Don’t Let Your Mood Fall With the Season, Expert Says

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Reset Outdoors, a Bethlehem-based mental health practice offering counseling services, is helping the community navigate the challenges that come with the changing of the seasons, particularly as cooler fall weather begins to turn thoughts toward the dark winter days ahead.

This time of year is routinely filled with anxiety for many of us. Turning the clocks back means less sunlight to enjoy, children are back to spending seven hours a day in school, and cooler weather makes it harder to enjoy some of our favorite activities.

In the COVID era, colder months have seen a rise in case numbers and stricter mandates.

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed and unprepared for this time of year, but Reset Outdoors founder Connor Moriarty knows an easy way to improve our well-being this fall: spend more time outside.

“There are so many parts of us that are positively impacted by spending time outside,” he said.

Moriarty has been utilizing nature in counseling sessions since he started Reset Outdoors in 2017. The unique approach utilizes the positive effect that being outside has on human beings, which Moriarty finds is especially useful for counseling purposes.

Reset Outdoors outside

Reset Outdoors’ emphasis on utilizing nature in counseling sessions is backed by a wealth of research into the positive effects that time spent outside has on humans.

Whether you are actively working on improving your well-being or not, spending more time outside introduces a variety of health benefits to our lives.

“In the first five to 10 minutes we spend outside, the stress hormones in our brain measurably reduce, specifically cortisol,” Moriarty said.

This results in humans feeling physiologically less stressed after spending just a few minutes in nature, he explained.

“The next thing that happens, in the next 10 to 15 minutes, is our blood pressure and heart rate change. Our blood pressure drops and our heart rate gets back to a healthy variable level,” Moriarty continued, adding that heart rate variability is a key measure of heart health.

“As stress reduces, our sense of connectedness and empathy go up. That means our sense of belonging, essentially the opposite of loneliness, and our ability to connect meaningfully with people and the environment around us improves,” Moriarty said.

The positive changes humans experience when we are outside might be hard to truly quantify. Moriarty also spoke about how our ability to solve problems creatively and pay attention to specific tasks increases in nature, as our mood is lifted.

These measurable improvements all take place in under an hour, said Moriarty, who earned master’s degrees in international peace and conflict resolution and counseling psychology with a certification in trauma and recovery from Arcadia University and has more than a decade of experience as a licensed professional counselor (LPC).

The health benefits of spending time outdoors are significant on their own, but outdoor therapy can be even more beneficial with assistance, which is what Moriarty and Reset Outdoors specialize in with their 90-minute outdoor counseling sessions.

Outdoor counseling sessions can be anything from a hike along a local trail to kayaking or a stand-up paddleboard trip on a local waterway. Moriarty finds that engaging in gentle, low-impact physical activity can greatly enhance a counseling session.

Combining physical activity within an outdoor setting and a counselor who cares for and has established trust with the client provides the perfect ingredients for a uniquely profound counseling experience.

“Even if someone doesn’t want to talk, they don’t have to say a word, and they’re still going to have a measurable, tangible benefit,” Moriarty said.

Moriarty has 11 years of experience as a licensed professional counselor. He earned dual master’s degrees in international peace and conflict resolution and counseling psychology with a certification in trauma and recovery from Arcadia University.

The outdoor counseling sessions are designed to help clients improve their well-being in ways that other counseling approaches can’t, such as by meeting clients in natural spaces that are convenient and comfortable for them.

“Our goal is to connect people with greenspaces that are 10 to 15 minutes away from their home or their work, because we want people to start getting familiar with locations that are conveniently accessible, so they can build that relationship and start doing it on their own without us,” Moriarty explained.

Moriarty added that the length of an outdoor session, 90 minutes, is specifically chosen based on recent studies.

“Research says that the magic number of time spent outside for sustainable, measurable, positive benefit is two hours a week, so our goal with one 90-minute session is to get you three-quarters of the way to your goal, so that you can fill in and even exceed that two-hour mark on your own over the course of the week,” he explained.

In addition to outdoor sessions, Reset Outdoors also offers 50-minute, one-on-one sessions with a clinician at their southside Bethlehem office. Their staff of licensed professional counselors also work with couples and families, both in the office setting and outdoors.

Whether an individual is feeling stressed or uneasy, lacking motivation or looking for support, Reset Outdoors has a variety of tools as well as the guidance to work together on improving their well-being.

While an out-of-network provider, Reset Outdoors can provide clients with paperwork to seek reimbursement from their insurance carrier.

Reset Outdoors also offers well-being as professional development and leadership training services for businesses and corporations.

“We approach well-being from two distinct angles. One is with individuals, and the other is with the workplaces that those individuals occupy for 40 hours,” Moriarty said.

Reset Outdoors has worked with local businesses such as Lehigh University, Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, PPL and Moravian Academy.

To begin learning more about how Reset Outdoors services may be of use to you or your business, call (484) 893-4545. Their website also has a ‘Let’s Talk’ page, which can be used to get in contact with their clinicians.

This story is sponsored by Reset Outdoors as part of our effort to support local businesses while promoting healthy lifestyles. To learn more about sponsored content on Saucon Source, click here or email Josh Popichak at josh@sauconsource.com.

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