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Depression and Wilderness
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Maia Jordan
(maia) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Depression and Wilderness on 11/06/2012 18:45:33 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Depression and Wilderness

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Depression and Wilderness on 11/06/2012 18:56:04 MST Print View

I've heard that before - walking around outside in wild areas can alleviate mild depression - nice article

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Re: Depression and Wilderness on 11/06/2012 19:14:55 MST Print View

Just read a book called Hillfit and it mentions the importance of "Green Exercise"

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Depression and Wilderness on 11/06/2012 19:38:56 MST Print View

I have had a very different experience with this. If I am suffering from the pain of a specific problem it tends to follow me into the wilderness. The only way for me to suppress is through distraction (usually music, television, games). There was a time when I avoided going into the wilderness by myself. When I was stuck with just me and my thoughts, it made things worse. There was nothing to distract me during those long, dark nights.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Re: Re: Depression and Wilderness on 11/06/2012 19:43:21 MST Print View

Anecdotally, I had a bought with depression last year, and getting out was what it took to fully shake it.

Nice article.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Depression and Wilderness on 11/06/2012 20:28:42 MST Print View

For me, wilderness works like a charm to drive away the blues.

But is it simply wilderness or recreation/vacation/leisure time in wilderness?

There's a difference.

Access to "wilderness" experiences, especially in highly urbanized areas, has a lot to do with family income. And family income tends to have a pretty high correlation with stress and depression.

Being dirt-poor in a beautiful place isn't too peachy either. Think about crime/stress/suicide/depression rates on reservations.

Edited by xnomanx on 11/06/2012 20:35:36 MST.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Depression and Wilderness on 11/06/2012 21:05:19 MST Print View

Nothing like exercise, fresh air, quiet, broken routines, new horizons, and successful fulfillment of plans and goals to perk us up. Not to mention FUN :)

jason quick

Locale: A tent in my backyard - Melbourne
Nature Deficit Disorder on 11/07/2012 03:58:38 MST Print View

Great article.

...not dissimilar to the concept of Nature Deficit Disorder. Not really a recognised ICD-10 condition per se, but there are strong links between children, lack of contact with nature, and anxiety/depression states during their early childhood years. If you're interested in reading further, explore the book "Last Child in the Woods", by Richard Louv (2008).

Gerry Volpe

Locale: Vermont
Wilderness and Mental Health on 11/07/2012 05:09:12 MST Print View

Excellent thoughts. I recently had a conversation with some of my students about "self medicating" with wilderness and adventure activities to maintain emotional balance and treat mild everyday manifestations of mental health diagnosis. While the restoritative benefits of nature are oft cited in the literature of "Wilderness" and "Adventure" therapy and are obvious to many it is often anectdotal and theoretical as there seems a woeful lack of comprehensive research on the subject. It would be great to see some done. Significant amounts of brain research seems to back up the the idea that the dissequalibrium fostered through changing ones environment and daily routine aids greatly in making and maintaining positive change and learning in the areas of behavior, affect, and cognition. When all is said and done I am definately my best self when engaged in outdoor activities. Great article.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Depression and Wilderness on 11/07/2012 06:23:11 MST Print View

Too bad the problems with home life wait for your return from the wilderness. Sure it feels better to get away from them for awhile.

James Castleberry
"Depression and Wilderness" on 11/07/2012 08:23:06 MST Print View

I too greatly enjoyed this article and it hit home in many ways. I would second the mention of Richard Louv's work on the importance of getting "vitamin N" especially for children. As Ken points out, the home problems remain when you get back but at least the wilderness offers a temporary escape and more often than not, provides the appropriate backdrop to do some spiritual growth. Bucktoof's comment about income and access to nature is certainly a valid one and worth considering and relates to the work that Louv is doing.
I would also like to say that this article is a good example of the type of non-gear related articles that can be of immense value to BPL readers.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Depression and Wilderness on 11/07/2012 10:19:46 MST Print View

Wish I could take off about 3 weeks and treat today's sudden-onset depression.

