Did you know that using nature in recovery programs has proven to be highly successful?
The use of nature in recovery from addiction is implemented as a supplement to addiction treatment for many reasons. Through experience, treatment programs have come to learn that it has several positive effects on people struggling with destructive patterns of drug use.
A basic behavioral rationale is that exposure and participation in activities related to nature can serve as a replacement pattern of behavior. The general idea is that you can’t just take away a behavior like addictive drug abuse without providing an alternative. The effects of nature on mental health are so positive, that it provides an excellent replacement pattern of behavior. Nature and health, benefits recovery from addiction in many ways.
Nature and health benefits can be explained in the following way. Physically, exposure to nature often involves at least some light exercise. Exercise has been shown time and time again to be beneficial to mental health, as well as physical health.
Being in a natural environment also removes people from what may be unhealthy pollutants and emotional triggers. During exercise, the body also produces natural endorphins that ease the painful aspects of withdrawal. Self esteem can also get a boost from consistent exercise because it makes people feel better about their appearance, leading to improved self confidence. Involving nature in recovery also has other benefits.
Psychologically, there are other reasons to believe that nature in recovery has positive effects. Many drug addicts in recovery have a difficult time feeling connected to people and the world around them.
As social creatures, people need to feel a deep sense of belonging and connection in order to be mentally healthy. The absence of this, and the psychological pain that it causes, is often part of why certain people develop drug addictions. Nature in recovery can provide this sense of connection and belonging especially if shared with other people.
A Stanford University article also described a study that compared exercise in urban areas with exercise in natural areas, and discovered that there were significant positive psychological effects in the people who exercised in natural areas. The main effect was in ruminating patterns of thinking that are linked with depression, a risk factor for addiction.
The people exercising in natural areas experienced a decrease in this type of ruminative thinking and hence were better protected against depression and the risk factors that come along with depression including drug addiction. The effects of nature on mental health seem intuitive and clear in the light of these finding.
The effects of nature on mental health are also social. Sharing activities with others in nature, provides joy and pleasure in mentally healthy way. Working together to solve problems and overcome obstacles in nature, also provides a healthy context for people with addiction to work on their social skills and experience the satisfaction of group success.
Research has shown that people with social skill problems are at increased risk of addiction, so group experiences in nature end up helping in several ways at once.
Exposure to nature can sometimes be part of some people’s need to feel spiritually fulfilled. Some of the success of programs like Alcoholics Anonymous is attributed to their recognition of the role of spirituality in recovery that is important to some people.
Being in nature more often can sometimes facilitate this need for deeper spiritual connection that can be a source of strength for someone struggling with the difficult work of recovery.
The combination of physical, psychological, spiritual and social benefits make nature in recovery an excellent supplement to addiction treatment and maintenance. Nature and health benefits, psychological benefits and social benefits contribute to the overall success of people struggling with addiction recovery.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.