Month: March 2014

Treatment for Substance Abuse & Behavioral Issues in Teens

Why the 'Boot Camp' Approach Doesn't Work

Punitive methods are not very successful in treating teens and young adults who are struggling with substance abuse and behavioral issues. Punishment as the basis for treatment fails to focus on the underlying issues that contribute to certain conditions, such as ODD, ADHD, anger problems and drug addiction. A more effective therapeutic approach is a non-punitive method that seeks to educate and empower individuals to become responsible for their own success. For an alternate method to assist with treatment for substance abuse & behavioral issues in teens, aside from boot camp, consider the following.

The punitive approach

Punitive programs are punishment-based and attempt to correct behavior by using fear and intimidation to establish authority and set rules. Certain “boot-camp,” “military style” or “tough love” programs employ this type of approach. This confrontational technique focuses on changing negative behavior by establishing strict parameters for acceptable conduct and enforcing negative consequences when those constraints are broken.

This kind of approach is much less effective for a number of reasons. It does not address the underlying causes of mental and behavioral issues. It does not provide individuals with an opportunity to develop the skills needed to self-manage their symptoms. Teens and young adults who are subject to punitive discipline can be more likely to develop feelings of resentment, distrust, anger and hostility. By using techniques such as ultimatums as a vehicle for altering behavior, treatment does not focus on personal growth and develop, and thus does lend itself to long-term success. In punitive programs fewer people complete treatment, relapse rates are higher, and addiction and behavioral issues can even be aggravated.

The benefits of a non-punitive approach

Non-punitive approaches to treatment for substance abuse and behavioral issues are much more successful in seeing lasting results. They are predicated on the idea that treatment is a learning opportunity for an individual to develop the skills to thrive in the world. Treatment is not a punishment for negative behavior. An approach that is centered on personal empowerment and growth is preferred over an approach that takes a hard line because it focuses on adjusting defective thinking as well as behavior.

In a non-punitive approach to therapy, teens and young adults:

  • Respond to reward based incentives
  • Are involved in their own decision making
  • Build tools to cope with temptations and struggles of daily life
  • Learn to overcome challenges and accept consequences
  • Build relationships and develop interpersonal skills
  • Learn to communicate
  • Experience independence and self-reliance

It is important to look for a program that is non-punitive when choosing the right course of treatment for a teen or young adult struggling with behavioral or substance abuse issues. A positive reward-based program accomplishes much more than a punishment-based program. Long-term effects see participants of non-punitive programs being able to better manage their individual issues and become productive, positive adults.

When information regarding a more effective approach and treatment for substance abuse & behavioral issues in teens is needed, contact Rites of Passage Wilderness at (800)794-0980.



Wilderness Therapy: What Parents Can Do To Make Treatment a Success

Wilderness therapy is most effective if parents take an active role in their child’s recovery. The role of the parent in the process is continuous: it begins with the initial phone call to a wilderness therapy program and ends with a continued commitment to an aftercare plan.

Initializing the process is only the first step. Involvement during the program requires that a parent communicate effectively with both their child and the wilderness therapist to maximize the benefits of the experience. Parents will have the opportunity to communicate weekly with a therapist about the progress of their child and to discuss ways in which they can make positive contributions and provide the appropriate encouragement and support.

Letter-writing is an important communication tool utilized by wilderness therapy programs. One of the ways in which parents are involved during the program is through the writing and exchanging of letters. With the help of a wilderness therapist, parents and participants are asked to exchange meaningful correspondences that address the reasons why a person has ended up in the program. This tool pushes the participant to understand the consequences of their actions and allows for them and their family to begin the process of healing. There are essential items that participants and parents must both include in these correspondences if they are to be impactful.

A letter written by a participant may include:

  • How they ended up in the program
  • Identifying past wrongs
  • The ways they are improving on treatment goals
  • Behaviors that affected their family
  • An apology

A letter written by a parent could address:

  • Examples of how the participant’s negative behavior has affected the family
  • The repercussions of past actions
  • Their own role in the situation
  • Plans for restructuring the home life
  • How they can offer support
  • Taking responsibility

These letters can sometimes be difficult to write and to receive as they are meant to center on deep issues that may have never before been addressed. It is important that these letters are impactful and that the dialogue revolves around addressing both problems and solutions. This exchange works to open up the lines of communication and can serve as a foundation for a healthy relationship moving forward.

