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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.
Amy Bushatz: No matter who you are or where you go, heading outside even for a few minutes is always worth it. I’m your host, Amy Bushatz’, and here at Humans Outside, we’re using the Humans Outside 365 Challenge to build a life around spending time in nature while hearing from fascinating outdoor minded guests. As a journalist for 19 years, I’ve let curiosity be my guide. After my husband’s injuries from military service, we started looking for a better way to live. That’s why we moved sight unseen to Alaska to see if an outdoor focused life was the answer. Since September, 2017, I’ve personally spent at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day no matter what to explore how nature can change my life. Ready to hear from experts and outdoor lovers who make heading into nature just a part of who they are while we work to do the same? Let’s go.
I won’t lie to you. I often get to the end of conversations here on this podcast feeling like I could sit and chat with my guest for hours. And while there have been a few guests over my more than three years on this show that I have brought back multiple times, there is only one person I have asked back twice in five months.
And it’s because every time we record, she says something that completely blows my mind and I simply must learn more. Sarah Histand is a mental health and nervous system informed adventure fitness trainer based here in Alaska. She runs the fitness training business Mind and Mountain, and its online based training programs for specific seasons of fun, including Ski Babes for the winter and Summer Strong for the summer.
Sarah joined us back in December to talk about dressing for cold weather, and again just a few months ago for tackling big challenges and fun outside while being nice to yourself and your nervous system. During that conversation, we realized there was a need for yet a third episode. This one on the power of outdoor self-talk and mantras.
Today Sarah’s going to talk to us about why self-talk is important, how to harness its power when doing big things outside and what to do when self-talk gets negative. Sarah, I couldn’t be more thrilled that you are gifting us with your time and joining me again here on Humans Outside. Welcome.
Sarah Histand: Thanks so much for having me. I’m really excited to be back. I always love talking with you.
Amy Bushatz: Well, someday we will meet in person, but that day is not today.
Sarah Histand: I know. I can’t wait.
Amy Bushatz: So if we were in person hanging out with you somewhere that you enjoy outside having this conversation, where would we be today?
Sarah Histand: Today I would love to go to my, probably I, you know, it’s gray here today. It’s a little bit, it’s, we’ve been in winter for a really long time. If we could go anywhere outside today, I would take you to my favorite beach in Hawaii, which is called Pahu Beach. It’s close to where my in-laws spend the winter, and it is just dreamy.
Amy Bushatz: All right. Well, I will accept your Hawaii invitation. And since we’re unfortunately, or fortunately imagining ourselves there, it is also low cost. I like it.
Sarah Histand: Yes. Very efficient. One quick flight.
Amy Bushatz: That’s right. Okay. So in case someone hasn’t heard your background, tell us how you became someone who likes to go outside. And I’m also hoping that today you’ll give us a little bonus story and tell us how you met your husband and adventure partner, Luc Mehl who is at the very least an Alaska famous adventurer.
Sarah Histand: Yeah, well, I grew up here in Alaska. I grew up in Soldotna, which is couple hours here south of Anchorage. My parents are from the Midwest, Ohio and Indiana, and they ended up up here just kind of at the end of their, road trip honeymoon, ran out of money and found jobs and stuck around. They were kind of Midwest adventury, so we grew up like canoeing and camping and doing kind of mild outdoor rec stuff. But as I moved into my, like teens and twenties here, I started trying to, being interested in taking on more challenge outside and I’ve been on the kind of the learning curve with pushing my comfort zone and building an outdoor rec adventure skillset basically ever since. And then went through going like the challenges of that, going through some kind of scary times when I was early into building those adventure skills. And then now I’ve been focusing more on building the nervous system and mental health component of the outdoor rec skillset that helps me be able to do this outdoor stuff and be less scared and have more fun.
So that’s, yeah, that’s where I’m at these days.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. So talk to us about your husband, because if anyone follows you on Instagram, they see you going on these really cool adventures with this guy who you are married to. So I would love to know how you guys met and became adventure partners and partners for life.
