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February 2016 Newsletter

The Mental Health Benefits Of The Outdoors

by Erika Llantero, MFTI
Have you ever felt in awe standing at the top of a mountain overlooking a beautiful view? There are reasons that we have this response to being outdoors and connecting with the natural environment. Nature has a positive remedial impact on a person’s quality of life and can be very calming. This is why encouraging our teens to be outdoors and in nature is so important and therapeutic.

Physical Effects
The physical activity we participate in outdoors has a substantial effect on physical health, mental health, and academic performance. A study performed by Strong et al. (2005) showed that physical activity increases focus and memory, as well as positively impacts teens struggling with anxiety and depression. Physical activity is also linked to the increased release of serotonin, the neurotransmitter in the brain that affects mood, sleep, and memory (among several other functions). When we increase our physical activity (especially outdoors), we also increase the release of serotonin, which improves our mood and overall functioning.

Break Out Of The Familiar
Our teens also spend so much time inside--in the classroom, playing video games, chatting online, or watching movies--and unfortunately, this extended time indoors prevents our teens from receiving the natural benefits offered by the outdoors. There are several studies that focus on the stress that is brought on by the stimulation of being indoors. When our teens take a break from this indoor stimulation, including social media, texting, and the use of other technological devices, they are able to really breathe. The decreased stimulation of the outdoors allows their brains to take a break from the negative effects of our fast-paced world. Being outdoors gives them a perceptive break from those things that are identified as stressful at home. This can also be a great opportunity to spend positive time with your kids. Take the time to join your teen outside and have quality time away from the regular stressors. 

Fresh Air
Another element to this experience is simply breathing fresh air and being surrounded by open space. Anyone who has taken a hike right after a storm, or walked through a grove of pine trees, knows the effects are calming and centering. Even taking a walk around the block on a beautiful sunny day and taking in deep breaths can feel relaxing and freeing.

The access we have to parks and trails locally makes it easier for our teens to attain the physical and mental benefits that nature has to offer. Why not take advantage and encourage your teen to experience the value of spending time outdoors? Consider taking a hike with your teen at Quicksilver, Lexington, or Montalvo, head to Monterey and go kayaking at Elkhorn Slough, or go for a bike ride on the Los Gatos Creek Trail. These activities will get everyone away from television, computers, and phones. The natural benefits will pleasantly surprise you!

Strong, William B. et al. (2005). Evidence Based Physical Activity for School-Age Youth. The Journal of Pediatrics, Volume 146, Issue 6, 732 – 737.

About The Author

Erika Llantero is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern seeing clients both in the office and in their homes as an In-Home Teen and Family Coach. Erika has 15 years of experience working with adolescents and their families. She has extensive training in crisis intervention, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, and structural family therapy. Her special areas of interest include: teaching families positive communication strategies, adventure and experiential therapy, parent coaching and support, anxiety, depression, trauma, meditation, and mindfulness.

New DBT Skills Group!

The DBT Skills group is a 4-month structured program. It is composed of four four-week skills modules. Each module includes 2 teen groups per week on Tuesdays and Thursday from 5:30-6:45pm and 2 parent groups per module on every other Saturday from 9:00-10:15am. Each four-week module is $995. New members can join at the beginning of each module.

In this group, your teen will gain skills that will help him / her learn how to better control his / her attention, emotional responses, and behavior. Your teen will also learn how to improve his / her problem solving and decision making skills all while increasing his / her ability to communicate effectively with other people.

To sign up or get more information, please contact us at 408.389.3538 or

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Private Practice Launchpad provides the paperwork and systems for therapists who are starting a private practice or growing their practice to include other clinicians. Lindsay Smith founded Private Practice Launchpad in 2015 with a vision to share her proven methods with other clinicians to help them move into private practice quickly and successfully, saving them time and money.

Are you eager to launch your private practice but don’t know where to start? Want to make a great living, set your own hours, and gain a stellar reputation? Visit Private Practice Launchpad to learn more and kickstart your mental health business today!
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