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Nature-Based Therapy & Adolescents

An article compiled by Elisha Swoverland MA.

With fast technological advancements, it’s safe to say that there is a high correlation between adolescents and social media use. In fact, the National Institutes of Health reported in 2020 that in the US, 89% of adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17 have a smartphone and that number has more than doubled since 2012. 70% of teenagers use social media multiple times per day.


Has the use of social media shown effects on adolescent’s sense of self? Well, research says yes, unfortunately, more negative effects. Many systematic reviews have shown a direct association with body image concerns with social media as well as a self-reported poor mental health and life satisfaction. This is not all, several cross-sectional studies have shown that high proportions of youth have gained addiction problems, thoughts related to self-harm and suicidal behavior. There is also evidence found on a decline of cognitive control, academic performance, and socioemotional functioning due to large amount of media multitasking.


As I have worked with many teens in my professional experience, many of the issues my adolescents bring to me have aligned well with what recent research is saying. Thankfully, it is not all without hope! I believe restoration and healing can happen anytime and anywhere.


What is Nature-based therapy?



Nature-based therapy, or NBT, focuses on healing and combatting life trials through interacting with nature: plants, animals, and natural landscapes. The connectedness to nature allows individuals to be grounded and step away from the earthly distractions, in which the hope is for cognitive distortions, emotions and beliefs to be shifted to lead to a healthier well-being. Research has shown a positive effect on mental health and overall psychological well-being paired with connectedness in nature such as a Japanese concept called forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku). It is a therapeutic practice and a form of mindfulness that involves connecting with nature through one’s senses.



The original human life before the Fall (Genesis 3) paints a beautiful picture of humans living in harmony with one another as well as within the self. There was perfect peace, calmness, satisfaction, contentment, and the Lord says that it is good. Scripture has evidence of nature all over. “How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” (Psalm 104:24). There are many analogies used in Scripture that help explain the human life as well. “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:12). The simplicity and purity of nature helps point troubled individuals to hope and light that the Creator provides. That’s what our teenagers need: hope, security and unconditional acceptance. And the hope here is that God has given to us all of creation that points to the solution to our problems, and He has given us within the power to overcome these trials through him. Won’t we accept this kind of healing through the beauty that’s already there?

 


For further assistance, please call 763-566-0088 and speak to our Client Services Coordinator or stop by the NewPath Mental Health Services office at 8401 Wayzata Blvd., Suite 340, Golden Valley, MN 55426 to find out about services you are interested in.


Sources :

Abi-Jaoude, E., Naylor, K. T., & Pignatiello, A. (2020). Smartphones, social media use and youth mental health. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale canadienne, 192(6), E136–E141. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.190434

 

Joschko, L., Pálsdóttir, A. M., Grahn, P., & Hinse, M. (2023). Nature-Based Therapy in Individuals with Mental Health Disorders, with a Focus on Mental Well-Being and Connectedness to Nature-A Pilot Study. International journal of environmental research and public health, 20(3), 2167. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph20032167

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