Sarah Histand: Yeah. Luc is a really, he’s a really incredible adventurer too. He has been adventuring around Alaska all his life. He grew up in a rural village and grew up doing kind of the homesteading, rural, remote lifestyle stuff and now that he is, he’s been in Anchorage since high school and has like kind of devoted his life toward exploring Alaska through lots of different human powered modalities. We met when my brother and I were first interested in doing the Wilderness Classic, the Winter Wilderness Ski Classic, that’s a human powered race. It’s not really a race. It’s like more of like a challenge where at point to point you start at one place and then you have to get to this other place that’s like a couple hundred miles apart and there’s no trail and it has to be self-supported.
And my brother Ben and I had decided we wanted to maybe try this thing. We weren’t really sure we were up for it. It seemed really intense. But we knew that Luc had done it before. So Ben reached out to Luke for some advice and Luc gave us some really good tips that helped us get through that first, that first year was like the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But we did it and it was incredibly empowering. And after that, I reached out to Luc to thank him for his advice, and we got in touch and kind of connected over those shared adventures. And yeah, the rest is history. We’ve had a lot of good adventures ever since.
Amy Bushatz: Yes. And I think everyone should absolutely follow you on Instagram and Luc as well because you really do some really inspiring, incredible, but also inspiring things, getting out there. And you’ve inspired me even to try some new things this winter. Nordic skating would be one example.
Sarah Histand: Yes.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. So, yeah, so it’s very cool. Everyone should check you guys out and we’ll have links to your Instagram handles in the show notes.
So today we’re gonna talk about the power and importance of self-talk. So maybe you can start by telling us, When we say self-talk and mantras are related to this, although those are two different things, they’re related. What are we talking about here?
Sarah Histand: Yeah, so self-talk is the way that we speak to ourselves in our minds. When, well, kind of all the time really. But the times when it is most critical is when we’re going through something challenging, whether it is outdoor rec, or a work project, or a workout. Anytime you’re faced with a challenge, most people have some kind of inner dialogue that happens and some I’ve learned like, almost everybody has like a verbal, some sort of verbiage that they’re saying to themselves. I’ve learned that not everyone does this verbally, and that some people don’t have a necessarily words in their head. Those people might have more of a images or pictures or some other version that’s not like a verbal talk.
But for most of us, even if it’s happening below the level of consciousness, there is some dialogue that happens inside our brain when we’re stressed.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. And so the self-talk is just what that is. It’s not just an out outdoor thing. Okay. But I noticed that I do it more outside than inside. And I’m wondering if you have an idea of why that is. Am I crazy or is it just like, especially useful outside and if that’s so why?
Sarah Histand: Well, I think that, one thing that makes it more obvious when we’re outside is that we have less distractions. I actually think it happens to us in many of our challenging situations, whether we’re at work or with our families or in other hard times.
But when we are outside, there are so many fewer things to put our mind on. Things that are calling our attention. It’s usually just us and the mountain, or like us and the trail. And that clear focus, I think makes the internal experience of what’s happening with the self-talk even more obvious.
Amy Bushatz: It’s like us and the hard thing.
Sarah Histand: Yeah. Yeah. And there’s no, there’s no way to like, like get away, get out of that. There’s no nothing, no other tab to click to distract yourself. There’s no like Instagram to pull up. There’s no way to get out of that moment. Other, it’s just, you’re just in it.
Amy Bushatz: Right. Right. And I think so many things. I find that when I learn how to do this, which we’re gonna talk about shortly, outside, it influences my inside life. Like the fact that I have learned how to have very clear mantras, like something I say over and over again, or just clear self-talk outside and have seen how helpful that is, and /or how unhelpful it is, if it’s negative. Has really changed how I’m able to tackle distressing things inside that are maybe, you know, more crowded, so I don’t notice the self-talk.
Sarah Histand: Yeah I, I really agree with that. And I think that it is one of the magic things about outdoor recreation is that it can help us get access to, or conscious awareness of some of these patterns because there’s so much less distractions around and we have to confront it.
It’s maybe a little bit uncomfortable, maybe not super pleasant all the time. But being able to especially if you’re one of the people like myself, where the default was toward negative self-talk before I brought conscious awareness to that and started to re-pattern some of that. The, the outdoor rec is one of the great places to notice it and practice it. And then exactly like you said those habits carry over into daily life when maybe they’re a little harder to work with cuz there’s just more stuff going on.
