6 Mental Health and Wellness Tips We Can Learn from the Experiential Therapy and Rehab Model
As an experiential-based rehab, we at Wasatch Crest believe in the power of experiential therapy. To us, the adventure of doing isn’t just about experiencing an activity; it’s about getting the chance to rewrite your story and live your best life, free from addiction.
Whether you’re looking for help to overcome addiction, or just want to improve your overall well-being, there is a lot to be learned from the experiential therapy and rehab model. Here are 6 lessons you can borrow and apply right now:
1. The Power of Nature Can Help Us Restore and Improve Our Health
Maybe we’ve been told, or maybe we’ve just intrinsically “known” that nature helps us feel better. Now, we actually have the science to prove it. A study published in 2016 showed that connection to nature improves our sense of well-being, including:
- Higher life-satisfaction
- Increased vitality
- Sense of happiness
- Reduced stress
- Decreased anxiety
- Improved resiliency
- Elevated mood
If that isn’t enough to convince you to take a step outside and enjoy the outdoors for a bit, the study also showed there are a number of physical health benefits attributed to spending more time in “green spaces,” including reduced hyper-tension as well as fewer respiratory tract and cardiovascular illnesses.
Nature can do wonders for those overcoming addiction. When we feel better, we have less of a need to rely on outside substances to fill the empty spaces inside us.
The best part? It doesn’t cost a thing – take a walk, visit the ocean, sit by the lake, go on a forest hike, or even spend some time outside tonight and just gaze at the stars. Your mental, emotional, and physical health will thank you.
3. Pushing Ourselves Outside of Our Comfort Zone Makes Us Grow
The experiential therapy and rehab model tends to move you away from your places of comfort and toward the challenge of trying something new. New experiential activities might include dancing, or rock climbing, maybe hiking or even a new craft project.
If the thought of getting outside of your comfort zone makes you feel uncomfortable, maybe even a little anxious, you’re not alone. But growth doesn’t happen inside our comfort zone; stagnation does. Growth comes from pushing the boundaries and seeing what you’re capable of.
Getting outside your comfort zone has a number of benefits, including:
- Getting to try something new. Who knows, you might find a new passion!
- Increased trust in your own competence as you learn new skills
- Increased confidence when you realize you can do it
- Enhanced creativity and problem-solving skills
- Reduced feelings of boredom and stagnation
Anyone who has attempted to overcome an addiction can tell you these benefits help tremendously during the recovery journey.
3. Learning to Process Mental/Physical States Improves Our Well-Being
New experiences can bring feelings of fear, anxiety, frustration, and even disappointment if your first try doesn’t go as planned. One of the keys to experiential therapy is learning to process the physical and emotional states that arise as you move outside your comfort zone.
Experiences can bring many different mental, physical and emotional states including elation, happiness, sadness, anxiety, frustration, and disappointment. A key to overall mental health and well-being, especially when it comes to recovering from addiction, is developing the capacity to process mental and physical states.
4. Humans Thrive on Community
Humans are wired to thrive in communities. The social interaction, support, bonding, and connection supports the psychological well-being of individuals.
Activities strengthen the bond of communities, and typically, the more challenging the experience, the greater the bonding, provided the community is working together toward the same goal.
Experiential therapy, especially in an experiential-based rehab, can include several activities that foster a sense of community. From games to outdoor adventures such as camping, hiking, and rafting, these activities, when done as a community can build a sense of purpose and belonging as you tackle new experiences together.
If you’ve been feeling a little down lately, examine your current connection to a community. If you’re not really feeling a sense of belonging, try organizing a group activity and see if that helps improve your sense of connection.
If you’re not up for coordinating the activity, then see if there are any activities planned by others that you can join. Call your friends, see what’s going on this weekend and ask if you can join. You can also find activities and communities through meetup.com. Join a couple of interest groups, find some new friends, and participate in some of the activities.
5. Long-Term Change is More Likely When We Replace Maladaptive Behaviors with Positive Ones
One of the best ways to change behaviors that no longer serve us is to find new interests and adopt behaviors that support a new way of being.
For individuals who are in rehab, replacing addictive behaviors with new, healthy, and more positive behaviors increases the chance for long-term recovery.
But even if you’re not in rehab, you can benefit from this as well. Do you currently have any behaviors that aren’t conducive to your optimal mental health and well-being? Are you finding yourself over-eating? Watching too much t.v.? If you have an undesirable behavior that you would like to change, don’t just eliminate the behavior. Instead, try replacing it with a new activity or a more desirable behavior for a few weeks and see how it increases your chance for success toward change.
6. We Need to Make Room for the Fun in Life
Whether you’re enjoying yourself through music, games, outdoor activities, or a new adventure, finding the fun in life reduces stress, increases positive feelings, and gives you a much-needed break from the demands of life.
All work and no play sets you up for a number of health issues, including chronic stress, which can then lead to anxiety, depression, and a reliance on substances, making it harder to cope and find joy and satisfaction in life.
Our mental health benefits when we take regular breaks, especially when we make room during those breaks for laughter, fun, and novel experiences we enjoy.
Whether you’re struggling with addiction or not, these 6 lessons can help you find your optimal well-being and live a more vibrant life. If you are struggling with addiction and are ready to rewrite your story, please give us a call. We are here to help.