Addiction is made up of several stages, yet it only takes coming to terms with one of them to break the vicious cycle. But in order for recovery to be truly effective, the recovery survivor must avoid stressors and triggers that could potentially catapult them back into a world of self-destruction. While there are specific methods catered to each phase in an effort to dismantle the cycle, spending time in the great outdoors can help with the recovery process by providing an outlet for stress relief and a deterrent from triggers. Here’s why:
Improved Mental Health: Mental health issues are often associated with addiction, which usually requires a dual treatment. Studies indicate that spending just 15-20 minutes outdoors on a daily basis can have many health benefits, to include improved wound healing (think drug-related in this case) and a reduction of depression symptoms. Staying inside is often a sign of depression and can actually make someone feel worse, so it’s crucial to get outside as a form of natural therapy. The more positive a recovery survivor feels, the more apt they are to stay sober.
Increased Alertness: If too much time is spent inside, it can be difficult to focus — even if a person is not doing anything in particular. Between the sun (a great source of mood-boosting vitamin D) and exposure to the elements, being outdoors can improve mental alertness, and concentration while relieving stress, all of which can prevent a relapse. This is a good opportunity to blend the best of both worlds by taking newfound energy outdoors to enjoy all of the things that were void when life was consumed by drugs and alcohol.
Boost Self-Confidence, Banish Boredom: A simple walk can turn into trying a new activity or sport that can make a recovery survivor feel better physically and mentally while building self-confidence at the same time. Boredom is a common relapse trigger so it’s a good idea to mix things up — idle time is the devil’s tool in this case. Furthermore, excessive sitting has been linked to premature death so that’s another great reason to get moving.
You’ll Sleep Better: Staying inside can lead to insomnia because there’s a mental association with being in bed and being awake — especially if the bedroom is where a recovery survivor spends the majority of their time. Fresh air, sunshine, and physical activity can result in getting a good night’s sleep. This is important because people in the infantile stages of recovery often have problems getting a good night’s sleep. Racing thoughts and even nightmares are a common occurrence. The reasoning behind this experience is that drugs and alcohol can alter the effects of the brain, thus making it challenging to sleep even if the substance(s) haven’t been taken in a while.
You Won’t Be Isolated: Loneliness and isolation go hand-in-hand with depression and all three serve as triggers that can derail a full recovery. By spending time outdoors, there’s the opportunity to socialize with others in a natural, non-forced setting. Even simply being among the land of the living can have a positive influence if someone is a little gun shy in the beginning.
Spending time outdoors is not a singular cure for an addiction problem, but it can definitely help a recovery survivor cope with the mental and physical effects of being newly sober. Whether it’s a forest preserve, the country, or the city you live in, the positive side effects will be the same. Don’t be afraid to mix up the environment so you stay stimulated and motivated.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
The Pine Mountain trail is one of the most challenging trails I’ve ever hiked. It is steep, winding and long. Water is scarce, the sun feels darned hot on the ridge top, and the last time I was there I got chased by some angry yellow jackets that had decided to build their hive right underneath the trail.
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