How Your Teen Can Live A Longer, Happier Life

How Your Teen Can Live A Longer, Happier Life

Can you be an individual and a selfless giver? Well yes, and it will help live a longer happier life. VLA explains how.

Attention Parents of Teenagers!

Hey parents!  Looking for a way to teach your teens to be more responsible?  Want them to become more aware of the world and have the opportunity to travel to exciting places?  Do you desire for them to delve deeper into conversations about God and spirituality?  Do you want to see them involved in a group that will encourage them to push past their limits and pursue a full and healthy life?  Do you feel like you’re stuck in a cheesy infomercial and can’t change the channel?  Well, bear with us, because if you answered yes to any or all of the above questions (minus the last one), we think we can help you out! Veritas Life Adventures exists to build up teenagers into healthy, responsible leaders that make a positive impact on their world.  We do this through a year-long program designed to ignite a passion for life and God by providing knowledge, opportunity, challenges and adventures that draw out and foster all the best qualities your teen has to offer.  While we teach the basics of fitness/nutrition and encourage participants in their search for Truth, it is the teens who do most of the work and determine their progress in the program.  We believe that every teenager has the potential to be awesome, and sometimes they just need a little nudge (or a hike up a mountain), a little love (or a deep conversation), and the opportunity to thrive.  Well, we provide the tools and opportunities, and we see results.  While I would love to tell you every detail about how much growth and positive change we have seen in the students who have gone through our program, I’m going to give them the floor for a minute:

The following was written by Conner Jansen, a 3-year Veritas veteran who will graduate this year:

Veritas Life Adventures is an organization that has benefited my life in so many ways. I started with Veritas 3 years ago on a camping trip in New Mexico and have stayed with it since then with my hard work and determination, along with some help from friends.  Veritas was founded to help high school students lead a healthy and holistic life. It also teaches us to lead others and benefit the community and others around us. As a participant of Veritas, or a Seeker, I am responsible to continue my healthy habits and continue to benefit and learn from the community. As reward for my hard work, I get to go on incredible trips around the world (that are also FREE) that make me work hard and test my skills and strengths.

I can remember last year, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, when I had not been hiking for very long, but had been hiking very hard, and we got to this one spot where I could not believe my own eyes. The scene was so huge and in-your-face. There, the Grand Tetons towered to our right, enormous hills rose on both sides, and a shimmering glacial lake stood in front of us with water such a clear and beautiful blue that I cannot even describe it in words. When I come face to face with scenes like this I am reminded of how great and how powerful God really is. I don’t know how, but I just know that He wanted me to see this beauty for myself.

Tessa Baca, who started the Veritas program last year and will also graduate this year, wrote this excerpt (read the full story here) after our trip to New Zealand in January:

I’ll always remember what Cassie told me: “perfect love casts out all fear.” I didn’t understand it; Perfect love? What am I supposed to love perfectly? I realized it wasn’t a question of what I am supposed to love perfectly but of who I am supposed to love perfectly. The answer to that was kind of obvious. That simple verse stuck with me throughout the whole experience. Every time I doubted myself, I wondered what exactly it was I had been nervous about and then disregarded it because I knew that if I gave my complete trust and faith in God, I virtually had nothing to worry about.

Next lesson: fear and courage. Never in my life have I ever had to explore fear and courage than I have had to in VLA. We regret the things we never do. They (Veritas) want us to discover ourselves, to take on new challenges and see if we can test our most personal ones. I personally have anxiety. It’s mild, but I still get stressed out regardless. Bungy jumping isn’t too great for people like me. Nevertheless, I still chose to go first because 1) I wanted to get it over with and 2) I hate heights. But I had no expectations so I really couldn’t be too nervous, right?

