Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D
The man-made world is made up of language or “thinking.” The natural world is made up of direct experience or “feeling.” In reality, we need both, but sometimes we get too caught up in our language without even realizing it, and need a break.
One of the central tenants of Relational Frame Theory (RFT) is that our language is what sets us apart from other animals. In fact, it is so useful that it has enabled societies to flourish, with associated advancements in science, technology, health, the arts, and many others.
In fact, language is so useful that it can get in the way. It can overgeneralize to situations in which it actually impairs our functioning. If you have ever watched a TV court show like Judge Judy, you know exactly what I am talking about. In each episode you hear two sides of the case. Each side has a very different story about the same event.
Language affects everything. So, sometimes we need a break. Sometimes we need to step out of our language and simply feel the world around us. Sometimes we need to step out of pliance (rule-governed behavior mediated by other people) and settle more into tracking (flexible and agile rule-governed behavior that follows contingencies in the environment that matter to us).
One way to “get out of your mind” (or your verbally constructed world), is to spend some time in nature. Turn off the screens, and just “be.” Turn off your analytical thinking and just feel what is around you. Give your brain a break and your senses a chance to experience the world.
The last time I did this was this past weekend. I took my kayak out to a local lake. I had my phone with me for emergencies but it was silenced inside a dry bag. I must have gone a few miles over a few hours. I did some fishing, and also ventured out to the middle of the lake in the wind and whitecaps, for a bit of adventure.
I didn’t think at all about money, my business, my relationships, social media, the news, or anything from “society.” Instead, I felt the wind on my face, the water spraying on my body, the waves rocking me back and forth, the sun on my skin, and the birds in the air. I was in the moment.
And when I came back in I was rejuvenated. The man-made worries of before weren’t such a big deal anymore. I was “defused” as they say – not clinging to my thoughts as “truth” so much.
Others would agree with me. Recent studies have shown that spending just an hour a week in nature can help reduce stress, depression, and even mortality rate – all things tied to language and how we relate to our own language.
So get out there and experience the world. Give your brain a break and have an adventure.
What’s your next adventure? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!
If you are interested in learning more about ACT and RFT, be sure to check out our Continuing Education series, which touches on a variety of related issues. Also be sure to check out our ACT Resource Guide for BCBAs.
Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is a science writer, social philosopher, behavioral systems analyst, and the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which aims to connect behavioral science to the world in an engaging, non-academic way. Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar. He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues. His publications follow a theme of behavioral systems analysis, organizational performance, theory & philosophy, and language & cognition. He has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas. Dr. Ward can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org