Robert Ellinwood
Shinrin-Yoku on 11/07/2012 10:22:08 MST Print View

Google the term "Shinrin-Yoku" and you'll find the Japanese have been researching exactly this feeling of "lift" that being in nature gives us. They have documented the physical, biological changes within us that occur as we spend even brief periods outdoors in the wild.

Thomas Jamrog
(balrog) - F

Locale: New England
Depression/ wilderness on 11/07/2012 10:33:34 MST Print View

One critical point to add to this discussion is the reality of experiencing depression upon return to what I call the " shower world" after one has experienced months of backpacking. It has crippled some, even leading to some suicides.

Kathy Hoffman

Locale: Foothills of San Gabriel Mtns.
A little different take on this... on 11/07/2012 10:34:02 MST Print View

First, I have to say that I have been extremely fortunate, in that my personal experiences with depression have been mild, and short lived, and my heart goes out to anyone suffering depression. I have seen the devastating effects with a family member.

With that said, I seem to have a different experience on wilderness and depression.

Getting out in the wilderness didn't just make the depression go away for me. In my experience, the times where I felt depressed were times where my life was out of balance, or I needed to make changes in my life. Getting out in the wilderness helped remove the daily distractions and forced me to deal with myself. All those hours by myself actually made me deal with my own thoughts and feelings, and once I did that, the answers came pretty quickly. The wilderness, at least for me, seems to coincide very much with what John Muir said......."for going out, I found, was really going in". It helps me to connect not only with nature and wilderness, but helps me to connect....with me.

I'd be very interested in hearing if anyone else experiences that as well.

Kathy Hoffman

Locale: Foothills of San Gabriel Mtns.
Re: Shinrin-Yoku on 11/07/2012 10:42:46 MST Print View

That research on Shinrin-Yoku is actually fascinating! Thank you for pointing it out.

Edited by basecampbound on 11/07/2012 10:44:20 MST.

marvin barg
(Grampa_Kilt) - MLife

Locale: British Columbia
Crashing with depression on a PCT thru-hike on 11/07/2012 11:36:55 MST Print View

Thank you for this article. As it points out, getting out and hiking can be a great 'drug' to treat depression. And so it was that I quit taking my depression medication at the beginning of a '08 PCT thru-hike. Things were somewhat OK for several hundred miles, but when some nagging injuries and loneliness for family mounted up, my serotonin supplies vanished. Within days, I was in serious depression trouble. (Referring to my own brain chemistry) I now realize that the boost of helpful neurotransmitters a daily hiking marathon creates is not enough to offset the inherent stress of that very activity. Lesson learned--for PCT '13, my baseweight will need to include other meds beside Vit I!

Edited by Grampa_Kilt on 11/07/2012 11:38:06 MST.

Corrina Peipon
(Corrina) - M

Locale: Southern California
Stephen Mather on 11/07/2012 13:53:33 MST Print View

Though I do have clinical depression, my experience with walking is similar to Kathy's: When I am walking, I can access my thoughts in the most profound and thorough way. The co-founder of the National Park Service, Stephen Mather suffered from bipolar disorder and was hospitalized several times. I like to think that his drive to create and maintain the NPS derived from his firsthand experience of the palliative effect of nature on his illness.

Tranina Glover
(panamint) - MLife
Just Get Out! on 11/08/2012 13:11:50 MST Print View

I suffered years ago from manic depression. Going out into the desert organized my day, helped me to write down my thoughts, and lifted the idiocy. Good meditative skills practiced during this bout got me off medication. Now when I'm not feeling quite well, I just go for a walk. To have dirt under your hiking boots helps too.

John Coyle

Locale: NorCal
Depression and Wilderness on 11/08/2012 13:16:44 MST Print View

Interesting that you mention Scotsman John Muir in your article because I believe he was a victim of depression himself after being struck in the eye by a tool in 1867 in an Indianapolis factory that made wagon wheels. The accident blinded him for six weeks, and when he recovered he decided to spend the rest of his life pursuing nature. Muir owned and operated fruit orchards in Martinez Northern California to help fund his nature explorations. There is a seven acre national historic site there with his historic mansion house and sample fruit orchards which is operated by the U.S. National Park Service. You can even sample the fruit if it is in season! I should know, I used to work there.