Anthony Ackers, Founder of Mountain Boardroom, explains why getting out into nature can help with the industry’s mental health crisis.
A survey conducted by Event Well last year indicated that one in three event professionals were experiencing stress and anxiety as a result of their career. In such a fast-paced and demanding industry, it is unsurprising that event profs are looking for new ways to improve poor mental health and crack down on its causes. Anthony Ackers of Mountain Boardroom knows how this mental health crisis might be tackled.
Anthony suggests that the heart of the problem is the expectation that we should always be engaged and available: “Work is full of distractions. You are constantly putting yourself out there and trying to get engagement on social media, which takes away from focusing on your goals. The pandemic has taught us to be on all the time. We always have something open on our screen, but we need to spend more time in the flow, and less time accessing distractions.”
Anthony has a novel way of encouraging this in his clients, leading them up a mountain and offering guidance and discussion there: “It’s an exciting new area of research, and there have been a lot of studies in the past 10 to 15 years into the impact of walking and nature on mental health.
“Aside from the indirect benefits associated with better physical health (for example, better sleep and a sense of achievement) spending more time in nature lowers cortisol. Walking has also been proven to help with depression and is particularly effective at breaking cycles of rumination that can quickly spiral. There are also studies that show walking as an effective way to revitalise the brain, the meditative effect of taking one step after the other can clear our mind, remove distractions, and leave us focussed.
It also massively helps with creativity – walking improves divergent thought, the process in the brain that creates new ideas by considering several different solutions, rather than focussing on a single one. It’s perhaps linked to how walking helps us to enter a flow state, by spending time in a peaceful and familiar environment that holds our fascination without demanding our attention.”
“You’re best placed to help others if you help yourself first.”
This, and other similar wellbeing activities, not only bring teams together but also help to encourage them into a mindset which helps to accomplish their goals: “Our team coaching events use nature as a facilitator, and the expedition as a representation of our own journeys. We use the safe space, freedom from distraction and literally the big picture of the landscape in front of us, to look at our purpose, both as individuals and as a team. We use metaphors to describe some of the challenges we might be facing, or choices we have to make – for example, choosing our path, getting there one step at a time, and climbing mountains. We also like to push people out of their comfort zones, offering challenging routes and questions.”
Modern life is increasingly busy, but that only means that it’s more important than ever to take time out for yourself: “Get outside!” Anthony advises. “When you’re stuck, can’t think, feel overwhelmed or are distracted, just stop. Go for a walk, even if it’s only 10 minutes, changing environment will help you change your state and start to process what’s on your mind. You’re best placed to help others if you help yourself first.”