Amy Bushatz: Right. So what are some examples of negative outdoor self-talk? What does that look like?
Sarah Histand: Yeah. Well, so I wanna tell you about this time, this is back to when Luc and I were first dating. On one of our adventures in the Brooks Range, we were on this three week trip, the two of us hiking and pack rafting. And we were about two weeks into this long trip. If you’re not familiar with the Brooks Range, it’s the very northernmost mountain range in Alaska. Very remote, no trails. We had just drawn this route on a map from looking at maps and satellite imagery and tried to like, decipher where we thought we should go. And we were at this section about a couple weeks in where we were up high on a ridge. And we were wanted to descend down into this river valley cuz we knew there was a hot springs there we’d heard about.
So, we had drawn this, this route just off the ridge down into the river valley. And then when we were actually working on this descent, it was gnarly. And it was, it was like tallis. So tallis is this, like these big, big sharp rocks. And they were like refrigerator and like dishwater, dishwasher size. So like these big massive rocks. And some tallus is like old tallus that’s like really solid and stable. But this was not that. This was tallus that like would, the each of the rocks would like tip and wobble every time you stepped on them. And so we’re trying to get down this slope of these like big tippy rocks.
And Luc is so, he gets faster when the conditions get worse. I don’t know how he does it, but he just was like, mountain goating this like, do, do, do, do down, like making really quick time. And I was behind him and instead taking like very cautious steps, testing every rock to see if it would hold or if it would tip under my weight or not.
And I was like seeing, I think the visual, you know, some people have this negative self-talk that’s, well, sorry, sometimes we’ll have the verbal self-talk, which I’ll talk to about in a second. But I was also having some of the visual image, like the image self-talk in which I was seeing these boulders, imagining them crushing together on my leg or my ankle. You know, like this was, I was picturing that happening.
Amy Bushatz: It, it was like a movie in your mind of what was going to go wrong shortly.
Sarah Histand: Exactly. It’s like I could see this going badly. And then I caught myself. So, to zoom out in this timeframe I was working, I was finishing up my social work master’s degree and had just been learning about self-talk in the mental health world.
And then I think because of that little piece of information. As I was working down that slope, I realized in my head I was saying, over and over. I was saying, I suck at this. Why are we doing this? I suck at this. Why are we doing this? And it was just a little loop stuck in my brain. And as I was like running that loop, my body was getting more tense.
I was getting more scared. I was like getting more frustrated with the situation. And it was just a not a very pleasant moment.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. It’s it’s like a. It’s like the, I suck at, this is the soundtrack for the movie of disaster. Like you’re visualizing disaster and then you’re narrating it too.
Sarah Histand: Yeah. And like the scary music’s playing in the background at the same time. Might as well have been Sure. Felt like it. Yeah. But I, but the cool thing was that I caught it and I was able to, for the first time, notice that was on a loop in my brain. And I knew now that, oh, that’s actually negative self-talk. And the the two filters that we play with with self-talk are if it is a hundred percent accurate. And also if it’s helpful- those are like the two questions that I like to ask about what you’re saying.
And so I realized that self-talk for one sure wasn’t helpful to think and talk like that. And it wasn’t even all that accurate because the, “I suck at this” language. I was actually doing just fine navigating this really challenging situation. And just because I’m comparing myself to my like super mountain goat partner, like maybe that’s high bar to be looking at. And honestly, there’s something good about going slow. So maybe I’m actually doing great at this.
So I was able to rework that pattern. I what the, what I put in as a mantra, which was just a repetitive phrase to try instead of the negative one. My new loop was, “I’ve got this and I’m good at this.” And I started just this, like I’ve got this, I’m good at this loop.
And I swear the second I put that on in my brain, the slope got less steep and the rocks got smaller and I’d like to this day, I like have no idea whether that actually happened. Did the slope change or was it just my perception of it with that kind of encouraging mantra in my brain. I’ll never know, but it, like the things got way easier.
I made it down. I felt way better by the end. And also had this like just this really cool aha moment about the power of looking at those patterns.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah . So what you did was you had the presence to say, hold the phone, this isn’t serving me. And then replace it intentionally with something that could get you through the moment.
