Backyard Adventuring: The Therapeutic Benefits of Exploring Your Own Space

backyard adventuring - woman looking at tree with wonder

The idea of adventure often conjures up images of exotic travel, multi-day hikes, or daring expeditions. However, adventure doesn’t always have to involve significant planning or travel. Sometimes, adventure can be found in your backyard.

For centuries there are stories of people who felt lost, broken, or traumatised and decided that to find themselves they needed to create an adventure. These might involve long voyages, complex expeditions or extended times away. I think we have all come to realise that type of travel is a luxury many of us do not have the resources to make happen at the moment.

For a lot of people planning holidays to far-off destinations feels like a dream and for some even going interstate doesn’t feel any better. So, how can we use our time off from our busy selves to restore and still feel connected to a sense of adventure? Maybe we need to look closer to home.

Backyard adventuring involves exploring your own outdoor space, whether it’s a backyard or a local national park. Maybe, it is one of those places that you walk or drive past regularly or maybe there is a path to somewhere that you would be curious to explore one day. Whatever it is, it can offer therapeutic benefits for individuals seeking to improve their mental health and overall well-being.
One of the benefits of this type of adventuring is that it provides opportunities for mindfulness and connection to nature. Spending time outside can reduce stress, improve mood, and boost self-esteem. Even a few minutes of fresh air and sunshine ‘Hello vitamin D’ can help individuals feel more grounded and present in the moment. Did you know that access to fresh air is the No 1 immunity builder?

Backyard adventuring can also be a way to build resilience and problem-solving skills. You may encounter unexpected obstacles, such as overgrown vegetation, or lose phone signal (perish the thought). These challenges can provide opportunities to practice problem-solving skills and develop resilience in the face of adversity. I joke a bit here but in all seriousness it is a good way to disconnect from people and the temptation of social media.
Another benefit of backyard adventuring is that it can offer a sense of accomplishment and personal growth. Even small adventures, such as building a birdhouse or planting a garden, can provide a sense of purpose and achievement. These activities can also offer opportunities to learn new skills and expand your knowledge, it may invite a new hobby or prick a new interest. There is something wonderfully ancient about stripping away the need for travel or kit to enable adventure, becoming earthed literally by feeling the ground and being absorbed by an environment that is not man-made.

Backyard adventuring can also provide opportunities for connection and community. It can be a way to connect with family and friends or to meet new people with shared interests. It can also foster a sense of connection to the local community and the natural world.

It can be enjoyable to share new spaces you have discovered with friends and family which may in turn incite the backyard adventurer in them too. These connections with nature do not need resources or expensive kits. Just practical clothing, water and maybe a small first aid kid just in case.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Set up a camp in the backyard, make your food from scratch, and bring a torch to explore the nocturnal life whilst listening out for nature calls.

  • Go for a walk by the riverside, or better yet hire a tinny or kayak and see the world from a completely new perspective.

  • Plan a walk from one suburb to the next, take the camera and look for flowers, plants and other forms of nature.

  • Start a veggie garden, learning to grow vegetables is a wonderful way of dealing with anxiety and grief and loss. Getting to eat your own vegies, makes the work worthwhile.

  • Sit in your garden or local park and count the different types of bird you see. You will be amazed at how many visitors fly by.

  • Find a spot in a national park to make a cup of tea or fry up a bacon sandwich. Then sit and eat, watching nature.
    Choose a different time of day to do a familiar walk and experience the different sensory experiences, light changes, sounds, and smells.

There are so many ways you can make a backyard adventure work. We spend so much time wishing to be somewhere else rather than practising gratitude for where we actually are, it would be wonderful to fall in love with our neighbourhood and feel more present and connected to our community.

I see many people talk about what is not possible at the moment and it is true life does feel more squeezed financially with rising interest rates, service rates, petrol and grocery costs. However, it is possible to reframe the experience to ‘what have we gained’ rather than ‘what have we lost’. I feel that backyard adventuring reminds us there are things that man cannot take away from us. Nature offers us no judgement or shame, instead, it offers us safety, the present and a way for us to feel more gentle with ourselves.

If we can fall in love with our backyards and our local areas then we reduce the need to wish for more. When we start feeling thankful for what we have got, we reduce stress and anxiety levels because we feel more present and less wanting for things out of financial reach. The act of practising gratitude daily significantly lowers stress levels. This means that you can have more influence over your life simply by letting go and by ‘being with’ rather than ‘doing’. This will give a new perspective on where you live, how you live and the intentions you give to yourself. So, next time you are in your neighbourhood, look at it with curiosity to see what adventures may be waiting for you.

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