How Being in Nature Aids Addiction Recovery
There’s a reason our recovery centre is located on 20 acres of land and is surrounded by sweeping views of the rolling foothills. Our guests are encouraged to get outside and spend time in this serene setting to re-centre and reconnect with the peace that surrounds our house of courage.
It requires bravery to admit one’s faults and courage to overcome one’s toxic behaviors and nature is a powerful tool that can help to heal both the body and mind when undergoing an addiction recovery program.
Numerous studies have shown that being in nature and spending time in the great outdoors is restorative and healing. In this chaotic world of screens and noise, commitments and obligations, we can get caught up in the rat race to keep up and forget to take care of ourselves. Especially for someone in recovery, self-care is of the utmost importance to avoid relapse and maintain successful sobriety. Fortunately, one way to take care of ourselves is to just get outside.
Being in Nature
By spending time in nature and being outside our attention is drawn back to the here and now and a present-centering effect occurs in the mind and body. This in turn, activates our body’s relaxation response which causes us to breathe deeper and slower and stop the endless chatter that goes on in our minds. Rather than focusing on the to-dos, the past, or the pending future, we only need to focus on the now and be present and mindful of our beautiful surroundings.
The Japanese even have a term for the calming and health enhancing benefits of nature that is called Shinrin-yoku. Shinrin-yoku translates into “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing”. Though it may sound like some mystical, alternative type medicine – its benefits are scientifically proven. Research conducted in Japan confirms that time spent amidst forest environments reduces stress by lowering concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol. In addition, by being in nature our pulse rate is lowered, blood pressure is reduced, our immune system is boosted, and our mood improves.
There is a reason that plants and flowers are encouraged in hospital environments and it is because they help to expedite the healing process. A study conducted in the 1980’s found that patients who underwent the same surgery (same age, sex, general health disposition), healed faster and experienced less pain during their recovery when they had a view of beautiful trees outside their window rather than facing a sterile hospital wall.
The calmness and contentment that results when viewing a beautiful landscape or hiking amidst the mountains is a kind of moving meditation. Rather than musing about regrets or resentments, the mind is drawn back to the present moment and the body responds accordingly. Being in the great outdoors keeps the mind from retelling itself negative stories or being bored – both of which are detrimental to a successful addiction recovery.
So how do you get outside more often so you can breathe in the benefits of nature’s healing powers? Here are a few ideas:
Go for a walk.
Turn off the TV, instead of spending time perusing Facebook or reading online, get outside and unwind after a hard day’s work. If you can, go for a stroll during breaks at work or eat lunch at a park. If you do feel like reading – do it outside.
Start a garden.
Work on your yard or garden to get in touch with nature. Weeding a flowerbed can be extremely therapeutic or you can start a vegetable garden. Starting a garden means you’ll have to maintain it regularly and be outside more often. The best part is, you’ll have fresh food!
Start jogging or running.
Not only will these activities get you outside, you’ll get fit in the process too.
Take your kids to the park.
Quality time with your family is rewarding and doing it outdoors gets the whole family some exercise and reprieve from screens and other distractions.
Take up hiking.
We are fortunate to live within close proximity to the mountains here in Calgary. Drive out to Canmore, Banff, or Bragg Creek and discover the multiple trails that exist. Or even go for a walk along the river or discover the parks within our city.