Getting Out for a Hike Has Many Benefits for PROS Participants
Every Friday at 10:30 a.m., 12 individuals pile into a van and head out of town. Their destination is a local park, with the goal of taking a hike or exploring the outdoors. Every outing has a different theme, such as emotional health, meditation, or self-awareness. By 12:15 p.m., they’re back in Copiague where they started. Yet, as these PROS participants have noted, they’re in a different state of mind when they return.
“One hour of hiking can help depression, anxiety, and cravings for substances,” said Maria Christiansen, Program Manager for Copiague PROS, who helped create the program to get people outside. “It gives clients an opportunity to activate their coping skills and actually implement what they are learning in our workshops. For example, we don’t just talk about meditation, we go sit on a beach and meditate.”
The group, appropriately named “Adventures,” started May 26 and is already a favorite among many PROS members.
Ryan Busuttil, Associate Director of Clinical Services, considers the new program a resounding success and points to the “Before-and-After” surveys that participants complete each Friday. The “Before” comments tend to be about feeling “lethargic.” The “After” comments include “I feel positive,” “negative thoughts are gone,” and “I felt my anxiety lowered.”
Christiansen said that participants report seeing a shift in cravings for substances. She even noted that people who usually don’t speak with anybody are now talking with others during the outings. Overall, Christiansen said that people feel a sense of accomplishment for participating.
“Getting outside, exploring, moving around as a group gives each person a chance to experience something new, away from triggers that lead to overeating, smoking, and negative thinking,” she said. “A heavy smoker said he didn’t crave a cigarette once while hiking.”
Busuttil is eager to share the findings with Federation colleagues. “Based on the success of the hiking groups, we will share this with the two other PROS programs,” he said. “It’s a new program and it’s having great benefits for the people we work with.”