Written by- Patrick Bailey
Ah, the great outdoors. There’s something within the human heart that ignites feelings of peace and tranquility when one spends time in the wild woods, a cool garden, or a pristine beach under the sun.
A lot of studies point to the benefits of being outdoors towards mental health. Claims have been made that being outdoors reduces symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other disorders of the mind. No wonder, many seek solace at the natural hues of green and blues found in the trees, water, and sky.
There’s a special group of people too, who would benefit greatly by immersing themselves outdoors. Those who suffer from addiction and are on their way to recovery can spend their time in nature to bring healing. How exactly does it help in alcohol and drug recovery?
Benefits of Outdoors in Addiction Recovery
Fresh air for better peace of mind.
Plants are known to supply oxygen. When one goes outdoors, there are higher oxygen levels than usual, supplying more energy and vitality in the organs such as the lungs and heart. This results in increased mental clarity and energy’. People with low mood also tend to feel sluggish, so going outdoors really helps. The vitamin D and bright light from the sun make us feel perky, alleviating low energy and mood issues.
Addiction often causes withdrawal symptoms which are hard to shake when someone is idle. On top of that, people who abuse toxic substances mostly have poor blood circulation, causing damage in the most vital organs. Going outdoors helps one breathe better, think better, and have improved blood circulation.
Increased physical activity
Most outdoor activities aren’t just confined to sitting on a camping chair or staring at the stars. In fact, most outdoor recreation includes something that keeps your heart pumping, such as trekking, hiking, biking, or even fishing. For beginners, some recommended outdoor activities include:
- Brisk walking: Brisk walking is easy on the joints and can be done at your own pace. Walking while seeing nature’s views can help you achieve a sense of calm.
- Cycling: If you already have experience riding bikes indoors, you can incorporate this simple activity outdoors. The variation of terrain outdoors can possibly give you a good workout.
- Trekking or hiking: Trekking or hiking is a good beginner outdoor activity as you can pick simple trails for starters. Plus, more people are seeing the appeal of hiking from time to time because it is a fun recreation where you can still practice social distancing.
- Swimming: Close to the coast? Perhaps swimming can be a regular outdoor recreation for you. Swimming is also a low-impact physical sport, and you won’t feel sweaty or hot afterward.
Now, what is the rationale behind exercising outdoors and overcoming addiction? There are also studies that show exercising helps establish some behavioral and neurological changes. Behavioral changes include the improvement of self-control and inhibition of risky behaviors. By maintaining an exercise routine, one is likely to stick to other healthy habits such as avoiding addictive substances.
Neurological changes through exercising include the normalization of the brain’s production of ‘feel-good’ chemicals. Exercise is known to help naturally release serotonin and dopamine, aiding in the proper balance of these chemicals in the brain.
Disconnecting from distractions.
In the modern world, what’s a day like? It is commonplace to see people with faces on gadget screens, perhaps absorbed in social media, games, or other mindless digital activities that can sometimes drain the mind. Again and again, researchers link the overuse of digital devices to problems in attention span, focus, and mental health.
Connecting with nature means you have the opportunity to disconnect with everything else. Be it the stress from work, school, or any other area of your life, you can simply take a pause and recharge through nature.
With nature, there are many activities you can do to heal from the trauma that brought you to addiction in the first place. You can:
- Meditate: Meditation helps you focus on the present and becoming aware of thoughts that come in and out of your mind. This increased sense of focus helps train your brain not to go in ‘dangerous spirals’ that can lead to substance use.
- Journal: Although you can basically journal your thoughts everywhere, there’s something special when you express your thoughts while you’re surrounded by nature’s beauty. Journaling in this way not just helps you release the pent-up feelings, but allows you to become creative.
- Art: Healing from addiction can also be done through art. Speaking of creativity, a lot of people find nature to be a point of inspiration when creating art. Whether it’s music, drawing, painting, or writing, you can create inspired art by going outdoors.
Unchaining From Addiction Through Nature
There’s a reason why many rehabilitation centers are placed in scenic nature areas–the sense of being one with the natural world helps in one’s mental, physical, and emotional health. By incorporating outdoor recreational activities in your routine, you will get these wonderful benefits for addiction recovery.
- Health.harvard.edu – “Sour mood getting you down? Get back to nature”.
- Familyholidayassociation.org.uk – “How Getting Outside Can Boost Your Mental Health”.
- Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – “Exercise as a Potential Treatment for Drug Abuse: Evidence from Preclinical Studies”.
- Cbs58.com – “Overuse of technology gadgets may cause ADHD-like symptoms in children”.
Written by- Patrick Bailey
Patrick Bailey is a professional writer, mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. You can check out his other work by visiting www.patrickbaileys.com.