT)
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I hike to get away from work and relieve the stress.I sometimes do it during lunch break because I have 45 min window. I am a 5 min drive to an appalachian trail trailhead.

5:27 p.m. on May 19, 2012 (EDT)
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There have been some recent studies confirming what you and others are saying, Seth. There's a good book called Spark by John Ratey, which goes into detail and probably more pop-science hygienics books will surface. Even greenery outside a window helps with the mind's health!

Personally, I find exertion is the key, as just sitting there doesn't do much for existential/emotional problems (meditation excepted), no matter how tranquil the natural surroundings.

6:14 p.m. on May 19, 2012 (EDT)
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I've used the wilderness and backpacking as a way to reduce stress, escape tension, and an overall escape from a world I find existentially lost.  Less abstractly, I've used the opportunity to escape myself.  I work on patience.  I slow down and let others lead.  I hike in the back unless someone else prefers it.  I don't involve myself with the route unless I'm asked more than a couple times to contribute.  I don't get involved with where and when breaks happen.  I stop thinking about minutiae.  It's natural for me to be an alpha and mostly Type-A (neither of which I consider virtues).  So when I put on the backpack, I'm purposely passive and with as few rules and desires as possible.  Most of the time, it comes with little effort.  It required some effort and work to get to that point, but it wasn't monumental or without great reward.  On that rare occasion, it isn't so easy to let go of my nature.  See, my nature gets in the way of a lot of things, and one of them is that it gets in the way of me enjoying nature to its full potential.

11:12 p.m. on May 19, 2012 (EDT)
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I find hiking, backpacking, & camping to be extremely effective in dealing with stress and solving personal issues.

To enjoy the day knowing you do not have to be anywhere, answer to anyone, or push your self to accomplish anything work related is a very liberating experience!

I find this provides me with an escape from the demands of my "work a day" life and gives me the mental space & freedom to reflect, meditate, and to just plain have some fun.

Have some fun for crying out loud...it's okay!

Mike G.

2:37 a.m. on May 20, 2012 (EDT)
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Backpacker Mag just did an article about if being outside makes us smarter. The anecdotal evidence noted by the scientists all point to what we already know: Yes. The slowing down of time, lessening the amount of distractions, getting physical, all contribute to improvement of mind and body.

I have my own saying, that I have used for years --I go get dirty on the outside so I can get clean on the inside.

Does going outside heal? Yep. Both inside and out :D

3:39 a.m. on May 20, 2012 (EDT)
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Outdoor life was a prime mover in my decision and ability to quit drinking (and other things). The family history pointed one way, but shifting my addiction into outdoor life and intense physical activity gave me an out. I had to choose. THat was almost 30 years ago. You can't get much more cured than that.

4:04 p.m. on May 20, 2012 (EDT)
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Oh yes! I think a walk through the woods is the only thing that keeps me sane some weeks. I run, workout in a gym some, and teach martial arts, but hiking is when I can away from my stressors and just relax. Hiking gives my body the physical release it needs, while allowing my mind to clear and solve problems.

7:38 p.m. on May 20, 2012 (EDT)
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It's funny that where I like going hiking, the Catskills, can be some of the most harrowing, tiring, and difficult hikes in the Northeast, if not the US. I come back from hikes sore, sunburned, dehydrated, beat up, bleeding... In other words, completely relaxed.

7:56 a.m. on May 22, 2012 (EDT)
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The book "The Nature Principle" by Richard Louv goes into this.  It covers the growing body of empirical evidence to support what we already figured out by getting out into the backcountry. According to this book there is a growing number of people in the healthcare industry that have seen the correlation between time and nature and improved health/recovery times.

12:05 p.m. on May 22, 2012 (EDT)
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"Has anyone had a similar experience? Have you "treated" any ailment, mental or physical, with outdoor experiences?"

 

I did my psych thesis on this very topic.

