Recovering naturally: how spending time in nature can help recovery

The average American spends as much as 90 percent of their day indoors. Modern lifestyle doesn’t give us a lot of opportunities to naturally spend our time outside. This means that we need to make conscious decisions to go outdoors.

For someone in recovery, it’s essential to spend at least 20 minutes outside each day. Nature therapy is considered to bring significant benefits for people in treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. It helps them manage many of the issues that can put them at risk of relapse.

Nature therapy (also green therapy or ecotherapy) is some kind of free drug rehab centers: no-cost facilities. Nature is everywhere and available to everyone. The fresh air, the light wind, the natural light, and the sounds bring us a sense of peace and freedom. Incorporating outdoor activities into your daily routine will encourage your sobriety and improve your overall well-being. Here are a range of activities to try:

  • Take up gardening
  • Go for a walk in a scenic area near your home
  • Play with your pet outdoors
  • Ride a bike
  • Exercise in nature (jogging or running)
  • Join a community sports team
  • Take up golf
  • Go birdwatching
  • Play geocaching
  • Have a picnic with friends
  • Sit in a comfy chair in the backyard and read a good book or write something down into a journal.
  • Make photos of flora and fauna
  • Go fishing.

Getting outside in the bad weather may seem a bad idea. Don’t let the cold temperatures force you to stay indoors. In winter, you can enjoy other activities:

  • Try winter sports, such as ice-skating, snowboarding, or skiing.
  • Make a snowman.
  • Volunteer to shovel snow for elderly neighbors.

Ask family members and friends who support your decision to quit drinking or taking drugs to participate in these activities with you. Spending time together will help to restore trust and improve your relationship that might have been ruined during the time of abusing. If you are still getting free drug addiction treatment in some rehab, there may be some outdoor activities included in the program.

Addiction affects the body, the mind, and the spirit. Thus, recovery requires a complex approach that focuses on physical, mental and emotional healing. Nature therapy leads to improvements in these three aspects which decreases the risk of relapse. They are as follows:

1. The immune system strengthens.
If a person stays indoors all the time, their immune system is exposed to the same threats. Without exposure to new ones, the body can’t develop new forms of resistance. Spending time outdoors helps to build stronger immunity, which is one of the main goals of any free drug rehabilitation center.

2. Being outdoors encourages exercise.
Being outside will encourage you to move – walk or run around, or at least stroll and check things out. Physical activity has been shown to reduce withdrawal symptoms in people who have an addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs, and nicotine. Besides, doing physical outdoor activities and exercising is an excellent way to get into better shape.

3. It improves the quality of sleep and makes you more energetic.
Individuals with addiction are 5 to 10 times more likely to have sleep disorders. And green therapy can help to deal with this problem.

Our circadian rhythms are naturally linked to the sun’s schedule. So, much exposure to natural sunlight, particularly early morning rays, can fix our natural rhythms.

4. Spending time in nature helps to manage stress.
In 2014, Swedish psychologist Terry Hartig conducted an interesting study. At first, the participants had to complete a 40-minute sequence of cognitive tasks designed to reach mental fatigue. After that, they were randomly asked to spend 40 minutes walking in a local natural environment, walking in an urban environment or sitting quietly while reading a magazine and listening to soft music.

As a result, the group who had walked in the nature settings reported less anger and more positive emotions than the other two groups. Ecotherapy is included in free substance abuse programs because it teaches people to cope with stress.

5. Brain function improves.
Another Terry Hartig’s study revealed that a simple walkthrough nature can have a restorative effect. Researchers from Stanford University found out that walking can promote creative thinking. And Australian scientists found that spending time outdoors improves focus, cognitive function, and problem-solving skills.

Staying indoors for long periods is associated with several dangers. They may include the following:

  • Those who are stuck indoors for too long are likely to feel bored at some point. And boredom is a common relapse trigger for recovering addicts.
  • Many people, especially vegans, get vitamin D mostly from the sun. Lack of sunlight on the skin can cause vitamin D deficiency. This may provoke rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
  • People who rarely go out usually sit down most of the time. A sedentary lifestyle leads to obesity, worsening of overall health, and, in extreme cases, premature death.
  • Spending all-time inside is a typical sign of depression. Often, such isolation triggers the symptoms of depression.
  • When people start a new sober life and avoid going out for the fear of relapse or another reason, they may feel as if they are imprisoned and are just biding their time until they will be able to go back to their addictive habit.
  • It can cause sleep problems. Individuals who spend most of their day in a bedroom may unconsciously associate being in bed with being awake.
  • Spending too much time alone at home can lead to loneliness, which is one of the top relapse triggers.
  • An indoor lifestyle can lead to mental fog. Even if the person is sitting around all day doing nothing, they still feel tired.

Though traditional treatment methods like behavioral therapy are more researched and there is substantial evidence on their effectiveness, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of the holistic approach. Nature therapy is relatively an emerging field, but many free rehab centers incorporate it into their programs. In some cases, especially when clients have problems with socialization, it can be even more helpful than conventional therapy.