Those brief moments I stood on the projection of the bridge weren’t too bad until I took a peek down. I told myself Cassie’s words and felt a new feeling in my chest: adrenaline. I wasn’t scared anymore. What was I supposed to be scared of? Falling in the water and not coming back up? Whatever it was, I didn’t feel it anymore. God was with me and I knew everything would be alright. So I jumped (a bit awkwardly, really) and I saw the water get closer. I couldn’t believe I’d done it.

That night, I confided to Cassie that I believe in Christ, something I never would have said since I was thirteen. She really got me thinking. If we saw Jesus as the physical embodiment of God and modeled our lives after his behavior, we’d be a better functioning society. That was a shining moment for me and I shall always remember it.

The 2015-16 program will begin in September 2015 (and ends August 2016), and we would love to see your teens join us on our adventure.  We currently have 10 spots available for high school students, and are accepting applications until August 1.  More information about the program and our trips can be found in our brochure.  If you have any further questions, feel free to contact us at info@veritaslifeadventures.com and we will be glad to talk with you!

Or if you’re already ready to sign your kid(s) up, fill out our parent questionnaire and have your teen fill out our student application!

And if you’re not already doing so, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see new (and old) updates and photos of past adventures!

You Are Probably Basically A Zombie

by Cassie Byard Women’s Director at Veritas Life Adventures (This is part 1 of 2 blogs. Part 1 highlights the problem, part 2, the solution)

  Maybe you’re not eating brains or covered in blood (I hope), but chances are good (and that’s bad) that you’re one of the 70% of Americans infected by a deadly epidemic.  I’m not trying to be dramatic or anything, but most of us are basically walking dead. Okay, maybe that’s a tad bit dramatic, but seriously, we are being plagued by problem that is causing cancer, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, allergies, and depression.  I think the worst thing about this affliction is that most of us think it’s no big deal, when reality says its repercussions are deadly.

It may not be an actual disease, but sleep deprivation is a legitimate health issue. It seems menial because most of us live with it every day and still function relatively well, but sleep deprivation is no small thing. According to social psychologist Dr. James Maas, nothing predicts longevity of life better than quality and quantity of sleep. He states that lack of sleep “…makes you clumsy, stupid, unhealthy… and it shortens your life.” Sleep is not a luxury available only to “time wealthy” people.  Sleep is a necessity; not treating it as a top priority will bite you badder than a bitter bulldog.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Dr. Maas entitled “The Science of Sleep: Everything You Wanted to Know about Sleep But Were Too Tired to Ask.” As a self-proclaimed nerd, I found these few hours of facts quite fascinating, and as an advocate of holistic health, I feel I must share this information with you.

What is sleep deprivation?

A lot of people know they’re sleep deprived because they’re tired all the time. Others seem to function just fine in life and therefore think that their 5-6 hours of sleep at night is appropriate for them. But science shows that humans need between 7.5-9.5* hours of uninterrupted sleep each night for optimum health and performance. See how you fare in Dr. Maas’ sleep deprivation test:

  1. Does a heavy meal, low dose of alcohol, warm room, boring meeting or lecture ever make you drowsy?
  2. Do you fall asleep instantly at night?
  3. Do you need an alarm clock to wake up?
  4. Do you repeatedly hit the snooze button?
  5. Do you sleep extra hours on the weekends?

How’d you do?  Did you answer yes to more than one of these?  If so, you’re pathologically sleep deprived.  Pretty crazy, right?

Teenagers, you guys need around 9.25 hours of sleep each night.  Guess what teens are averaging these days?  6.1.  Do you know that getting 6 or less hours of sleep per night for 2 or more weeks impairs you as much as being drunk?  Yeah, a lot of us are driving drowsy, which is the same as drunk driving.  I’d call that a problem.  Know what else happens to your body on 6 or less hours of sleep?  Your immunities drop 50%, your brain cannot function properly, and all the information you learned during the day gets forgotten.