Sarah Histand: Yes, yep. Yeah, exactly. Something that was more accurate and more true and more helpful.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah, because as we said a little bit ago, when you’re in these situations, like the, you’re in the situation. That’s not probably gonna change real fast unless you can move yourself out of this situation. So all you have, like you have a choice, which is to address it with something helpful or continue to address it with something that is not helpful.
Sarah Histand: Yeah. Yeah. And so often those default negative like ways of either visualizing or thinking, you know, those are in there for a reason. Very often it’s like part of our conditioning, either from the culture or from our family. There’s often a nervous system, protective component where the body just really wants to keep this hu this human animal alive and is like wanting you to do some things that are less risky.
So it might tell you to like, lets do something safer. This, this is scary. But when we’re in the middle of a challenging outdoor moment, we can’t necessarily change the environment. So instead we have to figure out how to change our nervous system and our mind and our mental state, so we know that we’re, we have capacity to handle what’s going on.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Yeah. Because the truth of the matter is it might be scary. I mean, listen, I do not like rocks. I rocks are not my favorite thing. Okay? And I’m thinking of all the dicey things that I’ve done or felt like they were dicey in the moment. And a whole bunch of them involve . Rocks. And they were reasonably risky things. But that can both be, that can be true and also I can change how I’m addressing that truth to be a positive way to push myself through it.
Sarah Histand: Yeah I, I agree with that. And I also, you know, one of the learnings from me from that cuz part of the negative loop I was in was that I suck at this part, which was like, I addressed that with the, I’m good at this, I’ve got this, but the why are we doing this question is a legitimate one. You know, like it’s really legitimate that maybe this wasn’t the right. And actually in this incident we, when we, like we made the hot springs, we had a great hot springs float. Then we floated with our pack rafts down the river and we floated past this place where we had descended and we could totally see a better way down afterwards.
I was like, gah dang it. Like I wish I would’ve weighed more into the decision making process on this route. And instead of just kind of following this line that Luc had drawn, maybe I would’ve been able to find a different way down and not be so, yeah, be more of an active participant in the decision making process. I might have a different take on whether this is the way I wanna go down or not next time.
Amy Bushatz: Right, right, right. Hindsight, you know.
Sarah Histand: Yeah, totally.
Amy Bushatz: Can you share some examples of self-talk you’ve used outside? And when they’ve come in useful, I don’t know if these are just mantras, similar to what you experienced on the scary rocks, that have helped you through scary times that maybe other people could use.
Sarah Histand: Yeah. Well, I, I, because I think I picked that I’ve got this, I’m good at this one, in such a stressful moment and it was so helpful. That one is like ingrained in my brain as I think it, solidified the neuro pathway of like, this one works. And it’s just like now that is my go-to. The other one that I use a lot, which also has a bit of a story to it, it is moving is winning. That one came to me during that very first wilderness ski classic that my brother and I did that very first year.
There was a time when we were skiing up this massive river valley. It was like so big that you could barely tell you were making any headway cuz just like the mountains were so far away and it was like, we’re skiing as fast as we can and it still feels like you’re going nowhere. But I stopped for a moment to take a little like quick snack break and maybe change a layer.
I stopped for like very quick 30 seconds or something like that, and the person I was skiing with all of a sudden when I looked up was like a tiny little dot way out on the horizon, wave away for me. And so I realized in that moment that the pace that we were going, even though it felt like it wasn’t making progress, just the fact that we were moving was making progress and that turned into moving is winning as a concept of winning just means like we’re actually making progress.
Yeah. I also think resting is winning and all sorts of things, but for that, for me, the. When I get into a place of feeling like I’m not going fast enough, I love that moving is winning steady pace. We’ll get you there. What are yours?
Amy Bushatz: Your, your, your mantras are very catchy. Okay. So my first one involves rocks. Maybe even the same kind of rocks. I don’t know. Um, So my husband and I decided to go hike up Matanuska Peak, which is a very large, prominent peak here in the Matanuska Valley. Same title for the Valley, right. And of course we have the Matanuska River. There’s a theme. Okay. So this is a very large peak. It’s very prominent. I had never been up there before. I often go up in adjacent mountain, Lazy Mountain, that you and I were talking about before we were recording, but I had never been up the, the big peak that’s right outside my window. I can see it from my kitchen window. Never been up. So it’s a beautiful fall day we decide to go head up.
