The Redcliff Review – Blog Series No. 1 by: Ryan Walton

Wilderness Therapy and Healing

In a study from 2014 published in the US National Library for Medicine, researchers found that “beyond its ability to improve emotional functioning, exposure to natural environments has also been shown to alleviate cognitive fatigue, improve attention, and increase feelings of vitality.” It’s not hard to imagine the impact being in a natural setting can have on teens and adults struggling with a multitude of challenges. Wilderness therapy programs have taken this knowledge and integrated it into a larger, more comprehensive therapeutic plan to help cultivate growth and create a space for connection.

How, in an adulting, phone-connected, grown-up life, do I leverage my knowledge of wilderness to create a space for healing? The answer is simple; skiing on a Monday. Please don’t tell my boss. The air, the snow, the sound of silence. An escape into the winter wonderland. I understand why the wilderness is such a powerful place. Skiing allows me to focus on one single thing, and not everything else, like I, usually do.

“Wilderness is not a luxury
but a necessity of the human spirit.”
— Edward Abbey

Rare are the moments when I’m not consumed with multitasking and finding any reason possible to distract myself with social media, side conversations, or projects that are out of my scope. As I hiked into the Wasatch Backcountry, I was acutely aware of the snow falling, my heavy breathing, my legs tiring, and not once did my mind wander to the onslaught of missed calls and emails. The focus was on every step I took, with the summit as my goal. Reflection was soon to follow, and upon reaching the top, a sense of pride and accomplishment.

As I sat there, catching my breath, I had my ah-ha moment. It isn’t finding a way to escape to the wilderness, that’s the simple part. It’s how do I bring that specific feeling to my everyday life?

I’ve started to answer this question and will share my thoughts soon, but I’m curious about feedback from the readers.

So, please share.