Since its inception as a means of self-improvement in the 1970s, coaching has primarily taken place inside. Outdoor coaching, often known as nature-coaching, is a relatively new subset of the coaching industry that moves these discussions outside.
Both coaches who include it into their practises and their clients have reported numerous positive consequences, including enhanced coaching outcomes and enhanced emotional and physical health.
While numerous sectors (including mental health, workplace psychology, and education) have studied the positive effects of time spent in the outdoors, very little is known about the advantages of coaching in natural settings.
Numerous studies have examined the rising percentage of time that individuals spend indoors; one such study, the National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS1), revealed that 86.9% of our time was spent indoors. According to a more recent survey conducted by YouGov2, the average person overestimates the percentage of time they spend indoors by roughly 10%. They hypothesise that it can have serious consequences for both mental and physical health, including a shortage in vitamin D, decreased productivity, disturbed sleep patterns, elevated risks of asthma and obesity, and lessening of opportunities to engage in physically demanding activities.
As a result, we need to not just spend more time outside, but make the most of that time. Coaches and their clients alike can benefit greatly from taking a fresh perspective on the coaching process and encouraging coaching conversations to take place in natural settings, both for the sake of the coaching outcomes and as a means of taking a tangible step (excuse the pun) toward improving our inherently sedentary and indoor way of life.
What did the research say?
Seven overarching concepts emerged from this study that explain why having coaching talks in natural settings is beneficial (although many other themes came out of the discussions with the coachees, these 7 were the ones that were mentioned the most). Below is a synopsis, with the entire report containing the details.
Contrast this with indoor coaching, where most interactions take place sat opposite one other on opposing benches: side-by-side — strolling or sitting alongside the coach. The coachee feels safer, more comfortable, and more connected to the coach as a result. Together, on the road both literally and figuratively.
When the coachee is outside, they are free to experiment with movement and tempo in their play, allowing it to mirror their state of mind and convey the range of feelings they're experiencing at the time. All of the coachee's many modes of movement and stillness (meandering, stomping, walking fast, standing or sitting still, walking back over the same location) serve as a mechanism to give the brain time to think.
Some students, when compared to their outside coaching peers, appear to feel more restricted, stuck, and limited in an indoor setting. They report that being outside increases feelings of liberation, openness, calm, relaxation, and energy. They are able to have feelings of awe, metaphor, and analogy outside that they don't have inside.
Outdoor time provides new learning opportunities, a new vantage point, and new ways of thinking. It's constantly evolving, so there are always fresh parallels to be drawn and new metaphors to test out.
Walking with a coach allows the coachee to take in the vastness of the natural environment in front of them. Because of this, we are liberated from limiting beliefs and can think without constraints of space or time.
Benefits to emotional and physical health can be gained through spending time outdoors in nature coaching, when participants are exposed to elements such as weather, animals, and the environment. It's not uncommon for a coachee to have an emotional bond with a non-human being, such as a tree or plant. The healing powers of nature can be felt by some people in green places, while others find solace in water. Coachees can tap into their innate capacity for metaphor and analogy by caressing a tree bark or leaf, or drawing in the dirt with a stick, during an outdoor coaching session.
All of the senses (including taste) are stimulated during outdoor coaching, and the result is a one-of-a-kind emotional and mental experience. Coachees benefit from the use of all their senses in novel ways, which can aid in sense-making and contribute to a sense of security.
The research also uncovered new information about such factors as the coach's position, logistics, location, climate, and privacy. The report also includes a brief discussion of them.
Nature coaching is worth a try.
I can't stress how important it is for you to attempt outside coaching. Your lunch break is perfect for a stroll in the park, a stroll along the canal, a stroll around the loch, or a trek up the mountain. Or just relaxing on a park seat, along a lake, or on a forest floor. Outdoor coaching can be done in a variety of settings..
Don't hesitate to get in touch if you need a nature coach.
Writing this while sitting inside before taking the dogs for a walk up the hill behind our house is a good example of my commitment to putting my own advice into practise. You should now go outside...... if you haven't done so already.