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Imagine being outside with a blue sunny, sky while you feel the soft snow beneath your skis and you feel the wind on your face.  Any one that downhill or cross country skis will tell you that skiing makes you feel healthy and happy. But while the physical benefits of being outside in nature and skiing are obvious, it has only been in recent studies that science have proved that the mental benefits of snow sports are just as valuable. A study led by Stanford University found that city dwellers have a 20% higher risk of depression than rural residents and a 40% increased risk of mood disorders. 

No stranger to finding creative ways to connect people to nature, Heather Hendrie is a Squamish based clinician who offers Ski Therapy in addition to her regular clinical practice. As an avid skier, former ski instructor and outdoor guide, Heather hopes to add ski therapy sessions to her suite of offerings this winter.  Heather became interested in the healing power of nature through her healing journey, where nature provided great relief and a sense of perspective leading her to pursue a degree in Clinical Mental Health Counselling, specializing in Wilderness Therapy.  Ski therapy seems a good fit for Hendrie, who made headlines when she created the “Lifts of Love” event in Banff.  An annual singles speed dating event held at Mount Norquay. It follows naturally that she’d take her therapeutic work to the chairlifts and groomed trails.   I caught up with Heather to discuss this interesting form of therapy.  

What is Ski Therapy? 

Heather describes Ski Therapy as a playful, Nature Based  way to connect with a therapist while moving one’s body.  The therapeutic process is at work while breathing fresh air, taking in the surrounding scene and engaging in bi lateral movement that is proving to support significant reductions in the levels of both bodily distress and emotional stress. These combined emotional physical and physiological benefits could make ski therapy a real 2 for 1 type practice, and ideal for people who’d like to try a novel approach in therapy. 

Where do you offer Ski Therapy? 

Heather hopes to offer sessions through maintained cross country skiing trails at the Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley.  Making this therapeutic modality accessible to more people is currently a passion of Heather’s, as skiing has historically been such an exclusive pursuit. 

Do you need to know how to ski?

While Heather’s background is as a guide and instructor, the focus of ski therapy is healing and relief from symptoms, rather than the technical aspects of the sport. 

ski therapy 3

What theoretical approaches do you use? 

Heather applies a Transpersonal, humanistic, mindfulness-based, experiential approach to her work, inspired by such leaders as Rogers, Maslow, Van Der Kolk and Peter Levine.  

How do you manage confidentiality with others around? 

Confidentiality looks different outdoors than when sessions are conducted within the confines of an office, but fortunately, the field of therapy is increasingly being de-stigmatized. That said, Heather mitigates any concern in this area by always addressing consent and confidentiality with a client before beginning work together.  

 

Interested in learning more about Ski Therapy? Check out https://heatherhendrie.com/

5 Reasons to Try Nature Based Therapy

Nature-based therapy is an effective means to boost mental wellness. Nature is viewed as a healing partner in the counselling process. For instance, when an individual is depressed, they often retreat into indoor spaces, isolating themselves from the world around them. Using a nature based therapy approach can help people to receive the benefits of being outdoors while still engaging in therapy.

1. Nature based therapy can be less intimidating than a traditional office setting

Nature based therapy

The traditional office setting can be seen to be an intimidating experience for some clients. The face-to-face interaction can be off putting and cause unease in some. Moving therapy to an outdoor space can alleviate this as some people experience nature therapy as less intimidating than an office setting. 

2. Enhanced self-concept, self-esteem and self-confidence

Employing nature is a potent therapeutic intervention in combating negative self concept or self esteem. One study found that combining exercise and nature and participating in group exercise activities outdoors improves both mood and self esteem. 

3. Nature based therapy can improve anxiety and depression.

Research in a growing scientific field called ecotherapy has shown a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced anxiety and depression. It’s not clear exactly why outdoor excursions have such a positive mental effect. Yet, in a 2015 study, researchers compared the brain activity of healthy people after they walked for 90 minutes in either a natural setting or an urban one. They found that those who did a nature walk had lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that is active during rumination — defined as repetitive thoughts that focus on negative emotions.

4. Nature based therapy can lower stress levels

 

Research shows that exposure to nature will have profound impact in the decreasing of cortisol levels. The calming effect of nature can have a profound effect on stress levels.

5. Psychological effects of therapy in nature include lower blood pressure

Natural light, fresh air, exposure to trees and plants seem to improve many people’s outlook on life in a positive manner but also reduce blood pressure. Research also points to increased resilience, improved self-esteem and increased capacity to engage socially with other members of their community and society at large.

nature therapy

Physiological Effects of Nature Therapy

As a result of stressful situations in daily life a, research is pointing us in a direction of getting back to our roots. Nature therapy, a health-promotion method that uses medically proven effects, such as relaxation by exposure to natural stimuli from forests, urban green spaces, plants, and natural wooden materials, is receiving increasing attention.

 

It is empirically known that exposure to stimuli from natural sources induces a state of hyperawareness and hyperactivity of the parasympathetic nervous system that renders a person in a state of relaxation. This state becomes progressively recognized as the normal state that a person should be in and feel comfortable.  Could this immersion in nature be helpful for you?

 

 

7 Rules for a Happy Life

happy life

James Michael Sama offers up a list of 7 things that we can do in our day to day life to live a happier life.  How many of these are you doing on a daily basis?

1. Help those you can, whenever you can
2. Stay true to your commitments
3. Remain courtesy at all times
4. Be honest and genuine with everyone
5. Care less about who’s right and more about whats right
6. Do your best to avoid drama
7. Show your appreciation for others

Curious about what science says about becoming happier?  Time magazine writer found that science believes there are 3 things we can all be doing to train our brain to be happier.

Social groups alleviate depression

depression help

Building a strong connection to a social group helps clinically depressed patients recover and helps prevent relapse, according to a new study. While past research has looked at the importance of social connections for preventing and treating depression, it has tended to emphasize interpersonal relationships rather than the importance of a sense of group identity. In addition, researchers haven’t really understood why group therapy works. “Our work shows that the ‘group’ aspect of social interaction is critical,” the authors note.