Natural Healing

Natural Addiction Treatment: The Healing Power of Nature

Last Updated: Mar 9th 2021

Reviewed by Laura Riley

The idea of addiction recovery is to confront the negative thoughts or emotions that keep one from their desired sober state. Through therapy and addiction education, one can understand the benefits of becoming a sober individual. To become better associated with oneself and the perception of life, natural addiction treatment has been a likelier form of therapy as it encourages self-analysis. The healing power of nature when it comes to addiction recovery is worth considering if you are working to end substance abuse in your life.

The Benefits and Healing Power of Nature

healing-power-of-natureThe outdoors is a valuable thing to those who find the indoors boring. For many, being in an enclosed space confines them to certain activities; when confined to certain spaces and activities, many resort to drinking alcohol or taking drugs to help create a less boring atmosphere. 

Being bored while inside may act as a trigger for some and result in the relapse and consumption of drugs or alcohol. Individuals who previously filled their hours with substance use may find it hard to dedicate those hours to a new hobby or lifestyle. 

In cases of addiction recovery, connecting with nature allows the individual to put their life into a new perspective. A change of scenery can be good when transitioning from life with substance use to life without. In nature, one can view their obstacles more clearly and decide the world has more to offer. Reconnecting with nature can be crucial for anyone who wants to continue a balanced, healthy, and fulfilling lifestyle. The healing power of nature can be critical to anyone looking for a new purpose in life.

Vitamin D: The Sun

Depression and anxiety are common mental health disorders that occur in individuals when making an effort to become clean. Even after completion of addiction treatment, depression and anxiety can be detrimental to the recovery process. To combat mental health disorders and addiction simultaneously, spending time in nature is highly recommended. 

The healing power of nature may be partly due to sun exposure; regular exposure to the outside is valuable as the sun is the body’s main source of vitamin D. An average of 10-30 minutes a day can help one maintain healthy blood levels. By being in the outdoors, an individual’s body can receive vitamin D from direct sunlight. 

Exploring the Mental Benefits 

Natural-Addiction-Treatment-300x172A study was conducted that would compare the brain activity of individuals that took a walk outside for 90 minutes and those that didn’t. It didn’t matter whether the individual took the walk in an urban or natural setting. Those who completed the walk found more activity in the lower prefrontal cortex.

The lower prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain— when overstimulated— responsible for feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety. In short, it helps people set and achieve goals. Those individuals who went on the 90-minute walk and found more activity in their lower prefrontal cortex also found benefits including:

  • Improved memory
  • Elevated moods
  • Strong immune system
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increased self-esteem 
  • Better nutrient and vitamin absorption

Natural addiction treatment can be highly beneficial to those looking to improve their mental state. Since incorporating nature within an everyday routine is proven to increase the mental state, those who do not experience addiction issues can enhance their lives as well.

Identifying the Emotional Benefits

Exposure to nature has been scientifically proven to improve mental health; the use of natural addiction treatment in the context of therapy sessions has been extraordinarily valuable. 

In any individual, there are quick fight-or-flight responses in return to an event that is perceived as stressful or frightening. However, addicted individuals face more intense fight-or-flight scenarios as their drug or alcohol use intensifies each situation. 

Research related to fight-or-flight responses indicates that nature and the sounds of nature can lower cortisol, the stress hormone that activates a fight-or-flight response. By getting a half-hour of sun every day, one can accomplish:

  • Lower BMI
  • Mood stabilization
  • A good night’s sleep
  • Feelings of natural euphoria

Furthermore, spending just a half-hour in the morning sun can decrease the chance of developing multiple sclerosis and autoimmune diseases such as cancer. If you used to choose drugs or alcohol to self-medicate, spending time in nature can be a good replacement option. Spending time in nature minimizes:

  • Health risks
  • Trauma triggers
  • Stress and fatigue
  • Chance of premature death
  • Dangerous and negative thoughts 

One of the many ways people find joy in the outdoors is to try their chance at gardening. Finding out the value of a green thumb gives people a hobby to keep up with in place of their previous lifestyle habits. Research also indicates that gardening can boost the immune system and trigger the release of serotonin through microbes in the soil. With something as simple as gardening, the healing power of nature is obtainable.

