Connection to Nature
A core part of our program is helping our residents experience the highly beneficial aspects of a meaningful connection with nature. We incorporate these natural areas into our program to expose our residents to the benefits of being in nature and to help them develop healthy habits that lead to emotional well-being. Our facility is located on ten acres of forested land and is less than three miles from picturesque beaches, estuaries, nature trails, and conservation lands. We are also within close proximity to state and national parks and forests, mountainous areas, rivers and lakes, as well as the ocean. We hope to explore all this beauty with our residents.
To draw on the power of these experiences as well as inspiration from Kurt Hahn (who was a founder of Outward Bound) we do morning exercise with walks on the beach and "expeditions" into nature. These are physical challenges in nature. Putting forth effort to share in memorable experiences that involve “uncertain outcomes and acceptable risk" is transformative. These opportunities, no matter the scale, give residents “opportunities for self discovery.” Undertaking climbing a mountain, or surfing for the first time can cause trepidation. Our staff prepares residents to meet these challenges. Adding the element of potential failure allows residents to discover themselves, and gives them the ability “meet with triumph and defeat.” Not “hushing up failure” teaches them that they have the ability to learn from failure and success. Both involve a process of practicing skills, which makes even the most challenging experiences doable. We are incorporating hikes into the surrounding mountains and beyond, as well as biking, kayaking, trail running and surfing.
Our culture is replete with stories of people reconnecting with themselves through nature. Some researchers have argued that being in nature is a therapeutic process in and of itself. A recent study found that a lack of exposure to nature can facilitate negative thinking which encourages maladaptive patterns of self-referential thoughts and rumination. When individuals in this study committed to 90-minute walks in a natural area it had a beneficial impact on their psychological well-being and thought processes. There was a direct impact on the area of the brain that is linked to negative emotions and mental health risks.
One of the local resources we utilize for connection with nature is White Pine Program.
*Quotes on this page are from Kurt Hahn's, Seven Laws of Salem (Schule Schloss Salem).