The thing about really tall mountains is that they have their own weather on the top, often like the top of, it’ll be moving in and out of some weather. And so everything can be wonderful down lower, but you might experience some colder temperatures or some rain, or if it’s cold enough, right, snow And so this was a fall, beautiful fall day.
The pictures of this hike that we did are just like reds and like now unbelievable colors that you look one of these things where you look at the picture and say, that is not possibly real life. So gorgeous up there. As we got closer to the summit and that we really did wanna summit, there was new snow on the ground, but the summit of this mountain are exactly what you’re describing, these humongous, very dicey feeling rocks, and I, like you am not a fast rock mover.
We were getting high up, we started to get cold. We were still moving. We knew we’d be turning around soon, but it was very steep and then we got sort of tunnel vision about wanting to get to the top, even though the snow was getting thicker and also now coming out of the sky actively -fun new feature. And we did not have footwear or spikes on to do that. We were wearing hiking shoes because the rest of the hike was just a lovely fall day. So we get up there, we determine that continuing towards the summit any farther is not a safe option, and that we should probably turn around. And I realize in this moment that the way down, the way up was very steep. The way down is also steep. But now it is also slidey because there’s a lot of snow and gravity being what it is, it’s harder to go down in many ways than to go up. Also, when your body is cold, your muscles are tense, and now you’re freaking out, man, so you’re tense.
Sarah Histand: I’m so there with you. Oh my gosh, this is, so, stressful..
Amy Bushatz: It was very dicey. It was, it felt very dicey in the moment and I, as soon as we started going down, started to say to myself: It’s fine. This is fine. It’s fine. This is fine. It’s fine. This is fine. Over and over again and out loud to the point where we got to the bottom, my husband thought I had been talking to him the whole time. But no, I was talking myself off of this mountain and it took obviously, I mean, because going down is in ways faster, less time to go down than it took to go up. But it did also seem endless that we would just continuing forever down this incredibly sketchy situation, which it’s fine and I’m fine. And that’s what I just had to tell myself the whole time.
And it ended up being fine, but, oh man, I was so sore after that. I do a lot of big stuff and you know, I’d run an ultra marathon not long before that. And just because I had been so stiff from going up there in the cold and freaking out, man I, I, my muscles were really sore really sore. Um, Yeah.
Okay, so my other one- less catchy. I have a real problem with bugs. Bugs freak me out. Not not mosquitoes, I mean, I don’t love them, but I’m talking like little flies, the kind that buzz around your ears and then like land on your shoulders and like tickly, blah, blah. I’m like shuttering, just telling you about this.
Buzzing black flies freak me out. Okay. You can’t really predict the flies here in Alaska. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this. There are some places that generally have them, but I’ve also experienced being, I’ll be on the same trail at the same time of year in one year, there’s like a lot of flies, and the next year I see no flies. And so I decided that I didn’t really want the potential for flies in any given place to keep me from going and doing the thing, but they really do freak me out.
So I decided that I was going to talk myself through being in the presence of the flies, which I still don’t like by the way. It’s not, this is not like a magic potion for liking flies or scary rocks. This is, me getting through that moment. And what I say to myself and I’ve started to say this about other things too that are bothering me.
Okay, so there you go, another translation thing is I’m here and the flies are here and we’re all here together and it’s fine. And I will say this long phrase out loud, I will say it to nobody. I will say it with different emphasis on different words. I’m here and the flies are here and we’re all here together and it’s fine. You know, like
Sarah Histand: So good.
Amy Bushatz: Until I talk myself into believing it’s fine. And I have felt this mantra get me through situations where the buzzing was just beyond what I was willing to handle in normal circumstances. And to know that if I get in a situation where I am surrounded by flies, I can get out of that situation because it’s, it’s fine. Because the other thing about the flies that, that maybe people don’t know about flies is they are really become a problem when you stop moving. And they can be an even bigger problem around water sources. So for example, on the Resurrection Pass trail, you gotta stop for water, boo boo. But I don’t want to because of the flies, so now I’m hoarding my water instead of drinking my water cause I don’t wanna deal with the flies, so on and so forth. Yeah. So just. We’re all here together and it’s fine.