Finding Healing and Hope in Natural Addiction Treatment

Nature can help bring healing and hope to those who are dealing with addiction recovery. Natural addiction programs aim to restore self-confidence in an individual while becoming self-aware of their worth; they may begin to believe they can be successful in life again. 

Any type of outdoor time can be beneficial whether it be in the backyard of your home, a nearby park, or a hike in the woods. Any type of outdoor time can bring a sense of well-being. If the weather is inclement, a natural sound machine can be useful as it will bring a sense of the outdoors inside. 

For those that don’t know how to incorporate nature into their recovery, a few activities one can take part in are:

  • Gardening
  • Birdwatch
  • Meditate
  • Exercise
  • Taking a walk 
  • Follow a nature trail
  • Spending the day at the park
  • Explore outdoor recreational activities (fishing, biking, kayaking, etc)

Exercise can be valuable to a recovering individual as it increases the release of hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. By exercising, one can build stamina and strengthen their body to help better sustain themselves throughout the recovery process. 

Research related to natural addiction programs documents the decrease in mental health issues such as stress, depression, and anxiety. Even more so, those who complete a natural addiction program have regressed in their addiction; results in this program took an average of a 6-month follow-up period. After 12 months of natural addiction recovery, the addicted individual went from an elevated substance range to a normal substance range. 

In other cases, the use of a journal can come in handy. Writing down an experience in nature can help one connect with that adventure and the lessons to learn from it. Some may not realize there was a lesson to learn in the first place and writing it down helps them communicate their feelings about it.

Meditation is also a powerful tool to connect with the wilderness. One can meditate at any location and at any point in their life to help find inner peace. Engaging in mindfulness activities can prove to help those who are working to overcome substance abuse.

Rehab Options

Discover-healing-the-power-of-nature-todayMany recovery centers are working to incorporate nature with recovery as they have seen the benefits first-handedly. Incorporating a form of ecotherapy or wilderness therapy — as some recovery centers refer to it— has become more popular in recent years. To put it simply, this therapy is created through activity and adventure-based techniques that are combined with traditional therapy methods. 

The idea of natural addiction recovery is to simultaneously include another form of treatment therapy. By attending both programs, an addicted individual will get the attention and full treatment needed. To get to this point, family members or friends may have to create an intervention for the individual to get the help they need.

Rehab options to complete while doing natural addiction recovery can include a 12-step program, SMART recovery, counseling, and experiential therapy.

12-Step Program

The 12-step program— influenced by Alcoholics Anonymous— was created with direction for those wanting to overcome addiction; the program is based on 12 spiritual steps that one has to accept as they overcome the addiction process. As one approaches the 11th step, natural addiction treatment could be considered part of the 12-step recovery process.

SMART Recovery 

SMART Recovery is a program designed for like-individuals that need assistance in the recovery process. Based on scientific knowledge, this program will follow a different approach than the usual 12-step program or AA meeting. Attending this program may be a form of natural addiction recovery as it’s considered relapse prevention, a form of healthy distraction like nature. 

Counseling/Therapy

Counseling will focus on the positive aspects of recovery. Focusing on the negative may trigger a relapse, so it’s important to keep a light and positive environment when meeting. Therapy is goal-oriented and will have specific objectives to meet in the process. The counselor will focus on individual strengths and improve areas that are lacking. A therapist can help ensure smooth life transitions, better self-awareness, achievable goals, and improved quality in that individual’s personal and professional life.

Experiential Therapy

Experiential therapy is opposite to what a counselor works toward. In this therapy, expressive tools and activities, such as role-playing, music, animal care, guided imagery can help recreate or re-experience emotional situations. The patient will re-experience these situations and begin to identify the emotions they associated with them. Those ranges of emotions could include success, disappointment, responsibility, and self-esteem. Being guided by a therapist will help the patient explore past and present relationships that present feelings of anger, hurt, or shame. These feelings may come back in strong waves as the patient might have blocked it out or still feels it lingering.

Contact Us

Incorporating nature with daily routines can be favorable to those who have had a hard time transitioning from life before addiction to life after. To discover how we can help you to work toward total freedom from addiction, please reach out to us today! We look forward to walking with you on this journey to health and happiness.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Laura Riley

Laura-Riley-Cropped-Profile-150x150Laura Riley, MA, LCADC, CCS is an Administrator with North Jersey Recovery Center.

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