Parental involvement in an aftercare plan is essential to continuing on the right path. Taking an active role in the health of a child means being accountable for making changes in the home environment. During the time that the child or adolescent is participating in the program there are many things a parent can do to prepare for their homecoming.

In preparing for an aftercare plan parents should:

  • Read up on relevant literature
  • Restructure the household ground rules
  • Address specific family dynamics
  • Seek personal therapy
  • Set up family counselling sessions
  • Find support systems

Parental non-involvement in the wilderness therapy process can cause a participant to relapse when they return home. Parents must be willing to contribute to an aftercare plan because in many cases the home dynamic will need to change as much as the negative behavior of their son or daughter. A parent must recognize their role in the recovery process in order to safeguard their child from re-engaging in negative behaviors and activities.

The role of the parent in the process of therapy and recovery is one of continued involvement; the long-term success of the child depends on it. Wilderness therapy can provide parents and caregivers the tools they need to help ensure that the positive changes made in the program continue upon returning to home life. 

Call Rites of Passage Wilderness at (800)794-0980 to learn about our Wilderness therapy programs, and the recovery abilities of nature.

Improving Nutrition thorough a Wilderness Therapy Program

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How Improved Nutrition through a Wilderness Therapy Program Leads to Improved Behavior

Diet and nutrition are key components to a wilderness therapy program. It is a fact that our ability to think rationally and make good choices is affected by the foods we eat. Poor diet and nutrition can contribute to a host of behavioral and mental afflictions. It can also be mistaken for them. A person suffering from poor nutrition can manifest the same symptoms as ADHD, autism, depression and oppositional defiant disorder, among others. Integrating a structured meal plan based on holistic nutrition into a wilderness therapy program is crucial to recovery.

Fast food, soda, candy and ready-to-eat meals are part of society’s daily norm. While eating these types of foods may be convenient and temporarily satisfying, the consumption of them on a regular basis can be downright dangerous. Processed foods, food additives (such as MSG), food dyes, high sugar intake and nutrient deficiencies have all been shown to have a direct negative impact on a person’s behavior and cognitive abilities.

Poor diet and nutrition can result in:

  • Aggression and violent behavior
  • Hyperactivity
  • Low concentration levels
  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Short attention span
  • Digestion problems
  • Decreased cognitive abilities
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Palpitations

Wilderness therapy includes a nutrition and diet program that promotes healthy holistic eating. Participants need to be well nourished for the physical and emotional challenges that wilderness therapy brings. The brain and the body require specific nutrients to properly function and holistic whole foods can best provide this. Holistic food is unprocessed, without additives, artificial enrichment or fortification and aids in healing and detoxing the body from processed foods and other unnatural chemicals.

The dietary program associated with a wilderness therapy regulates the participant’s system through routine. Over just a short period of time, a correlation can be seen between proper nutrition and improvements in behavior.

Simple healthy holistic food can benefit a person in the following way:

  • An increase in energy
  • Balanced mood
  • Ability to make sound decisions
  • Stronger will power
  • A healthier physical appearance (glowing skin and hair, muscle tone, clear eyes)

Wilderness therapy provides the foundation for making better dietary choices moving forward. The overreaching goal is to maintain and build upon the habits learned in wilderness therapy. A crucial part of continued recovery will involve maintaining the healthy eating habits that come with the wilderness therapy experience. A change in the dietary plan at home is the best way to ensure these positive changes are long lasting.

Behavioral and mental issues are exasperated by poor diet. Wilderness therapy works to educate participants on the benefits of making healthy dietary choices and the impact it can have to their own mental and behavioral wellbeing. While participants may initially be reluctant to embrace a holistic diet, the positive changes they notice in their bodies motivate them to continue the practices learned in a wilderness therapy program to make healthier future choices involving diet and nutrition.

For insight on nutrition and to learn about how truly beneficial a wilderness therapy program can be, call Rites of Passage Wilderness at (800)794-0980.

The Shock of Simplification – and Why Wilderness Therapy Works.

Wilderness Therapy Programs

Wilderness therapy puts all participants on equal ground. Upon arriving at the program, all unessential material items are relinquished by participants and everyone is given the same set of clothing and gear. In this way, participants are like a blank canvas enabling them to get to the root of the issues that have brought them to wilderness therapy.

Participants have the freedom to be themselves.

