Overcoming Mental Blocks In Outdoor Activities- Beliefs, Attitudes, And Self Confidence

Imagine this is you at the end of this rope, the summit towering boldly above. You’ve trained your body, wearing the right gear, but then unexpectantly, you get a mental block. That nagging voice in your head that is making you doubt yourself.

If this has happened to you-you’re not alone. Mental blocks in outdoor activities are pretty common and can be a barrier to what could be an adventure of a lifetime.

In College, my summer days were spent bungee jumping, rock climbing and water skiing. I know bungee jumping doesn’t involve any type of skill or on going activity, but I did this for the adrenaline rush and overcome my fears of jumping off bridges. This was another way to get me outdoors into beautiful areas as well. You don’t have to bungee jump though to overcome your mental blocks.

Understanding the difference between personal limits and self-imposed barriers is key. A limit is like a red light—safety first, no argument. But a barrier? That’s often a ‘yield’ sign, softly suggesting you could, with a touch of courage, roll right through. Recognize that sometimes barriers are just false constructions of our cautious minds.

So, an effective strategy is to adjust your mentality. Re-frame challenges as opportunities for growth rather than insurmountable obstacles. Take those barriers and use them as stepping-stones. Once you master the art of mental toughness, the great outdoors becomes an open door to true adventure.

Mental and Physical Connection

Thoughts are things. The impact your mind has on your body cannot be overestimated. Your thoughts and feelings have a direct impact on your body. This is based in science- not woo woo stuff.

Here’s a quick example: Think about a lemon- see this yellow fruit cut into slices. Now imagine popping this into your mouth- sour right! Did your mouth start to water? If a simple thought does that, imagine what negative anxiety producing thoughts can do to your body!

There is huge power between your mind, emotions and your body. Elite athletes know very well that 80% of their performance is based on their mental attitude.

Visualizing your goal and using positive self talk to reinforce your capabilities will get you where you want to go. You tell yourself you can make it to the top of the mountain, run 3 miles or do over 20 pushups in a row.

Negative thoughts and feelings can completely sabotage your efforts and intentions with pursuing outdoor recreation.

The demands of outdoor fitness and recreation requires emotional control and mental focus. Benefits of being active outdoors include increased mental acuity, concentration and self-awareness. The self-reflection and even self-discovery are benefits of the outdoors that typically surprise people.

Once you truly understand and implement the mind/body connection, you don’t want others to drag you down. Let’s take a look at combatting negative people .

Navigating Social Terrain: Avoiding Negative People

Group Outdoors

The people you surround yourself with can be your biggest obstacle. When I was involved in those more extreme sports in College, I had people telling me all the time I could get hurt.

I knew there was the chance of this happening. However, my friend who owned the Bungee Jumping Co., was an Engineer. My friends I went rock climbing with also had Engineering degrees. These people are highly knowledgeable, technical, and made sure everything was in place.

My point is this- despite being told by everyone around me not to do these activities, I did them anyway. Looking back, they are some of the best times I’ve had in my life. I made great friendships and memories to last me a lifetime.

If you have people in your life trying to tell you to not do something, have an honest conversation with them. Let them know you appreciate their concern, but it’s your life. Don’t let negativity from others have an impact on whether you even try a new activity.

You may even find negative people within a group setting. There is one lady in my MeetUp that was always complaining about the Mountain Bike Trails. I finally told her that if she’s not happy with my group, then she can start her own. She was bringing everyone else down on these rides. She would always point out the negatives and her energy was not good for the group.

So, how can you stay upbeat when faced with pessimism while you’re halfway up a climb or half way into a 10 mile hike?

It’s about creating an invisible shield around your mind. Tune into the positives: the chirping of birds, the majesty of the towering trees, or the crunching sound your shoes make on the path. If you need to, you can speak with them privately and let them know how they are affecting you.

It’s difficult enough if people in your life don’t have confidence in you. What if you don’t have confidence in yourself?

Believing in yourself ties into what I discussed earlier- the mind/body connection. So let’s take a look at ways to improve your confidence when pursuing outdoor sports.

Self-Belief & Confidence

You might have noticed that experienced hikers, kayakers, or rock climbers have something in common: a strong sense of self-belief. This isn’t a coincidence. Overcoming outdoor obstacles often starts in the mind. Believing in yourself is not just feel-good advice; it’s a critical tool for success in nature’s vast playground.

Imagine you’re about ready to kayak down a raging river. Your muscles might be ready, but if your mind hesitates, your body will likely follow suit. Confidence and believing in yourself is the gatekeeper of your potential. When you truly believe in your capabilities, you unlock a higher level of performance. You push past discomfort, you adapt, and you overcome.

Now, having this level of confidence doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen. Begin with setting small, achievable goals. Each success is a stepping stone towards greater challenges. And remember to acknowledge your progress. This isn’t just about reaching a summit; it’s about the small steps you’ve taken to get there.

I remember when I started Mountain Biking. My first ride was 3 miles- and I thought that was a lot. 🙂 Now, I ride between 10-15 miles and I am more skilled riding on the trail. I was super anxious my first ride because I had to learn how to shift going up and down the hills and how to control my bike.

I have gone over the handle bars many times as well, but I get back on. Yes, I realize I can get seriously hurt, but my mindset is that I could die many other ways as well. My confidence has grown over the years w/riding-, but I did not start out this way.

Don’t forget to look to the stories of others for inspiration. Real-life tales of resilience can show you the power of self-belief. From the climber who conquered Everest to the swimmer who crossed the Channel, their success boiled down to one belief: ‘I can.’ These narratives remind us that our mental state can pull us through physical endurance tests.

Keep Moving Forward

Face those fears head-on. Whether it’s scaling a rock face or kayaking through white waters, the acts of preparing, understanding the risks, and then pushing through fear, all contribute to confidence building. Gradual exposure to challenging situations can lead to monumental gains in how you see yourself and what you believe you can do.

Don’t worry too much about having an off day. That’s going to include facing setbacks and perhaps even feeling like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. It’s normal, and these experiences actually serve as excellent foundations for growing confidence. Remember, your first attempt doesn’t need to be your last.

A lot is happening very quickly when you’re out in nature. In these moments, draw on positive reinforcements. Whether it’s an internal dialogue that keeps spirits high or friends who offer encouraging words, this personal cheerleading squad can be the support you need when you’re ready to give up.

In my opinion, nothing beats the feeling of achieving something you once thought was out of reach. The confidence gained through outdoor activities goes well beyond the trails and rivers; it seeps into every aspect of life, empowering you to tackle new challenges with a ‘can-do’ attitude.

So, as I wrap this up, I’d love to hear your feedback on boosting confidence in the outdoors. Share your stories, your struggles, and your victories. Because when we share, we grow, and there’s nothing like growing together in the great outdoors. Thanks for allowing me this time with you, and keep pushing those boundaries, outdoors and in.

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