There is something about being outdoors, surrounded by the raw wonder of nature, that can heal many afflictions. Many people with all sorts of mental and physical problems find it beneficial to get outside for a few minutes for some fresh air and natural light.
For those suffering from the effects of substance abuse, nature therapy is a legitimate way to encourage strength and resilience. With many people living in cities and suburbs, it can be a challenge to experience outdoor connections. Even a weekend getaway into the mountains or forest can do wonders for the mind and body.
Read on to learn more about the many benefits that being out in nature can provide.
The Benefits of Nature in Recovery From Substance Abuse
Nature can have a contemplative effect. There is something about being surrounded by fresh air, open skies, and trees that can make one think deeply about their life. Likewise, practicing mindfulness techniques can come more easily when surrounded by nature.
Nature therapy has been proven to help people recovering from substance abuse who also have mental health conditions that drive their addiction. Nature helps alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and trauma disorders in the following ways:
Nature Reduces Stress
Stress and anxiety are two big contributing factors to addiction. The pressures of life, work, school, family, and relationships can take their toll. For many, the worrisome headlines of events in their communities and around the world are also contributing factors. Many turn to drugs or alcohol as a form of escape, or simply to relax. They may do this not realizing that the effects of substance use can actually exacerbate mental health symptoms like depression and anxiety after the high wears off.
Getting out in nature helps break this destructive cycle. The chance to unwind, relax, and practice mindfulness or self-reflection can be a foundation for developing better tools to create a sober life. Even spending 30 minutes at a time in the outdoors is enough to make a difference. Nature’s healing forces can renew individuals’ strength to combat the fatigue and overwhelming emotional exhaustion that makes recovery so difficult.
Nature Creates Awareness and Facilitates Mindfulness
Substance abuse can have a powerful, isolating effect on our lives. Not only is it a tendency to keep substance use secret from people we know, but there is also a mental and emotional disconnect that happens with prolonged drug use. Many people are genuinely unaware of the consequences of their actions while high or drunk, as well as the ways that they may have hurt people while they were using.
Because drugs and alcohol also have the effect of lowering inhibitions, people are more likely to act in ways that contradict their values while under the influence. This imbalance between the inner self and outward actions makes it difficult to gain perspective and evaluate oneself honestly.
Mindfulness techniques are common therapeutic tools for gaining control and self-awareness back into people’s lives. It involves a variety of techniques, many of which focus on deep breathing and an individual’s immediate surroundings as a way to increase mental clarity. What better place to do this than the great outdoors? Nature not only provides an ideal environment for meaningful reflection, but it also has a way of reminding people about their smallness, in the best possible way. Nature reminds people that we are all connected and part of something bigger. Those realizations are the beginnings of rebuilding a healthier, sober life.
Nature Improves Fitness
There are many enjoyable physical activities to do outdoors. Depending on where an individual lives, they can exercise outdoors through hiking, rock climbing, swimming in lakes, biking, kayaking, and much more. Exercise releases hormones like dopamine and serotonin, which are “natural highs” because they make people feel good without having to use drugs. These hormonal releases also help quell the symptoms of depression and anxiety, which often fuel drug use.
Not only does outdoor exercise improve mental health, it’s also physically beneficial. The strength and endurance built up through exercise makes people healthier, stronger, and more confident. Outdoor exercise can also help repair bodies that have been weakened or damaged from prolonged drug use. The benefits of physical activity include reduced blood pressure, lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, improved quality of sleep, improved brain function, and higher energy levels.
When outdoor exercise becomes a regular part of one’s routine, not just for drug treatment, one can experience a more sustainable healing and recovery.
Nature Helps Alleviate Withdrawal Symptoms
Perhaps one of the most critical benefits of nature as therapy is the way it can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms. When people stop using drugs, especially if they were using regularly for a long period, the physical effects can be brutal. True, the long-term effects of quitting are extremely beneficial, but the immediate effects are still difficult to go through. People who stop using drugs may experience a variety of symptoms, including worsened anxiety and depression, cravings, disrupted sleep, sweating, shaking, and restlessness.
By spending time outdoors, people trying to get sober will experience the calming effects that nature provides. This can include the feeling of natural light on their faces, the gentle breezes, the beauty of trees and wildlife, or the earthy smells. All senses are engaged by something in the natural world. These therapeutic effects can help take the mind off withdrawal and calm both mind and body, which will help you feel better physically and emotionally.
The calming effects of nature have been shown to help alleviate the effects of substance abuse. That’s why Spero Recovery implements the great outdoors into our treatment program. Located in the beautiful state of Colorado, our residential programs for men and women include hiking and nature walks, woodworking, outdoor meditative practices, and much more. We are proud to have helped many people overcome the effects of drug addiction and go on to achieve long-term sobriety. The word “spero” means hope, and that’s what we provide to our clients. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, please don’t wait. The sooner you seek treatment, the greater your chances are for a full recovery. To learn more about the treatment programs we offer, call Spero at (303) 351-7888. You can also contact us through the messaging portal on our website’s contact page.