Items such as jewellery, clothing, snacks, iPods, phones, etc., are all given up when participants arrive at the program. They are no longer able to identify themselves with a specific group through their image. Self-expression has to come from within. The process of simplifying oneself can be a shock to some and the basic gear and food provided can be difficult to accept at first, but they soon learn that it is all they need. Through critical self-reflection and guidance from wilderness therapy staff, a change in priorities begins to emerge and over the course of the program the initial attachment that they felt to their material possessions disappears.

Boundaries are removed.

With every participant being issued the same set of basic gear, food rations and clothing, no one is “above” or “below” any one else. It is no longer about what group one identified with before coming into the wilderness therapy program. Rather it is about these individuals who have to get through this particular experience together. Relationships are formed between people who may not have associated with one another back home due to belonging to different social groups or, simply, because of what they wore. As a result, self- reflections are shared more openly and honestly, allowing the healing process to take place.

What is important becomes re-prioritized.

The wilderness therapy experience sheds light on what really matters to a person. Upon returning home, participants no longer feel the same attachment to material possessions or belonging to a certain group that they once did. What they take away from the program is the ability to develop meaningful, positive relationships with peers and family and the ability to be confident and self-reliant. 

Call Rites of Passage Wilderness at (800)794-0980 to learn more about wilderness therapy, and how it can help to simplify your life.

Wilderness Therapy Programs

5 Reasons Why Nature & Wilderness Therapy Programs Are Such Powerful Therapy

The transformative and healing power of nature can be felt by anyone. For those who are recovering from substance abuse or struggle with behavioral or mental issues, wilderness therapy programs—are a treatment approach that utilizes nature at its core—can be the best option for long-term success.

The emotional connection with nature 

The positive effects that nature has on emotional and physical wellbeing are relatively undisputed. Many people use nature as a way to decompress from daily life when the responsibilities of family, work and school life become too consuming. Spending time in nature decreases stress, elevates feelings of happiness, increases creativity and improves cognitive functioning. The stillness and quiet of nature can have calming and transformative effects, especially for those who suffer from behavioral problems, mental illness or substance abuse. Teens or young adults who have spent relatively little time in the wilderness can be completely transformed into mature and independent adults through the power of nature.

The benefits of wilderness therapy

Utilizing nature in a treatment program like wilderness therapy yields positive results, because it requires that individuals:

  • Take control. Impulse and emotional control is developed through dealing with the circumstances that living in the wilderness brings. Individuals quickly realize what is in their control and what is out of it. At the beginning of a wilderness therapy program, participants may find controlling their emotions and impulses very difficult, but over time they learn to manage their issues. They control what they can and accept what they cannot. For instance, an individual cannot control the rain, but they can control how they choose to deal with the rain. If they are taking control of the situation they will set up a tent or tarp, creating their own shelter.
  • Accept consequences. In nature, there are consequences for actions. If a person chooses not to set up a tent in the rain, they must accept the consequences and get wet. There is no one to pass on the blame or to redirect responsibility to. Nature teaches a person to accept responsibility for their own well being, resulting in more maturity and self-direction.
  • Develop coping skills. Relaxation techniques and coping skills are cultivated in a natural environment. It has calming and positive effects, allowing individuals to develop relaxation and coping skills to manage life’s irregularities. Coping with setbacks in a natural setting cultivates skills that individuals can take back to their daily lives.
  • Overcome challenges. Living in the wilderness is challenging to anyone, especially for a teen or young adult who is dealing with behavioral or mental problems. The ability to overcome obstacles and see tasks through to the end are skills that are essential to an individual’s ability to remain on the right path. Nature is challenging and giving up just isn’t an option, especially when consequences are immediately felt.
  • Practice self-reflection. The quiet and stillness of nature allows individuals to begin the cognitive restructuring required to begin on a new healthy path. Self-reflection is easier in nature, without the distractions of everyday life to detract from the process. Wilderness therapy incorporates meditation and silent hiking as methods for cultivating this skill.

Wilderness therapy creates an environment where individuals are able to become more self-reliant and independent, contributing more productively to their own treatment. Being removed from familiar situations in a natural setting that has it’s own challenges, allows individuals learn to overcome these challenges by developing skills that they can return home with. As challenging as living in the wilderness is, it is also calming and incredibly effective at allowing a person to connect with their mind and body.  Experiencing nature can be one of the most powerful healing tools for a person.

To learn more about wilderness therapy programs, and how nature can help heal, contact Rites of Passage Wilderness at (800)794-0980.

