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teens with ADHD

Adventure Therapy Helps Teens with ADHD Regulate Emotions

Many believe that calming, low-energy activities serve as a healthy outlet to regulate the energy levels of teens with ADHD. But, these are the exact types of activities that trigger symptoms, like restlessness and inattention. When their mind is overwhelmed with restless energy, they feel more in sync with themselves with their body matches the same energy. Studies show that increased outdoor activity helps reduce the severity of symptoms associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity in teens.

Signs of ADHD in Teens

While people typically think of someone with ADHD as someone who displays high energy and difficulty sitting still, ADHD looks different for many teens. It is better understood as a combination of executive functioning issues, rather than a behavioral issue. The four main categories of ADHD symptoms include inattention, mismatch of information, behavioral inhibition and control, and insatiability for new experiences. 

  • Inattention refers to difficulty concentrating, particularly for longer periods of time. This is considered one of the most common signs of ADHD.
  • Mismatch of information involves difficulty integrating information and deciding what information (like assignment deadlines or instructions) is important.
  • Behavioral inhibition and control explains why many teens with ADHD are identified due to behavior problems. They act and speak quickly without thinking or planning, which can make it difficult to self-monitor their decision making.
  • Insatiability for new experiences refers to being easily bored with information and easily distracted. This may look like being restless and struggling to concentrate on activities that are not exciting enough. This explains why they are more likely to take risks or become preoccupied with a subject of interest.

The Benefits of the Outdoors

In one study, first published in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, researchers wanted to investigate if the discovery that exposure to green outdoor spaces improves concentration and impulse control applies to teens with ADHD. After analyzing survey data, they found that most parents reported that their child exhibited milder symptoms of ADHD immediately after going to a public park. Those who routinely spend time outside, whether it’s participating in sports, going to parks, or spending time in their backyard, exhibit lower levels of hyperactivity overall.  This suggests that increased activity in hyperactive teens is not something that should be “discouraged,” but rather than it can be managed through structured activities.  

How Does Adventure Therapy Help?

Teens with ADHD benefit more from structured activities and routines than unstructured time, which is when their mind starts to wander and they lose focus. Planned weekly recreation outings help teens with ADHD improve their mind-body connection when it comes to impulse control and concentration. Rotating through a variety of adventure activities meets their need for new and exciting experiences and helps them understand how to apply skills practiced while, say, hiking in a different scenario, like mountain biking.

Adventure activities also give teens immediate feedback about their mood and interactions, which they may struggle to understand in more traditional group therapy sessions. For example, canoeing requires working with other people in the boat and communicating directly about the speed and direction of the paddles. When they are struggling to communicate with others and explain their thought process about the next steps to take, they are better able to see the “natural consequences” of their communication issues, as they end up heading in the wrong direction or getting caught in a shallow area. With practice, teens build awareness of their environment and develop the motor skills to respond quickly to changes in the water and direct others to get on the same page in a shorter period of time.  

Spending more time outdoors also has physiological benefits that help relax one’s nervous system, even when participating in higher-intensity activities. Teens with ADHD are often very goal-oriented, even if they have a hard time breaking down their goals into smaller goals. While their goal may be to excel in certain activities, nature has a way of reminding them to slow down and enjoy the experience. This helps them to remain calm and regulated in difficult moments. Regardless of their skill level, teens feel a sense of accomplishment after participating in adventure activities, which helps build their confidence.

Red Mountain Colorado Can Help 

Red Mountain Colorado is a residential treatment center for young people ages 14-17. The program focuses on influencing a positive change in the lives of students. Healthy, sustainable activities are also incorporated so that students will be able to apply the things they learn to their everyday lives. Teens with trauma leave Red Mountain Colorado feeling empowered and in control of their lives.

For more information, call (877) 302-5022. We can help your family today!