Have you been on a walk and felt relaxed? Gotten back from a camping trip wishing you were still off the grid away from life’s stressors? You’re not alone! Nature provides immense stress relief and opportunities to reflect and take a pause of our often hectic lives. There has been an incredible push to get outdoors and soak in these perks, including Girl Scouts’ addition of outdoor adventure badges! We’ve seen a large trend in national organizations like the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI) California and in the news embracing the mental health benefits of spending time in nature.
One of the biggest advantages of spending time outside is the opportunity to build resilience—the learned and developed emotional and mental skill to rebound from setbacks and challenges. Why is resilience important? Having the tools to learn from challenges and setbacks is vital in growing confidence, courage, and character—Girl Scout essentials. Experiences in nature, whether it’s a stroll in your local park or a camping trip (And everything in between and beyond!) provides an incredible opportunity to learn about yourself, your troop, and your surroundings. Connecting with the outdoors doesn’t have to be an extreme adventure for it to be worthwhile and impactful. Read on to discover the seven key building blocks of resilience, and how to practice these skills with your girls in the great outdoors.
Make Critical Decisions
Girl-led programming means girls make decisions and compromise with each other during every activity or badge they complete—whether that’s during a quick outing to the park or a long camping trip. The planning process for an outing is only half of it. To build critical thinking and problem-solving skills, girls need to make important decisions in the moment, even if it’s momentarily stress-inducing. Making decisions and being critically aware doesn’t stop at just one action step, it’s continuous and ever-changing based on the environment you are in. In nature, trust your girls to make decisions for themselves and their troop and be ready to support and guide them when the decisions lead to more opportunities for growth.
As a troop leader, you’re a pro at helping your troop set goals. This is no different when engaging in the outdoors on a hike, camping trip, or badge activity. Setting clear goals and expectations with your troop will help create a meaningful and impactful structure. During this process, have everyone set goals for both themselves and the troop. This allows a balance for everyone to challenge themselves in terms of where they are, and not just where the troop is collectively.
Create Opportunities for Self-Discovery
When they try something new, girls gain the opportunity to gain awareness of and foster trust in themselves, and thus, the world around them.
As a troop, making time to build trust and relationships with each other makes the impact of Girl Scouts incredibly meaningful.
Take Care of Yourself
Self-care in the outdoors has no limits! Examples of this are: bringing plenty of water, food, and sunscreen to keep your body properly fueled and safe while in nature.
- Take risks
- Embrace failure
- Build off your achievements
When challenging your troop, the challenge (or learning) zone is a balance between someone’s comfort and unsafe space—that’s where the growth happens.
When a camping trip, hike, or afternoon stroll doesn’t go the way you had envisioned, it can be a huge disappointment and may feel like a failure. Setting yourself and troops up for success means allowing and embracing change. There are so many factors in the outdoors that you have no control over (weather or trail conditions) and many that you do (being prepared or skill level). Turning around during a hike because of a thunderstorm isn’t a failure. Rescheduling a trip because your troop isn’t at a skill level necessary for it isn’t a failure. Failure isn’t inherently bad—we often just too closely tie it with the opposite of “success.” Embracing change is one of the most important skills to have and teaching it early to your troop will set them up for success throughout their entire lives.
Resilience doesn’t happen in one experience—it takes time to build. Be patient with yourself and your troop when working on building strength. It takes practice to focus on each one of these important steps. All might not happen at once, and that’s okay! Just like all other important Girl Scout skills, it takes courage to try new things.
This list was created using Stanford Medicine’s article on “10 Ways to Build Resilience.”
Grace Heneghan – Grace is a Program Resources Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in Gender and Women’s Studies and minor in Environmental Studies from Northland College. Her background also includes guiding backcountry expeditions and teaching outdoor education to youth. In her free time, Grace enjoys reading, listening to music, cooking, and exploring the metro area. Three things she can’t live without? Pamplemousse La Croix, a canoe paddle, and a manicure.