HEALTH / WELL-BEING

Mission Himalaya: Exploring the Impact of a Supported High-Altitude Mountaineering Expedition on the Well-Being and Personal Development of UK Military Veterans

Article

In this study, we used a distinctive longitudinal and immersive research approach to explore the psychological impact of a high-altitude expedition to the Nepalese Himalaya on 10 (9 males) UK military veterans with longstanding well-being concerns. In the 12 months prior to the expedition, participants took part in three training weekends in the UK mountains. During the expedition, instructors—who were all experienced health coaches—facilitated reflective practices with the beneficiaries throughout, focusing on experiential transfer to day-to-day lives after the expedition. Follow-up interviews, conducted up to 18-months post-expedition, identified that the most desirable changes aligned with the three innate psychological needs of self-determination theory: autonomy, competence and relatedness. The routines established during the preparation stage and during the expedition itself activated a renewed energy for personal improvement. At 18 months post-expedition, the key changes reflected altered perspective, employment skills and work–life balance, increased physical activity and enhanced personal awareness and mindfulness. Importantly, supported by regular health coaching and focused on the transfer of learning, expeditions can activate meaningful long-term changes to the well-being and personal development of military veterans.

Abstract

Meaningful, positive, emotional and challenging adventurous activities may generate personal growth or recovery from ill health or injury. In this study, we used a distinctive longitudinal and immersive research approach to explore the psychological impact of a high-altitude expedition to the Nepalese Himalaya on 10 (9 males) UK military veterans with longstanding well-being concerns. In the 12 months prior to the expedition, participants took part in three training weekends in the UK mountains. During the expedition, instructors—who were all experienced health coaches—facilitated reflective practices with the beneficiaries throughout, focusing on experiential transfer to day-to-day lives after the expedition. Follow-up interviews, conducted up to 18-months post-expedition, identified that the most desirable changes aligned with the three innate psychological needs of self-determination theory: autonomy, competence and relatedness. The routines established during the preparation stage and during the expedition itself activated a renewed energy for personal improvement. At 18 months post-expedition, the key changes reflected altered perspective, employment skills and work–life balance, increased physical activity and enhanced personal awareness and mindfulness. Importantly, supported by regular health coaching and focused on the transfer of learning, expeditions can activate meaningful long-term changes to the well-being and personal development of military veterans.

Full Reference

Kay, C. W. P., Wingfield, H. L., & McKenna, J. (2022). Mission Himalaya: exploring the impact of a supported high-altitude mountaineering expedition on the well-being and personal development of UK military veterans. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(9), 5049.