kids on top of log

Unlocking Health and Happiness Through Outdoor Mentoring

Unlocking Health and Happiness Through Outdoor Mentoring: The Power of ACEs Prevention

Inside-Out Conference by Children & Nature Network

In June 2023, the Children & Nature Network organized the Inside-Out Conference, which was held in Estes Park, Colorado.

SImilar to Wilderness Youth Project, the Children & Nature Network believe that, “when children spend time outdoors, they are healthier, happier and more successful in school. But over the past few generations, childhood has moved indoors, disconnected from the natural world.”

The Inside-Out International Conference brings children and nature leaders together for a world-class conference with the hope that we can work together to turn the trend of an indoor childhood back out to the benefits of nature (hence the name, Inside-Out).

Focusing on Expanding the Supportive Relationship + ACEs

At this year’s conference, WYP’s own Andrew Lindsey gave a Ted-style Talk on the critical role of outdoor mentoring in preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and promoting community health.

Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since the groundbreaking "Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study” shed light on the link between childhood abuse, household dysfunction, and various leading causes of death in adults. Andrew began his talk by acknowledging the ever-increasing complexity surrounding the findings of this study, challenging our ability to grapple with multiple facets of truth.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Credit: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Read more on WYP’s blog: Adverse Childhood Experiences & Stress Busters

Today, everyone from service professionals to policymakers must grapple with a web of interconnected issues made up of the ten original ACEs, ACE-associated health conditions (AAHCs), systemic racism, the toxic stress response, mitigation strategies, protective factors, structural inequalities, environmental justice, and the overly of the COVID pandemic.

In this intricate landscape, there's a pressing need for cross-sector innovation and substantial public investment in community health. However, amid all these complexities, we must not lose sight of the study's fundamental revelation: our relationships profoundly impact our health. This, according to Andrew, is at the heart of the ACEs study and should be the cornerstone of our response.

Shared Access to Nature

Andrew’s presentation centered on the idea that shared access to nature offers one of the most efficient avenues to foster supportive relationships. He shared practical examples and theoretical strategies, providing valuable insights for individuals and organizations striving to guide their communities toward health solutions. 

These solutions focus on not only access to nature but also a holistic model that incorporates the seven “Stress Busters;” the only practices proven to mitigate the toxic stress response. They are: supportive relationships, access to nature, physical activity, mindfulness practices, balanced nutrition, quality sleep, and mental health care.

Stress graphic *Graphic adapted from the "Roadmap to Resilience: The California Surgeon General’s Report on Adverse Childhood Experiences, Toxic Stress, and Health"
*Graphic adapted from the "Roadmap to Resilience: The California Surgeon General’s Report on Adverse Childhood Experiences, Toxic Stress, and Health"

The critical role of outdoor mentoring in ACEs prevention and community health

Outdoor mentoring programs provide a unique opportunity to build resilient individuals and communities. By engaging with nature together, we create supportive relationships that serve as a buffer against ACEs and their associated health impacts. These relationships not only foster emotional well-being but also boost physical health, reduce stress, and improve overall quality of life.

But the benefits don't stop there. Andrew’s talk emphasizes the importance of a comprehensive approach to health that integrates elements such as physical activity, mindfulness practices, nutrition, sleep, and mental health care. When combined with outdoor mentoring, this holistic model can transform communities, promoting health and well-being from the ground up.

So, what does all this mean for you and your community?

In a world increasingly marked by complexity and challenges, the wisdom of the ACEs study endures: our relationships matter. And when we bring these relationships into the great outdoors, magic happens. So, whether you're an advocate, a mentor, a parent, or simply someone who cares about the health of your community, consider the power of time outside and mentoring as a way to unlock a better future for all.


You can learn more…