Get Outside! Why Mother Nature is Essential for Recovering Addicts

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Recovery from an addiction can make you feel irritable, sad and closed off from the life you used to have. While a new life is one filled with opportunity, someone just out of rehab, or even a person years into successful recovery may struggle getting back to basics. It sounds like common sense, but the kind of advice that you can get from another person only goes so far. But Mother Nature … she knows.

With so many people living fast-paced lifestyles, it can be very difficult to even find a few hours where you can really be alone. Now with smartphones, we somehow are expected to be in a constant unhealthy relationship with technology. However, solitude and spirituality end up taking a back seat which may cause more damage that you would think to a person in recovery.

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What Are the Health Benefits of Nature?

“Current thinking in the mental health community is incorporating forms of nature-based therapy into traditional addiction treatment creates a more holistic, robust approach to global sobriety, health, and wellness,” said Dr. Riana Chagoury of Malibu Hills Treatment Center.

And there is science to back it up! Research has shown that just being out in nature is a way to boost mental functions including memory, mood and creativity.

“Traditional talk therapy is extremely effective at addressing cognitive distortions and emotional processing, and nature-based therapies bring an experiential dimension to treatment. These two modalities tend to complement, inform, and mutually reinforce each other. Treatment focuses on building self-esteem, resilience, and learning how to develop open, honest relationships by leading clients out into the woods where they must live and work together as a team,” she added.

What Does the Science Say?

  • In one study, people who took a short walk in nature showed improvements in short-term memory when compared to those who walked on a city street. Up to 20% more!
  • Another study on mental energy and nature revealed that participants scored higher on attention tests when they viewed pictures of nature. This was in comparison to participants who looked at geometrical shapes.
  • Finally, problem-solving skills were shown to jump up 50% in study participants who spent 4 days in nature.

How Can I Actually Make it Happen?

American author Henry David Thoreau was once inspired by nature to say, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life. And see if I could not learn what it had to teach and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

From his famous book Walden, this quote may encourage you to get outdoors. While getting outside more sounds like a great idea, you may realize that it’s harder than it seems to actually make it happen. Here are just 3 tips to help you turn your desire into getting outside a reality:

  1. Consider Pet Adoption. Go outside of your comfort zone and consider adopting a dog. Scientists can confirm that the bond is good for your mental health and a four-legged friend is sure to drag you outdoors for more outdoor exercise – a well-known mood boosterdue to its ability to increase endorphins.
  2. Kick Off Your Shoes. Also known as “Earthing,” walking barefoot is actually scientifically shown to have real benefits to your health. They include increased immunity, and less inflammation, not only that but you may sleep better too! It’s just one more excuse to go outside and walk.

If you enjoy yoga, taking off your shoes while you practice may take your practice to the next level. So, go ahead and kick off your shoes. Dig your toes into the grass, a warm rock, or sand and breathe in everything Mother Nature has to offer.

  1. Take a Getaway. Adventure is an excuse to head out and take on something new. A mini-getaway can give you a taste of new, exciting environments that may inspire you to take on the outdoors when you get back. And remember: you don’t need to make it a full vacation to have an adventure! Just a few days can refresh you.

You don’t have to spend years alone in a cabin in the woods to reconnect with nature. All you have to do is try to devote more “me,” time during recovery outside where the air is fresh, the birds sing and you can be yourself! After all, developing a close relationship with Mother Nature may also help you along in recovery, if you let her guide your spirit. The vast beauty of nature with its scenic sanctuaries, offers great value for those seeking solitude or self-reliance, so go for it. It all starts with those first steps and it only gets easier once you are in motion!


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