Think of a beautiful moment you have spent in nature. Have you stood by the ocean and watched the waves sweep over the shore? Have you hiked through the forest and discovered a meadow filled with flowers? Have you stood atop a hill—or even a mountain—and taken in the majestic view that seems to go on forever? Have you sat by the campfire and listened to the sounds of the night as the stars twinkled overhead?
If you have done any of those things (or any other activity in the natural world), you may remember experiencing a profound sense of peace and well-being. Nature has a way of grounding us and restoring our sense of awe at all of the beauty in the world. This can be particularly powerful for someone in recovery.
Getting out into nature—even if it’s just to the local park—is a great way to support your recovery.
Nature Supports Your Mental Health
Spending time outdoors has been shown to reduce overall stress levels. In some cases, it can lead to what is known as a peak experience, which is a particularly intense feeling of well-being and connectedness. But even much more ordinary encounters with nature—watching the clouds roll by, listening to the rain on the roof, biking on a trail—are beneficial to our mental health.
This is partly because enjoying nature tends to interrupt the habit of rumination, which involves constantly focusing on negative emotions, thoughts, or memories. Rumination can lead to increased anxiety, social isolation, and depression. Letting the sunshine in can help us chase those darker shadows from our day-to-day thought patterns.
Nature is a Study in Renewal
The natural world is an ongoing lesson in the power and beauty of renewal. This is evident in everything: from each morning’s sunrise to the cycle of the seasons that always returns to the budding of new life in the spring. You can see this amazing renewal in the regrowth of forests after fires or in the rainbows and calm breezes that follow a storm.
All of this can serve as a powerful metaphor for a person in recovery. After all, getting and staying sober is itself a process of renewal. Engaging with the natural world can remind us that we, too, have the ability to experience a renewal no matter what challenges have befallen us.
Nature is More Beautiful Than the Gym
Many experiences in nature involve some sort of exercise—hiking, swimming, canoeing, rock climbing, or just walking around the neighborhood on a sunny day. This exercise is, of course, good for your overall physical health. As a bonus, exercise increases the production of dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin (which can also be boosted by exposure to sunlight), and endorphins in our brains, which means there is a direct connection between physical and mental health. The pleasurable feelings we experience from exercise can go a long way toward reducing cravings for drugs or alcohol.
And if you can get all of these benefits without having to join a gym, so much the better, right?
Nature Has Even More to Offer
Several other benefits have been connected with spending time in nature, including boosts to the immune system, better sleep, and a sense of selflessness and humility. Each of these things is a boon to a person in recovery.
Nature is Nearby
You don’t have to go far to experience nature. Even if you live in an urban environment, odds are there is a park in the neighborhood. Or you can spend time in your yard—gardening, for example—or even on your front porch or balcony taking in the fresh air and sunlight.
When the opportunity arises to go deeper into the natural world, take advantage. Go hiking with friends. Spend a day on the lake with your family. Explore the state parks and nature trails and caves in your state. Every moment you spend outside is a moment that can have a positive effect on your ongoing recovery.
It is Only Natural to Give Us a Call
If you are struggling with a substance use disorder, it may feel like you have to go it alone. But that isn’t true. At The Aviary Recovery Center, we can help you get your life back on track and give you the tools to maintain your sobriety for the long term. We want you to get back to enjoying life—including all the wonders of the natural world—as soon as possible. We’ll personalize a treatment plan just for you.