Programs for Building Self Confidence in Teens & Young Adults

Horses as Healers: Why Equine Therapy Yields Amazing Results

Equine therapy is a highly successful form of treatment for a variety of mental and behavioral related disorders. Horses provide a great way for troubled teens and young adults to build self-confidence and develop responsibility. This form of treatment promotes emotional growth and development, and when conducted in combination with other forms of therapy, yields extraordinary results. When it comes to effective programs for building self confidence in teens, and young adults equine therapy can be extremely beneficial and enjoyable.


What is equine therapy?

Equine therapy is the practice of using horses and horse-related activities as a treatment for behavioral disorders, mental illness, and substance abuse. Also known as horse therapy or hippotherapy, equine therapy focuses on activities like horseback riding, horse care, grooming procedures and saddlery as a means of treatment for individual afflictions.

Equine therapy has been a proven method in treating:

The positive effects of equine therapy

Therapeutic horseback riding and horse care are successful tools in building individual self-confidence and self-reliance. Because horses and humans have similar behavioral patterns, it is easy for participants of equine therapy to form a connection with their animal partner and to let down the guards they put up in interactions with peers. Equine therapy challenges participants to follow directions, build trust and remain attentive.

The results are that individuals:

  • Communicate better
  • Develop social skills
  • Acquire impulse control
  • Learn boundaries
  • Gain perspective
  • Cultivate patience

Utilizing equine therapy in traditional therapy

Horses provide a great way to treat troubled teens and young adults who are otherwise resistant to therapy. Incorporating equine therapy into a traditional therapeutic model is highly beneficial to the patient. The emotional control and self-discipline that is gained through equine therapy is a compliment to additional forms to treatment. Individuals become more open and willing participants in their own treatment as a result of equine therapy. The responsibilities and challenges that come from working with horses foster maturity within the individuals, facilitating them in becoming a part of their own solution. Teens and young adults will become more actively engaged in psychotherapy and other forms of treatment through their work with horses. 

Rites of Passage Wilderness offers a variety of treatment programs for building self confidence in teens and young adults including Equine therapy. Call us today at (800)794-0980 to learn more.

Natural Treatment for Anxiety through Wilderness Therapy

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How Exercise Combats Anxiety

Everybody feels stress and anxiety at some point in their life. When feelings of anxiety deepen and persist to the point that they are impacting a person’s wellbeing, it is time to seek solutions. Physical activity is a natural treatment for anxiety and is highly effective in reducing the symptoms associated with anxiety disorders.

What is anxiety?

In general, anxiety is characterized by excessive feelings of worry and fear. It manifests differently in individuals and depends on a combination of factors including genetics, brain chemistry, environment, physical activity, diet, drug use and medical history.

There are a group of mental disorders that surround anxiety, including:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Phobic disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • PTSD
  • Separation anxiety
  • Situational anxiety

A person may experience emotions that range in intensity from nervousness to an anxiety or panic attack. Left untreated, anxiety can lead to a number of other mental and behavioral issues such as depression.

The general symptoms associated with anxiety disorders include:

  • Restlessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle tension
  • Irritability

The negative impacts of suffering from an anxiety disorder extend to an individual’s personality and ability to carry out daily life. They may avoid activities or group situations they once took pleasure in and may become anti-social.  Persistent anxiety may result in undesirable changes in a person’s perception of life and they may appear to be constantly “on edge.”

Physical exercise works to alleviate anxiety.

Regular physical activity is a simple and highly successful way to manage and cope with anxiety. Exercise produces endorphins—natural brain chemicals—that work to inhibit the perception of pain and stress, treating anxiety by improving or eliminating the symptoms associated with it. Endorphins increase feelings of euphoria, thus reducing the irritability that comes with anxiety.

Regular exercise:

  • Reduces fatigue
  • Improves alertness and concentration
  • Enhance cognitive functioning
  • Elevates and regulates mood
  • Decreases muscle tension

A comprehensive treatment plan for anxiety is one that includes physical activity in conjunction with traditional therapy. 

A treatment program, such as wilderness therapy, that combines physical activity and holistic nutrition with additional treatment methods is the most successful way to treat anxiety. Overcoming the trials of different physical tasks experienced during a wilderness therapy program is empowering and creates an opportunity for an individual who suffers from anxiety to build the self-confidence and self-reliance needed to manage their condition. Exercise is a healthy, natural way to manage and cope with anxiety and stress related disorders, and can take the place of medication in many instances. 