Sarah Histand: Oh, that’s so good. It really makes me think about how the self-talk, one of the ways that it works if you think about from a mental health lens is that it helps us make contact with the part of ourselves who knows it’s fine, and that we’re capable. And the other part that hates this and wishes we weren’t doing this or just wants to do anything other than that is also around. It doesn’t necessarily make that go away, but because we have these different sort of parts of our brain that are all active at the same time it can be. What this is doing is really helping us lean into the part that that is, is capable. It’s got it. Even if it’s not ideal.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. And that’s not ideal. That’s really what we’re talking about here, right? Because I think we can all agree that flies are not great, not ideal. Rocks, no. Slidey rocks with snow or otherwise, zero stars. But it’s fine because we’ve got this.
Hey Humans, just a quick break to remind you that if you wanna build your own outdoor habit, the Humans Outside 365 Challenge is a great way to get started. Cool and exclusive Challenge swag, including a finisher, metal, and decal is waiting for you. All you need to do is visit humansoutside.com/challenge. Don’t get left out. Go to humansoutside.com/challenge to learn more now. Okay, back to the show.
So, okay, let’s say people are listening to us and they’re like, yeah, self-talk. Good. Positive self-talk. Good idea. How do you teach yourself to do this? How do you become somebody who has the presence of mind to say, this negative thing is not serving me now you gotta switch. How do you do that?
Sarah Histand: Yeah, it’s a good question. I think, you know, there is a part of this work, which is bringing the the self talk to your consciousness. Because a lot of this is starts out happening below the level of consciousness, like on an autopilot. So if that is where you’re at and you’re like, I don’t know what I say to myself, or if this is even a thing for me, the place I would start with that would be to just be curious next time you find yourself in a challenging situation that you wish you were not in. Or especially if it’s an outdoor one where you have, again, like we said, less distractions and more maybe ability to, to be curious about what’s going on in your brain would be just to, just to like see if you come across anything. If you, if you pause for a second and see what comes to mind. If you don’t necessarily come up with a very obvious negative self-talk pattern that’s in there, you don’t necessarily need that to start inserting some positive sayings to yourself. And that can be as effusive as what would you say if you were walk walking out with your one of your best friends who’s having a hard time, you might have a whole conversation with them about how awesome they are and how this is gonna be okay at the end.
Some, for some people, those like long form self-taught conversations can be a way of kind of distracting your mind and giving it something to do for a while. For me personally, and I think, you know, we’re all different with this, so you just have to like experiment and see what works best for you.
But I personally really like a short, kind of snappy phrase that I can do on repeat. And that is that’s often called a mantra. I use that term if that’s helpful for you. But it essentially is just like a sentence or two that’s a quick little phrase that you can lock in and just go for it in a little loop and I like in my workouts when I’m working with people on the cross training for this kind of stuff, we will practice those mantras in the like controlled setting of a workout where you’re like, there’s even less going on than there is when you’re outside. Like less, you’re like less scared less weirded out less having to navigate all the weather and everything else that happens when you’re outside.
So we kinda lay the foundation for some of those phrases when you are in even less stressful situation. And then maybe they’re a little bit easier, like the neuro pathways have been started already. So when you show up outside and things get weird that you might have you might remember them a little bit easier. I think remembering to do it is the hardest part. So it’s like whatever it takes to get that primed in your brain. Some people like write it on their water bottle. Anything that pings your brain to be like, oh, this actually might be a helpful tool right now.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Yeah, it’s two things. First of all, while you’re talking, I remember now that I have also used since that moment- I’m fine. This is fine- in stressful mountain situations. So it must just be what, I don’t remember ever thinking that before then. So the neuro pathway thing that you’re talking about is something I think I’ve already also experienced.
Sarah Histand: That sounds like it.
Amy Bushatz: I, yeah I, I uh, you and I were chatting before we were recording about Lazy Mountain, and I mentioned earlier, but the race that I do on that mountain every year, this year got very stressful because there was big wind, I mean, big wind and it went from feeling safe and fine to an actual nightmare.
