The Great Outdoors: The Benefits for Those in Addiction Recovery

Substance Abuse Recovery Phase

Substance abuse recovery is a very important part of addiction treatment. Substance abuse affects millions of people all over the world. According to a 2016 report released by the U.S. Surgeon General, one in seven Americans will deal with some substance abuse issue in their lifetime, while only 10 percent will seek treatment.  Substance abuse is a complex disease that changes a person’s brain and body. It prevents a person from living a productive, happy life. Addiction also strains relationships, ruins careers, and decimates a person’s health. Left untreated, addiction and its complications can end a person’s life.

The Great Outdoors and Stress Relief during substance abuse recovery
Image via Pexels

Substance abuse treatment is complicated. It often involves a combination of therapies, medication, and lifestyle changes that work for the person being treated. While treatments may vary from person to person, there are a few things that experts recommend all addicts do. One of those things is finding healthy ways to cope with stress. Stress is a common substance abuse trigger and can lead to destructive behaviors. Learning how to deal with it effectively can reduce the chances of relapse while making recovery easier.

The Great Outdoors and Stress Relief for Substance abuse recovery

Spending time outdoors has various health benefits:

  • Improved short-term memory
  • Relief from mental fatigue
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Improved vision
  • Better concentration
  • Vitamin D absorption
  • Mental clarity
  • Improved memory
  • Boosts immune system
  • Longevity
  • Improved mental health
  • Stress relief

Caught that last one, didn’t you? Yes, spending time outdoors is a safe and effective way to relieve stress. For one, spending time outdoors is a great way to get in some gentle exercise. Exercise releases positive neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins that become imbalanced with drug or alcohol abuse. These neurotransmitters promote positive feelings and stress relief during times of duress.

Advantages of outdoor time during Substance abuse recovery.

Spending time outdoors is also a great way to promote mindfulness in one’s life. Mindfulness is an essential weapon in a person’s arsenal for fighting stress and addiction. Negative emotions like fear, anxiety, and dissatisfaction often manifest as our “wanting mind.” In the wanting mind, a person would be happy if only they didn’t have to fear, didn’t have to stress, or had the things they imagine they want.

Mindfulness helps a person disassociate from the wanting mind. It teaches a person to be in the moment and to focus on the things in their power. Practicing mindfulness also counters an overstimulated amygdala — the part of the brain that controls emotions. When a person is stressed or anxious, their parasympathetic nervous system responds by releasing cortisol and adrenaline — hormones that trigger your fight or flight instincts– into the bloodstream, raising the heart rate and respiration. Relaxing the amygdala reverses those physical effects, helping reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

When we spend time outdoors, it also gives us a chance to unplug from technology. Spending time on social media is proven to be bad for mental health. While mindfulness helps us separate from the wanting mind, social media only stimulates it. If you want to reap the benefits of spending time outside, it’s best to leave the phone on silent and safely tucked somewhere out of sight and out of mind.

Fortunately, there is a wide variety of relaxing, nurturing activities that you can enjoy in the great outdoors. For example, if you enjoy hiking, you can head to a national park to walk the trails. If you’re more of a fisherman, you can head to a nearby lake or river and lose yourself in the serenity of the scenery. And once you’re back financially, you can begin investing some money in your favorite outdoor excursion. Have you discovered a passion for hiking? Enjoy a little retail therapy by picking up a pair of great hiking boots and a sturdy, reliable backpack. If you want to enhance your fishing experience, you can invest in a small boat with your fishing gear and a trolling motor to help you maintain control of your vessel when you’re out on the water. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you genuinely enjoy; that way, you’ll be more inclined to do it regularly.

Taking advantage of the stress-relieving benefits of the outdoors doesn’t have to involve a multi-day camping trip in the middle of nowhere. It can be as simple as a simple walk around a local park. Whether in the middle of a desert, on top of a mountain, or just strolling around the neighborhood, your time outdoors can balance neurotransmitters, promote mindfulness, and relieve stress in a way that can help prevent addiction relapse.

Professional Help During Recovery

If you need professional help during the recovery process, contact your local recovery clinic to schedule an appointment for evaluation and therapy.

At the Philadelphia Addiction Center, Dr. Tsan and a team of professionals help people during substance abuse recovery using holistic approaches – acupuncture, homeopathy, and hypnotherapy.