At Rites of Passage Wilderness, we provide a large assortment of wilderness therapy programs which include physical activity and as such, are considered to be a natural treatment for anxiety. Call us at (800)794-0980 to learn more about our programs and to register.

Holistic Lifestyle and Gluten-Free

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What You Need to Know About Gluten and Mental Health

Many behavioral and mental issues are associated with dietary habits, and gluten has gained the overwhelming spotlight. Recent investigation into the effects of gluten-free diets suggests that many of these issues can be improved by altering dietary practices to choose gluten-free or gluten-restricted food. ADHD, depression, anxiety, and autism are among some of the disorders that can benefit from choosing a more holistic lifestyle,and gluten-free diet.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in foods processed from wheat and other cereal grains such as rye, barley and spelt.  It is a glue-like substance used to give foods their doughiness and texture. Common foods containing gluten include pasta, couscous, bread, cookies, cereal, beer, gravy, crackers, dressings and even candy.

Problems with gluten range from gluten-insensitivity to celiac disease. Approximately one in 100 suffer from celiac disease and even more are sensitive to ingesting gluten. Gluten intolerance or sensitivity leads to a variety of emotional and physical discomforts. Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the small intestine and prevents the absorption of nutrients from food.

The side effects associated with gluten intolerance and celiac disease include:

  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Hyperactivity
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Poor motor skills
  • Weight problems
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint or muscle pain

Evidence suggests that gluten intolerance may be at the root of many behavioral and mental disorders. It has been linked to:

Many of the symptoms that underlie gluten intolerance and celiac disease are common to behavioral and emotional issues.

For instance, irritability, hyperactivity and the inability to focus are symptoms that ADHD and gluten intolerance share. Muscle pain, fatigue and sleeping problems are common symptoms of both depression and gluten intolerance. Thus, a diet that eliminates or reduces the amount of gluten ingested can also serve to alleviate the symptoms associated with other disorders.

Switching to a holistic or gluten-free diet has been found to improve behavioral issues and cognitive functioning in troubled teens and young adults.

However, it is important to determine whether or not an individual suffers from gluten intolerance before making the switch to a gluten-free diet. Many gluten containing foods are rich in nutrients, and removing these foods from one’s diet means that these vitamins and minerals need to be replaced by incorporating other sources of nourishment. A nutritionist can help determine which options are right based on individual factors. Going gluten-free may be difficult at first, considering the prevalence of processed foods in today’s current dietary practices, but it can have many benefits that include increased physical and mental health. 

To learn more about living a more Holistic Lifestyle and started a gluten-free diet, contact Rites of Passage Wilderness at (800)794-0980.

Benefits of a Holistic Diet Plan

The Case Against Sugar

Sugar makes up a large part of the standard North-American diet. Only recently have we begun to understand the impacts that the overconsumption of sugar is having on our brains and bodies, causing many to make comparisons between sugar and the chemical effects of addictive drugs, alcohol and tobacco. In some cases, a more healthy holistic diet plan should be considered.

Sugar consumption on the rise

What was once a luxury item, sugar has become an inexpensive and prominent part of today’s average diet. Annual per capita sugar consumption is at the highest it has ever been. Sugar is a blanket term used to describe a class of molecules called carbohydrates, which includes: glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, lactose, dextrose, starch, high fructose corn syrup, honey and raw sugar. Some form of sugar is found in almost all of the packaged and processed foods that we eat. The purpose of refined sugar, like sucrose, is to add sweet flavor to foods; it is devoid of any nutritional content.

The effects of sugar on the brain and body

The overconsumption of sugar impacts the brain and body in many negative ways. Sugar prevents blood sugar levels from remaining stable, leading to hypertension. It causes an overproduction of insulin, which can increase a person’s chance of developing diabetes. It dangerously interferes with the appropriate release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter related to reward and pleasure.

Sugar consumption is also associated with weight gain. It causes an increase in the production of uric acid, which can lead to hypertension and high blood pressure. Sugar also changes the way that your brain thinks about consumption. Leptin, a hormone that regulates metabolism and appetite, is not able to do its job, causing individuals to overeat or binge. Eating large amounts of sugar increases fat production, which in turn places an incredible amount of stress on the liver. This can result in the development of fatty liver disease. High blood sugar levels are also linked to cognitive impairment.