 

In a nutshell - betcha can't go run 10 miles and then try to be terribly mad about something

2:22 p.m. on May 22, 2012 (EDT)
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I had a total knee replacement just over a year ago. I did all my therapy but my recovery just kind of stopped about three months after the surgery. I did some extensive research only to find out that my zimmer next gen implant was recalled by the fda 39 days before my surgery. Yes thats right before my surgery. I consulted my lawyer to find out 65,000 people have the same implant. He signed me up with the class action suit going on, waiting to address the fact that I received it after the recall untio the class action is settled. Now for the relevant part. I finished all my traditional therapy, I was depressed, angry and not very mobile with a lot of pain. I lived on one of nc's outer banks when I originally injured it 25 yrs ago. Remembering how the shifting sands helped then, I hit the trails. When I started I could make it about half a mile round trip, with lots of pain and foul language. I kept at it and now hike at least twice a week, climbing mt mndk almost every weekend. Walking on dirt, being alone in the woods rebuilt the muscles in my leg and refreshed my mind. I dont know where I would be or how mobile I would be if I hadnt rediscovered the woods. It has definitely changed my life, I spend all my time thinking where im going next not worrying about my leg. I am now hiking with fifty pounds in my pack, more than I will need but I will be stronger when I have my normal thirty five pounds or so. Hoping to do as much of the long trail as possible this summer. Maybe I can do it all, hope my knee holds up.

2:45 p.m. on May 22, 2012 (EDT)
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hard physical activity has always helped me clear my head.  not stress, which i cope with reasonably well, but what i'll call the clutter of living in a high tech modern society.

i used to be a distance runner until wear & tear on the cartilage in my knees led to surgery and a move away from running.  running used to be my primary outlet, my every day release from whatever stress i encountered, though i always loved hiking too but did it more occasionally.   

When years of impact frayed my knees, i turned much more deliberately to hiking, cycling, and walking.  it arguably does a better job clearing my head than running with less physical impact.     

 

9:28 a.m. on May 26, 2012 (EDT)
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Ed G said:

I did my psych thesis on this very topic.

In a nutshell - betcha can't go run 10 miles and then try to be terribly mad about something.

 Sounds interesting. I'll have to try that.

No matter how idiotic work is, or how boring life in the city gets, I live for the outdoors. Time away from it all (like a mini-vacation) some healthy recreation, and a re-focusing on what really matters in life.

I was sitting on a rock by the Athabasca River one time looking up the valley, and a total stranger walked by, joined me in gazing at the view for a minute, said "Mountains bring peace." and walked on.

As has been mentioned, it may be a case of trading one addiction for another, but I'm sure it makes me a lot saner.

11:51 p.m. on May 30, 2012 (EDT)
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I work in the outdoors every day & while I love my job I find that herding campers around every weekend and constantly smelling of campfire smoke has led to the sad truth that I have a hard time enjoying the whole camping experience any more. The closest I get now a days is trail running & mtn biking. I try to get the kids out camping 2 or 3 times a year so that they can experience it & I can feel like I'm not totally turning my back on my history. (as a kid I'd camp 2 and 3 times a month between Boy Scout trips & family trips). The expense of back country gear is prohibitive enough that with a family of five, (twin 11 year old girls & 5 year old boy), a government salary, & a wife who is less than thrilled by the notion of me leaving for a couple of days midweek that I really have had to adandon that. (truthfully with only two nights off with the family due to the worm schedule I hate to jot be with them.) Kinda sounds like a sob story or whining but its not, its just the simple truth. Keep on keepin' on though cuz I still enjoy reading about everyone's experiences.

5:14 a.m. on May 31, 2012 (EDT)
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Jman said:

I work in the outdoors every day & while I love my job I find that herding campers around every weekend and constantly smelling of campfire smoke has led to the sad truth that I have a hard time enjoying the whole camping experience any more...

Ah, your refrain illustrates the bane that threatens any career.  I am reminded of two observations. The first is something someone shared with me in my youth:

If you want to ruin your love of a hobby, make it a career.

The second is lyrics for the song, Mad Man Moon, by Tony Banks, member of the music ensemble Genesis, partly presented below:

..Within the valley of shadowless death
They pray for thunderclouds and rain,
But to the multitude who stand in the rain
Heaven is where the sun shines.
The grass will be greener till the stems turn to brown
And thoughts will fly higher till the earth brings them down.
Forever caught in desert lands one has to learn
To disbelieve the sea.

If this desert's all there'll ever be
Then tell me what becomes of me.
A fall of rain?
That must have been another of your dreams,
A dream of mad man moon.

Ed

7:48 p.m. on May 31, 2012 (EDT)
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I'd have to agree, funny thing is that my chosen profession sorta found me based on the skills I developed over a lifetime of being outside. They were the only 'real' skills I could offer. After 8 years of bouncing around various county jobs I 'fell' into this & found something I could at least be proud of and passionate about. The side-effect was what I've described above. I guess its a two-edged sword. Still just finished an over nighter with my kids to start the summer & it was satisfying if nothing else.

August 22, 2014
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