And there was a point during that, that I do remember thinking, I’m fine, this is fine. And just having to sort of talk myself through that because there was only one way out and it was to keep going.
I’m wondering how you do this if you’re somebody who visualizes things, not somebody who has words. So while I am mostly a words person, there are also visualizations. I have big anxiety around riding my bike outside. I can picture myself getting hit by a car. That’s what’s hap, that’s what’s happening. I am like visualizing falling off my bike because I’m clipped into the clips. And I can’t get out of them.
This is, that’s actually happened before. So it’s, I’m not just making it up, but I like and you don’t fall like going fast by the way. It’s at a glacial pace while you’re trying to stop at a stop. Okay, yeah.
Sarah Histand: You’re trying to get your foot outta you can’t quite do it.
Amy Bushatz: And you’re super embarrassed because you’re in front of all these people and you just tipped off your bike. But then also, I have this fear that I’m going to get hit by a car, and it’s not like I’m telling myself that I can actually see it in my mind. That like this, you know, I’m making up this story where Amy is on her bike and then just gets sideswiped. Or I fall off at an intersection, then I get hit by a car. Okay. So for people who are visualizers in as a rule, how do you teach yourself to visualize positively to you know, I’m visualizing the cars just going by me freely on their way.
Sarah Histand: Yeah. Yeah, well, so it’s this, it’s essentially the same strategy as we’re using with the brain, which is like catching when we’re in a negative rut and then replacing that with positive. And just to think like strategically about this, because our brains are so survival oriented, they’re gonna default toward the negative stuff just cuz like, preventing things going wrong is gonna keep us alive more often than thinking about the, like things going well. So we, we need a ratio and I, there’s a bunch of different science that says different numbers on that, but we for sure need a ratio of something around like one negative thing to like eight positives or so to kind of outweigh the impact of something that feels stressful.
So if you’ve got a negative, some something going in your head. We’re gonna need eight or so loops of the positive one to help us feel a little bit more closer to, to balance with it. Mm-hmm. So if you’re in the visual one, I think we’re gonna do the exact same replacement strategy with it, which is catching yourself, visualizing the negative thing and then rerouting that to noticing the wobbly moment where you’re like, am I gonna be able to get off this bike? And then noticing yourself- what’s the happy ending there? You know, either you unclip and you get both feet on the ground and you’re okay. Or yeah. What’s your other one? Tell me what’s the happy ending?
Amy Bushatz: Yeah, happy ending would be, yeah. All goes well. You know, there.
Sarah Histand: You see a car and it, you like are aware of it and it goes right on past without, it gives you lots of room. They even wave cuz they’re like, hi, I’m glad to see you biking.
Amy Bushatz: They like, you’re such a beautiful biker who never falls off. How’s it going?
Sarah Histand: Yeah. And then feel, what do you notice in your body when you imagine that happening? Is there like relief is there?
Amy Bushatz: Yeah, I would say, I would say the opposite of feeling like it’s that’s not what happens, right. That, that I, so the anxiety of thinking that I’m going to get nailed by a car is replaced by, you know? Yeah. Thank you. Yeah.
Sarah Histand: The relief, the thank you kind of connection with this other human who is also looking out for you. So really feeling that in your body as the as the outcome of something going well is how the nervous system starts to associate something that was dicey- we were capable of it. And there’s a, especially when there’s an interpersonal relationship piece of that, that can be really helpful for the body to read that these other humans are out here to help me instead of to create an extra threat.
Yeah. I mean, athletes use visualization all the time, you know, to really imagine their ski run. This happens to be on skis too. I like, I can really imagine myself skiing right into that tree and it being really bad. But I can also, when I’m really thoughtful and intentional about it, imagine myself skiing in a really effortless, smooth way past the tree uh, down this beautiful ski line and it ending up really beautifully. So we can like, kind of program that into our awareness.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. So in terms of steps for making this happen, I hear you saying, you have to become aware that you’re doing the negative one first or that there is a situation in which a positive visualization or positive actual self-talk would be useful. Disrupt, like you would, any habit that you wanna ditch, disrupt that by saying, Hey, this is happening. What am I gonna do instead? And then have that continued presence to replace what you’re telling yourself with something useful.
