importance of nature

7 Arguments for the Importance of Nature to Addiction Recovery

Overcoming an addiction is a difficult experience. Victims of addiction face hardships that extend beyond the addiction itself, impacting mental and physical health.

But one abundant force has the power to aid in recovery, providing support for the individual that furthers the healing process. And it’s something we have plenty of nature.

Increase your chances of recovery and find peace. Discover the importance of nature and how it can help foster a life free of addiction.

The Importance of Nature

Although many people believe the importance of nature is overstated, studies show otherwise. Wilderness therapy for older adults is beneficial and can help on a multitude of levels.

1. Reduce Anxiety and Depression

Individuals who suffer from anxiety are twice as likely as their peers to turn to drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms. Thus, many individuals seeking treatment from addiction also suffer from illnesses such as:

  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorders
  • PTSD

Nature can help with this. Nature lowers the levels of cortisol in the body, reducing anxiety and stress.

Cortisol is a stress hormone that activates in response to situations that are perceived to be dangerous. When we are in nature without the distraction of cell phones or other activities, however, the triggers that increase cortisol disappear.

As a result, cortisol levels decrease. In fact, 20 minutes of nature significantly reduces the levels of this hormone.

Levels reduce even further at half an hour.

For individuals in recovery, this offers a free experience that reduces the pressures associated with overcoming an addiction.

2. Increase Overall Health

High levels of cortisol affect the body. They weaken the immune system, lead to weight gain and increase the likelihood of heart disease.

By lowering these levels, nature literally makes individuals healthier overall. The likelihood of developing chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, decreases.

Being outside encourages exercise, which also increases overall health. Adventuring outside “unplugs” people from the hardships of daily life and encourages them to become active.

Nature time has a number of effects on mood, too.

Exercising increases endorphins, hormones that act as a happiness booster. It increases the brain’s sensitivity towards serotonin and norepinephrine, two other hormones that reduce depression.

It even reduces pain and gives individuals more energy. As you can see, it is valuable for those suffering from the after-effects of withdrawal.

Finally, being outside lets individuals obtain more vitamin D. Vitamin D also uplifts moods.

3. Enhance Self Esteem

It’s normal for people entering and participating in recovery to see themselves as “broken,” as something that needs to be fixed. The recovery process helps you understand that you are whole—you may simply need a little extra help to get back on track.

And nature helps here, too.

Did you know those who spend more time outside report greater satisfaction with their own bodies? Because the trees and birds don’t care what you look like, there is a healthy focus on the body. Those enjoying the benefits of nature focus on what their bodies can do rather than what they look like.

4. Boost Creativity

Life takes a toll on our ability to create, to open our minds to possibilities and utilize our imaginations.

Being outside, however, removes the barriers that hinder creativity and instead encourages us to utilize our five senses. A 2012 study found that an individual’s ability to solve high-level creative tasks after a four-day hike increases as much as 50%.

Researchers hypothesize the upped creativity is the result of opening ourselves to natural stimuli and reducing our reliance on technology. Nature enhances moods and lowers aggression; the constant attention necessary for daily use of technology, however, may increase negative moods that inhibit creativity.

5. Restore Mental Fatigue

We all suffer from fatigue. Those recovering from addiction or drug use do, too, and many times the sensation may feel overwhelming.

Wilderness therapy also alleviates any fatigue.

A prominent theory among researchers is known as Attention Restoration Theory. It suggests that the daily requirements of a technology-driven world require us to continually execute higher-order cognitive functions.

As a result, our brains become tired.

However, proponents of this theory believe that exposure to the outside world restores parts of and circuits within the brain that are stressed from daily use.

This is because the constant bombardment found in society, such as alarms, cars or cells, disappears. The natural world lets our brains breathe.

The consequence is that the higher-order functions we use often are rejuvenated.

6. Create Connections

Wilderness creates connections. It reminds us that we are one part of a much larger world.

It even helps us make friends.

Researchers speculate the spiritual and social benefits of nature arise from the knowledge that we are a sliver of a large ecosystem. It turns our attention away from regular self-interests and doubts that plague us and instead teaches us how we impact the world.

This knowledge fosters healthy ties with others because we are no longer interested only in ourselves.

7. Learn Kindness

Kindness is not only reserved for others. It should also be kept for ourselves.

Being outside inspires kindness and generosity. Recent experiments found groups exposed to beautiful photos of nature were more likely to act kindly towards others.

Furthermore, the experiments showed those around beautiful plant life were more willing to help others than those who were not surrounded by plants.

In recovery, it can be difficult to treat everyone with kindness and to remember that they have your best interests at heart. However, it may be even more difficult to be kind to yourself, to remember that you are working toward a greater life of fulfillment and that you have the ability to become the person you’ve always wanted to.

Plug into the World

Sometimes it takes plugging out, getting away from our cells and computers and televisions, to plug into the world and realize how miraculous every creature and individual is.

The importance of nature isn’t that it gives us all a breather; it’s that it reminds us how beautiful the world is and how beautiful our place is within it.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, reach out to us. We understand your struggles, and we are here for you.

References:

 

Article Reviewed by David Sherman, MD

David Sherman, MDDavid Sherman, MD is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (FASAM) and board certified in Addiction Medicine with the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He is a native Missourian and graduated medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine. Dr. Sherman completed a two-year fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He leads a highly trained staff of master level certified addiction professionals. Men and women from all over Missouri and the United States come to Sana Lake Recovery Center to get the care they need and deserve.

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