As a kayak guide and instructor, I have observed the immense positive effects of simply being outdoors.
I have guided thousands of people out on the water. Kayaking has the added benefit of exercise, which is great for your body. However, the simple act of not being inside is a scientifically proven way to improve your mood and psychological health as well.
Stress is arguably the greatest threat to our mental state. It weakens the immune system and causes high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, anxiety and even heart attack. Outdoor activity has been proven to lower heart rate and reduce stress. While we don’t know the science behind this, the act of seeing wide open spaces tends to make us feel small, and our problems smaller!
In my career, I have often encountered stressed-out families on vacation.
After just a few minutes on the water, their shoulders relax, they breathe more deeply and slowly, they start smiling and having fun together again.
There are a number of programs around the world that use outdoor experiences as a form of therapy for children from complicated backgrounds. At these schools, studies show the healing effects of outdoor recreation. This research has shown that such experiences increase one’s overall self-concept, feelings of competency, self-image and independence.
I have had the privilege of conducting programs for the local Kids in Kayaks program.
I’ve seen firsthand the transformational effect that having fun outside can have on children. These middle schoolers are apprehensive at first, trying to act cool in their cliques. Once in kayaks, they see their ability move the vessel around independently. They steer and power on their own. It gives them a boost. Suddenly they are engaged in their surroundings. They talk to one another and to me about the experience.
Another way that the outdoors has a positive effect on the mind is through the stimulation of creativity. From the paintings of animals and trees in the caves of Lascaux, France, to the swirling wheat fields of Van Gogh, all of the greatest artists in history have been inspired by nature. When I’m not a kayak instructor, I’m an artist, and in my personal experience, there is no better way to muster creative energy than by observing and experiencing the variations of color, texture and movement in the natural world.
So this spring enjoy some time outside. Your mind will thank you!
To book a kayak outing with Outside Hilton Head, call (843) 686-6996.
By Jessie Renew