Spending Time in Nature Can Boost Your Recovery

Posted by | Relapse Prevention, Treatment Programs, Wellness | April 13, 2015

People find emotional and spiritual fulfillment in various ways. For many, spending time in nature is the one experience that brings them back to center.

One of the primary principles of the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) community is that there needs to be a relationship with a higher power. For some recovering addicts, nature precisely serves this need. Although there might not be a person that they pray to, nature serves as the divine place to return to again and again for rejuvenation.

Many people find it helpful to have a relationship with a power greater than yourself when in recovery. And perhaps this is why the AA community has been so successful and has lasted for this long. Its two primary principles of building greater self-awareness combined with deepening a relationship with a higher being (which is what the 12-steps are all about) has facilitated recovery in thousands of men and women around the world.

What’s great about the 12-step process is that it doesn’t necessarily define what that higher being needs to be. It could be the ocean for surfers, music for musicians, the universe, or a faceless, nameless God. And for others, the face of that higher being is the many expressions of nature. Nature’s awe-invoking force, overwhelming beauty, and transformative power can cause a recovering addict to return to nature again and again in recovery. From the rich colors of the sunset to the way the moon shines upon the night ocean, nature is the grand creator, all powerful, and a provider of life. It might be easy to see why nature is a place to go to when feeling challenged by life.

Nature can have various healing effects such as helping one get in touch with themselves, gain clarity, have insights into their life, and experience a sense of calm and ease. There’s no question that spending time near a raging river, a calming shoreline, or along a rocky trail can positively affect your emotional, psychological, and even physical health. In June 2010, the Journal of Environmental Psychology published the results of a study that showed being outside in nature facilitated feeling more alive. And it has been shown that those who have a high level of vitality in life also tend to have more resilience to physical illness.

What was unique about this study is that they attempted to identify that it was nature itself that led to feeling good, and not the endorphins that are released when doing physical activity outside. The study revealed that individuals consistently felt more energetic when they spent time in nature or if they imagined themselves in natural settings.

In a way, it is sad that individuals need the validation of a scientific study to point to what they already know. Nonetheless, we tend to make time for nature only on the weekends and, if we are lucky, in the late afternoon when the sun is setting. Nature seems to revive what is resting at the core of all of us – serenity, slower thinking, and a more spacious inner landscape. And if you’re a recovering addict, then your inner world is likely full of complexity. It’s managing physical, emotional, and psychological change, especially if you’re new in your recovery and still detoxing from drugs or alcohol. Even the structure of your brain may be undergoing transformation. Yet, the world of nature most resembles your most essential self. Spending a little time in nature each day can be like meditation – it can facilitate the discovery of who you really are, underneath the need for drugs and drinking. Nature can be the place you return to for safety, serenity, and a boost for your sobriety.

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