While there are many aspects of treatment to consider, one aspect of recovery that can be easily overlooked is the impact of being outdoors on treatment outcomes. As our world becomes heavily dependent on technology and many of our electronics keep us indoors, the positive influence of nature on our overall state of wellbeing becomes overshadowed. Addiction and substance abuse often cause people to disconnect from themselves and the world around them, while recovery emphasizes getting back in touch with oneself. Surrounding yourself with nature and removing oneself from enabling environments can have a profound impact on recovery outcomes.
Many recovery programs have started to incorporate the power of therapeutic wilderness programs to help people reestablish their connection to the world around them. Disconnecting from technology and electronics forces us to self-reflect and take in our surroundings. In nature, people are able to detach themselves from distractions and experience lessons that can only be taken in while outdoors.
Studies show that spending time outdoors can improve both physical and mental health. In many ways, it is essential to healing and an overall improved sense of well-being. Some of the known ways nature improves physical and mental health include:
- Being outdoors reduces stress: Studies show that being outdoors can reduce stress levels. Without the constant distractions of everyday life, people are able to focus on their surroundings and take in the world around them. Technology causes people to become inundated with notifications, news updates, and a barrage of information that can cause stress and anxiety. Research has found that those who spend more time in nature can experience lower blood pressure and decreased levels of stress.
- It can reduce inflammation: Physical exercise is vital to overall wellbeing, but it does not have to be strenuous. Going for walks and exploring the environment can have a profound impact on overall health. Inflammation can cause a myriad of illnesses and ailments that add additional stress to the body. Getting active outside has been linked to reduced levels of inflammation and improved overall health.
- It reduces fatigue: Staring at a screen all day long and not making time to disconnect can lead to mental fatigue. Experiencing the sensation that your mind has come to a grinding halt is common, but studies have found being in nature can rejuvenate the mind. Taking in the natural beauty of the world around you can boost your mood and improve mental functioning.
- It improves mood: Anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions are often linked to substance abuse. Exposure to the outdoors and spending time away from the stresses of everyday life has been linked to improved mood and reduced levels of anxiety. In some cases, just spending time walking outdoors has been found to be beneficial for symptoms of depression as well. Combined with exercise, even yoga, many find nature provides a level of inner healing that cannot be reproduced elsewhere.
- Lower blood pressure: Stress and anxiety can increase blood pressure, leading to additional strain on the body. Spending time walking outdoors has been linked to decreased levels of stress and lower blood pressure. This helps boost mood and improve physical health, leading to an overall better sense of wellbeing.
- Improved focus:While there are several ways to decompress and relax, studies have found that walking in nature can produce the best outcomes. Often times, people find themselves inundated with responsibilities and tasks that can make it easy to lose focus. Disconnecting from those distractions and allowing the mind to rest while exploring outdoors often leaves many with an improved sense of focus when returning to their everyday lives. Being outdoors and taking in nature can help the brain to heal.
- Engages creativity: Being in nature improves cognitive functioning resulting in increased creativity and engagement. It is not uncommon to find that after spending time in nature, many people feel improved performance in their everyday lives, experiencing a better ability to think creatively. This can help channel new ways of expression and an ability to approach situations from a new perspective.
- A strengthened immune system: Studies also suggest that being outdoors can improve immune functioning. Those who spend more time outdoors experience a boost in their immune system, resulting in less time getting sick or recovering from an illness. Some research indicates that nature has beneficial effects on overall human health, even linking it to lower rates of cancer.
In a way, the benefits of being outdoors is a type of therapy. This has proven to be especially impactful for those in addiction treatment. In addition to engaging with traditional forms of treatment and therapy, being in nature encourages clients to get outside of their comfort zones and explore the world around them. Being outdoors encourages introspective thought and allows them to push their boundaries to explore new experiences. Nature provides therapeutic benefits that improves aspects of recovery and reduces the impact of withdrawal symptoms, triggers, and other impulses that encourage continued substance abuse.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.