While you sleep, your brain kicks into superhero mode, essentially putting new information (e.g., your athletic training, test studying, vocab building) into long-term storage. It is your sleeping brain that converts short-term memories into permanent knowledge (in other words, all those hours of studying for tests is virtually wasted if you do not sleep long enough for your brain to move it to the proper brain folders to keep it in your head for good). Not giving your brain enough time (9 ish hours) to run its diagnostics and back-up means you’re running on a faulty hard drive. Here are a “few” more results of sleep deprivation according to Dr. Maas:


Sleep deprivation is no good. Hopefully we get that now.  But what’s to be done?  With all we have going on during the day, we surely don’t have the time to sleep 9 hours each night, right?  Yet when you get the proper amount of sleep, you are capable of so much more than you accomplish when you have a sleep debt.  If you function well on 5-6 hours of sleep, you are still underperforming.  You are capable of MORE!  Zombieism is slowing you down.  Don’t let it.  Put that inner zombie to sleep.  Literally.

* Everyone is different, but very few people (aka, you are probably not one of the very few) need less than the 7.5 hour minimum.

Bikinis & Cottage Cheese

by Cassie Byard Women’s Director at Veritas Life Adventures

When I was in the second grade my teacher had our class make our own personalized greeting cards. With my incredibly insightful 7-year-old wisdom, I selected my card’s cover: a magazine advertisement with a picture of Garfield looking disapprovingly at the image of his backside in a full-length mirror. The caption read: “You know it’s time to go on a diet when you start getting dimples in the wrong cheeks.” I had no idea what it meant, but I thought it was brilliant. And then, years later, my 13-year-old, 85-pound self suddenly looked in the mirror and saw that I had dimples in “the wrong cheeks.”

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think a lot of people have a certain idea about what “healthy” people should look like. The truth is, there is no perfect standard for what a healthy person should look like.  There is no perfect standard of what a person “should” look like period.  A friend of mine frequently pokes my stomach to see if my abs are doing any better at revealing their existence (they’re not). She has to poke past a little barrier of squish to find them.  Another friend has poked my belly only to declare, “Your stomach is too hard.”  A woman should be soft, she implies.  So which is it?  Is my tummy too soft or too hard?

Think about it.  If I ask you to imagine a person with a “perfect body,” what image comes to your mind?  I’m going to venture a guess that the person you imagine is young, muscular, toned, maybe tan* and in a swimsuit?  We (or maybe it’s just me) have been trained by society to associate these traits with perfection and health.  But is that reality?

The moment we demand to our bodies, “I should look like that,” or “This area needs some work,” we are giving illegitimate authority to a body-shaming culture that declares itself the legislator of standards.

In my last blog I “confessed” to having love handles and cellulite.  Someone commented that they disagreed with my assessment, as though to quell my presumed low image of self.  But the idea that I might (or should) feel bad about my body because it fails to live up to society’s ideal is the very idea I am trying to counter.  It is okay that I have love handles and cellulite.  Could I “get rid” of these traits?  With lots of VERY dedicated (arguably obsessive) work, possibly.  MAYBE.  But the point I’m trying to make is that if I am pursuing health and not a certain body, then I don’t need to worry about love handles or cellulite.  What my body looks like is not the point of the journey of health.

Am I saying we should throw discipline to the wind and accept whatever happens to our bodies as a result?  Absolutely not.  Nor am I saying it’s bad to have six-pack abs.  But the reality is that most people cannot (and, I could argue, should not) sustain the kind of lifestyle necessary to achieve and maintain society’s idea of a “bikini body.”  Sometimes the pursuit of the “perfect body” distracts from the pursuit of health.

When we invite you on the journey to health with Veritas, we are not talking about pursuing a certain body image.  I have cellulite.  I am not going to work on changing that.  But I am going to strive for physical strength and endurance, nutritional balance, and spiritual and emotional stability.

That is Veritas.  That is truth.  Seek it with us.



*The fact that I (and many others) tend to default to Caucasian imagery is a topic worth addressing.  This book does a great job at it.