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Episode 89 - Skydiving is Adventure Therapy: Part 2


The intro to my podcast says, and I’ll quote, “Restoration brings freedom, adventure, and great hope. These are the things God is calling us to.”

I believe this with my whole heart. And do you know, I made that statement right when I started this podcast in November of 2020 before I even knew the fullness of what freedom, adventure, and great hope looked like.

Last week I began telling you of my great adventure of skydiving. There have been so many ah-ha moments for me since that day. Moments where I have been able to push myself beyond complacency or laziness or stubbornness all because I willingly jumped out of an airplane 14,000 feet up in the air. In fact, the following Tuesday I had planned to go to the gym. But it was a full day of coaching clients and I wanted to plop myself on the couch and veg instead. But I remembered my tennis shoes. The same shoes that I wear to the gym are the ones that were free-falling 120 mph, and the same ones that touched the ground first after that amazing, wild ride. Those same shoes were getting me to the gym and giving me “air,” so to speak, to fly through that workout. Boy, I’m full of feeble puns today.

But what I did was train my brain that I can do hard things. When I wanted to plop on the couch, my brain offered me an alternative suggestion. “What if your body and your tennis shoes that just did something most people wouldn’t do went to the gym to see what else your amazing self could do?” This mind training so benefits me because when I face hard things in my life - things that I don’t willingly choose - then my mind, will, and emotions already have evidence that I can overcome. It’s a confidence boost, for sure.

And last week I talked about how experiencing a challenging adventure, becomes adventure therapy. I left off by telling you that there are four areas of our lives that are directly impacted by challenging adventures which brings about positive results for personal growth - that’s the “therapy” part.

Those four areas are stress levels, self-efficacy, mindfulness, and subjective well-being.

Stress, according to established theories, is the result of an interaction between external challenges and internal capacities to cope with the challenges.

Challenging adventures push the individual out of their comfort zone, while providing emotional and instrumental support. It creates neural network memory, just like muscle memory, when faced with other external challenges in life.

For instance, just normal daily hassles include time pressures, pressures to perform, work hassles, environmental disturbances (like, noise, traffic, weather), financial worries, relationship troubles, and many others. And when you are able to face any fear you may have with an adventurous challenge, and then push through and do it, then you know you can face anything and do anything. Your neural network is re-wired to believe you can do hard and challenging things. And then your whole perspective of even the daily hassles of life seems to shift and not look so overwhelming. When you have a handle on overwhelm, your stress levels rapidly descend. Just like a free-fall.

The second area of impact is Self-Efficacy. That’s the belief in one’s capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce an outcome. Self-efficacy reflects confidence in the ability to exert control over one's own motivation and behavior. So, it’s you having control over you. It’s your adult brain overriding the freaked out emotional, primal brain. It’s your ability to bring the logic and reasoning to the challenge.

So, for me, the first few questions I asked about skydiving, and this business in particular, was 1) How long have you been in business? Answer: 20 years. 2) How many tandem skydivers do you average in a day? Answer: 80 (Now note that that doesn’t even include solo jumpers). 3) What is your success rate on souls returned to earth safely? Answer: 100% 4) How do you know when your parachute is worn out and needs to be replaced? Answer: When it malfunctions. Follow up question: And when do you know that it is in this condition? And I knew the answer to that: When you’re in the air. So, another follow up question: And then what do you do? Answer: every pack has a back-up parachute that’s packed and inspected by the FDA every 180 days even if it’s never been used. And number 5) How many jumps does my tandem instructor have? Answer: Over 15,000. (And, by the way, she started skydiving when she was 12, y’all. 12!)

Now, let’s go back to something I mentioned in Part 1 from last week. There is a necessary psychological disequilibrium that should be experienced at the beginning of a challenge in order to attain a mental state between the ‘comfort zone’ and ‘panic zone’, to bring about the greatest amount of personal growth. This is the cognitive dissonance between understanding that I have the best possible odds of not dying in this adventure, coupled with the fear of the unknown that my brain clearly perceives as a threat. And what did they call that? The “groan zone.” But even in that last minute groan before I got pushed out of that plane, I knew - I believed - that I had control over myself and my brain that would prompt behaviors necessary to produce the desired outcome - and that was to jump out of that airplane and have the adventure of a lifetime.

This imprints on my brain that I experienced something challenging, which at first glance looked way too daunting, but that I accomplished it successfully. And if I’ve done it once, I can do it again, regardless of the challenge I face.

The third area of benefit is Mindfulness. Mindfulness refers to the awareness and acceptance of experiences. It’s paying attention on purpose in the present moment, without judgment, to the unfolding of an experience moment by moment.

The article I referenced last week, Mental Health Benefits of Outdoor Adventures by Michael Mutz and Johannes Müller, said, “In outdoor adventures, individuals may be in a state of heightened arousal, due to the novel, unpredictable environment and the challenging tasks to be completed. Outside of their usual routines, they are generally more open for the present-moment experience and leave the “auto-pilot” mode, typical for routined daily actions. This may help individuals to self-direct more attention to their own feelings and thoughts as well as to the beauty of the surrounding natural environment.”

I talked about being in discomfort and how that could actually be for our good in Episode number 79. That’s because discomfort doesn’t just move us. It changes us. When you’re making a change, you actually have to step into the uncomfortable in order to learn something new or to put yourself in a position of newness; to venture out into the unknown so that you can see exactly what you’re made of. But if you refuse, if you choose to stay where it’s comfortable, you for sure will stay in the status quo.

The last area of our life that is directly impacted by challenging adventures which bring about positive results for personal growth is Subjective Well-Being.

According to Mutz and Müller, “Outdoor adventures are likely to impact an individual's momentary happiness and evoke positive emotional reactions, be it through mastery experiences, the beauty of the natural environment, or the social support received from the group. Moreover, mastery experiences may also have an impact on a person's global satisfaction with life. If successfully accomplished challenges are considered exceptional life achievements, then satisfaction ratings increase.” So, it’s feeling good about oneself and then positive emotions are the result.

Adventure therapy: reducing stress levels, bolstering self-efficacy, heightened mindfulness that grows you, and a personal sense of well-being in the accomplishment of the challenge.

These are all the things, and more, that I’ve experienced since jumping out of that airplane. My life seems richer. I even feel a bit more alive and present. It’s like I’m seeing the world in a new way, with a different lens. Things are more detailed, more intricate, distinct. Adventure therapy. And it’s causing me to want to do more of that in my life. I might not have to jump out of an airplane every week to get it, though. But I do think it’s worth looking into and planning, just for the pure feeling of being alive.

How about you, friend? What could you do to provide adventure therapy for yourself? I’m just betting there’s a little urge inside you to step out of your comfort zone, too, and see what you’re made of. Hmm?

Friend, if you feel like your life could use a jump-start (sorry, didn’t mean that literally) - But if you’re wondering why you can’t get past your fears to allow yourself some kind of adventure that directly impacts the four essential areas of your life, I’d love to be your life coach and help you get free.

I’ve put a link in the show notes for a free 30-minute call just so we can see if we’re a good fit to work together and show you how Life Coaching would work for you.

Also, don’t forget to get the free, downloadable guide that complements these past two episodes. It has a few prompt questions that will help you personally work through some of the things I’ve talked about today. It’s like a little life coaching at home.

Have a wonderful week, friends. See you next Wednesday for the next episode of Another Beautiful Life podcast.

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