Sugar consumption is also connected to a host of behavioral and mental disorders. High sugar intake can amplify the symptoms associated with:

Sugar addiction

Although a somewhat controversial stance, evidence is building to suggest that sugar has the potential to become addictive. Increased sugar intake raises the production of dopamine, and this activation of the body’s reward system is similar to that of alcohol use, tobacco use, drug use, and sex. Just as nicotine, heroin and cocaine send dopamine into overdrive, so too does sugar, although not to the same violent degree. Over time, the body begins to crave the feelings associated with sugar consumption, fuelling an individual to eat more. The symptoms of withdrawal are also similar to that of drug and alcohol withdrawal.

These symptoms include:

  • Hunger
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings or irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Nausea

Removing sugar in favor of a holistic diet

Making the switch to a healthy holistic diet can work to alleviate all of the problems associated with the overconsumption of sugar. While it may seem impossible for some, given the demands of a busy life and the availability of processed foods, a holistic diet greatly improves cognitive functioning and physical health. Brain chemicals become properly regulated and the mind and body are able to operate optimally.

Not all sugar is removed when a holistic diet is adopted. Natural sugar can be consumed as part of a healthy diet. The naturally occurring sugar found in fruits is different than the sugar found in processed foods. Sugar in the form of natural fructose can provide the body with energy, provided it is not over consumed. Fruit sugar contains fibre, which helps the body to regulate appetite. It is only when sugar is processed that the fiber is stripped from it, eliminating this benefit.

Eradicating sugar may seem impossible for some, but an individual can read labels, check the sugar content of packaged foods and remain aware about what goes into their body. The benefits of a sugar-restrictive diet far outweigh the efforts it takes to remain diligent. 

When considering a healthier lifestyle and want to know more about cutting sugar and transitioning to a holistic diet plan and lifestyle, contact Rights of Passage Wilderness at (800)794-0980.

How To Fight Depression With Healthy Eating and Exercise

Almost everyone feels depressed at some time, but when these feelings begin to negatively impact daily life it is time to address the source of the problem. Diet and exercise play a significant role in both contributing to feelings of depression and also in alleviating the symptoms. When trying to best determine how to fight depression, a healthy diet and regular exercise is a key component to successfully managing a depressive disorder.

What is depression?

Depression is a serious illness affecting both the body and mind. When feelings of sadness and hopelessness turn to overwhelming despair, and extend past the point of being able to engage positively in daily life, depression may be the cause. There are many forms of depressive disorders, including: seasonal affective disorder (SAD), bipolar disorder and dysthymic disorder.

The general symptoms of depression are:

  • Continual feelings of sadness, anxiety or emptiness
  • Negative feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
  • Thoughts of helplessness, worthlessness or guilt
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Inability to concentrate or remember
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Dietary problems
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • Aches, pains, headaches, muscle cramps

The underlying causes of depression are a combination of factors that are genetic, environmental and circumstantial, and are influenced by diet, activity level, family history, medical past, social conditions and life events.

The effects of poor nutrition and lack of exercise on depression

Poor diet and lack of physical activity aggravate the symptoms that cause depression. Ingesting high quantities of sugar, gluten, food additives and processed foods hinder the body’s ability to regulate brain chemistry and manage the feelings associated with depression.  Serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that directs messages within the brain and body, are affected by diet and exercise. As are dopamine and cortisol—the brain chemicals associated with pleasure and reward and stress—thus contributing to feelings of fatigue, decreased energy, mental confusion and sadness.

Making the switch to a regular exercise plan and holistic diet is a significant factor in treating and managing depression.

Proper diet and exercise allow the brain to create and regulate the appropriate amount of serotonin, dopamine and cortisol, which affect nearly every symptom associated with depression. In some instances, a positive change in diet and exercise results in the disappearance of symptoms, suggesting that diet and physical activity can be the most significant factors contributing to depression in some individuals.

Wilderness therapy combines physical activity and holistic nutrition with traditional therapeutic methods, and is an extremely effective way of treating depression.

Fresh air and sunlight, which help to alleviate feelings of depression, are also part of the natural setting of wilderness therapy. In combination with cognitive and behavioral therapies, the diet and exercise plan that comes with wilderness therapy is directed towards empowering participants to carry forward changes made in treatment. Hiking, carrying equipment and the physical challenges that come from living in nature are combined with a diet focused around holistic nutrition. It is not long before participants start to see the dramatic effects that diet and exercise can have on their body and mind, and find continuing these habits in aftercare instrumental in allowing them to self-manage their symptoms.

Rites of Passage can help to teach how to fight depression in a safe and healthy way. Call us at (800)794-0980 to learn more about our programs.


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