Do you have any suggestions for phrases that your clients might like that they use as these replacement things? Anything that comes to mind? Anyone’s invited to use? I’m fine. It’s fine. It works real good. Go ahead.
Sarah Histand: Yeah, I think all these are so good and before you move on to that, I wanna make sure to reinforce that the visualizing it going well is part of it, but then the actual feeling it in your body of how your body is going to feel when it goes well is actually.
Amy Bushatz: That’s so good.
Sarah Histand: Almost, I don’t know if it’s just as important or more important than the visualization itself. We really want this to land in your, in the nervous system and feel the sigh of relief, the joy that you have when you have a good experience of flow, you wanna like really get into your cells so that it’s not just a mental experience.
Amy Bushatz: That is, I think a really like the secret weapon maybe, because I don’t know that anyone stops to take that next step. You know, we get so locked in with, okay, I found a solution, and then that’s it.
Sarah Histand: Yeah. That’s the step between moving it from a mental experience, which I think many of us can relate to knowing, like consciously knowing that I can handle this thing. It’s say this happens to me. I’m boating. I like whitewater kind of scares my, scares me. So I have to use a lot of these skills when I’m out in my pack raft.
I know I have the skills to handle this class three rapid and my, but my body is still scared. So even though like there’s this disconnect between the conscious awareness of my skillset can handle this, and my body being like, I I’m still really nervous about this. I’m afraid something’s gonna go wrong and I’m not gonna be able to handle it.
And so then this, what we’re, what we’d be using in those situations is really helping, to visualize something going well, and then bringing it down from the head, from a mental exercise to feeling how the body will feel when it accomplishes this thing, which is always amazing. It’s always so joyful and proud and thrilled that we made it through and we wanna help the body get some of those memories into its, into the nervous system and feel the capacity. So it’s not just the brain saying, no, you can do this. And the body’s saying, but I, I’m scared.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. But no, I can’t. Right.
Sarah Histand: I don’t want to.
Amy Bushatz: So, do you have any mantras that you recommend?
Sarah Histand: I think that the most powerful thing to do is to see what comes to you when you are in a stressful situation, semi stressful situation.
What would you tell your friend? What are the things that you would tell your kids if you have kids? What are the encouraging things that you tell them? Everything changes is one that I like a lot. A lot of athletes tell me they rely on something to that point for when they’re in really tough conditions and it feels like it’s never gonna get better.
So, so some, sometimes some people use, everything changes there. Sometimes some people use it gets better to remind ourselves that this is a hard moment, but it won’t always be this hard.
Amy Bushatz: Sarah, thank you so much for joining us and giving this insight in your third appearance on Humans Outside. My pleasure. I mean, I really, I strongly suspect this will not be our last episode together. I, you know, if history is going to repeat itself, so, so there’s that.
Would you walk us out with maybe a favorite outdoor moment that you have that you wanna share with, with everybody?
Sarah Histand: Yeah, I had a really cool experience just recently. It’s it’s April here and I was in some of the woods that’s, that aren’t too far away from my house. We saw a black bear on a cottonwood tree and then we were watching it for a while. It was like way up in this tree. And then we watched this bear climb down the tree and into the inside of the tree where it apparently had been denning through the winter. And it was so incredible to watch this animal just disappear inside this tree. Now I’m curious like every time I pass a cottonwood, if there’s a black bear in there, but it was so cool.
Amy Bushatz: That is so cool. And better yet, I watched that video that you took.
Sarah Histand: I know I got it on video.
Amy Bushatz: So people could see that on your Instagram page, which again, I will link in the show notes, but why don’t you tell everybody what your handle is if they wanna find it without going through the link?
Sarah Histand: My handle is @sarahmhistand
Amy Bushatz: All right. There you go. So everyone can find that there. And sir, thank you again for joining us on Humans Outside today, so appreciate it.
Sarah Histand: You’re welcome. It’s such a pleasure. Yeah. If you do, go stop by Instagram, please reach out. I love to interact with people on there and make connections through this kind of platform. Thanks, Amy, for hosting it.
Amy Bushatz: Thanks so much for listening to this week’s episode of Humans Outside. Help me out by leaving a five star rating or review wherever you get your podcasts. It really does help other listeners find the podcast too. Now go get outside. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.