Without nature, the stress of life— especially that of addiction— has the tendency to deplete our energy, ambition, and happiness. Unless we repair the damage and lessen the impact of future stress it can follow us into our addiction recovery.
Addiction is often linked to a disconnect of mind, body, and soul. What if I told you the disconnect extended to the earth’s soil? Numerous studies suggest that our mental and physical health benefits from nature and natural influences.
Fight Fatigue in Early Recovery
Like any other part of the body, the brain can experience fatigue. During early recovery, we often write off our mental fatigue as boredom. We think that without the distraction of an addictive substance, life is dull and uninteresting. The “boredom” you’re feeling is fatigue from overexerting your brain for the entirety of your substance abuse.
Imagine running a mile after you finish a beer— that’s what your organs go through during drug and alcohol abuse. Similarly, your brain constantly creates dopamine (pleasure hormone) to keep up with stimulant abuse. This results in an overwhelming period of mental fatigue that hits you once the drug effects wear off. Once you have detoxed the addictive substance from your system, you, and your brain, have only just started to recover.
Throughout early recovery, it is vital to give yourself time to heal from the damages caused by your addiction. You can recover from mental fatigue with the help of nature. Going out in nature slows down the brain’s processing center, allowing it time to rest. As you absorb the natural beauty that surrounds you, nature provides your brain peace.
Mental Detox During Recovery
It is common practice for those who suffer from substance use disorder to replace one addiction with another. In a world overflowing with ever-evolving technology and digital media, it is far too easy to develop internet addiction.
Immersing yourself in nature clears the senses, distancing you from the toxic influx of information you absorb through social media. The stress we experience on a minute-by-minute basis as we stroll through news outlets causes lasting emotional and mental distress. Stress compounds through our interactions as we attempt to juggle the daily responsibilities while trying the maintain our sobriety. Work stress, digital addiction, and feelings of isolation can build during recovery, increasing the risk of relapse.
In order to prevent relapse in recovery, it is important to take advantage of the healing properties found in nature. Nature provides therapeutic healing without the risk of side effects, is available to all, and is free of charge. While walking through nature, the person reinvigorates their connection with the earth, removing their thoughts of isolation. Watching as animals scurry through the underbrush, birds swoop overhead, and butterflies flutter past your vision, it is nearly impossible to avoid feelings of joy, fascination, and oneness with the world.
Restoring Balance After Addiction
Studies suggest visual aspects found in nature, such as sunsets, waterfalls, and mountain ranges work to reduce stress and mental fatigue. Additionally, audible noises that occur in natural environments— birds chirping, flowing water, blowing breezes— can have similar calming effects on the mind and body. The Attention Restoration Theory (ART) suggests “the ability to concentrate may be restored by exposure to natural environments” (Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health). In layman’s terms, nature evokes a curiosity without requiring higher brain function, allowing for a relaxed focus that lends our mind to drift. As we walking through nature, the fears and anxieties of daily life fade away, making room for a calmer, kinder mentality.
Additionally, several studies have shown that walking through nature, when compared to city walks, decreases the participant’s self-criticisms, promoting a positive mental outlook. Oftentimes, those who struggle with addiction carry depressive ruminations throughout the early stages of recovery. To combat this, nature walks help to influence the way in which your attention shifts, calming the brain, and refocusing on positive emotions.
When you take a walk through nature, you are not only exercising your body but your mind as well. Natural environments promote mindfulness and reflection, two mental exercises that do wonders for recovery. Nature induces a reflective mental state which boosts several brain functions, such as problem-solving, attentiveness, and short-term memory. While maintaining your sobriety, nature walks can provide you with a peaceful atmosphere to reflect on your journey and reach the answers to questions you’ve been ruminating over.