How Interacting with Nature Can Have a Positive Impact on Recovery

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How Interacting with Nature Can Have a Positive Impact on Recovery

While sobriety is a shared goal for recovering addicts, each individual’s journey toward and through recovery is different. There is variation from one recovery approach to the next. However, the evidence is now present to support the idea that nature can promote and strengthen recovery efforts. Research conducted by Aspen Education Group showed that outdoor programs reduced stress, depression, and anxiety among patients. The way that interaction with nature impacts a person and promotes recovery is multifaceted. Some of the factors at play when discussing the positive role nature plays in addiction recovery are:

Physical Activity

Interacting with nature often involves physical activity of one kind or another. Whether you’re hiking, swimming, or skiing, moving your body outside will make you feel better. That’s because physical activity releases endorphins and adrenaline, both of which make us feel pleasure and bring us energy. Some athletes become so addicted to the rush they get from physical activity that they refer to it as a “high” or a “buzz.” This natural elevation in mood is a particularly healthy experience for the recovering addict – realizing that you can feel so good without using substances is often life-changing for those who incorporate physical activity in nature into their recovery program.

Physical Fitness

If your interactions with nature in recovery involve physical activity, then they will also, by default, involve physical fitness. No good physical deed goes unnoticed by the body. Those who get out and get moving will notice a change in their waistline, muscle tone, weight, and/or their overall sense of wellness – all stemming from an improved physical fitness. Improved physical fitness has been linked with an improved self-esteem and reduced levels of aggression.

Mediation & Mindfulness

Many physical activities place an emphasis on meditation and mindfulness. Whether you’re practicing meditation through outdoor yoga or mindfulness through leave-no-trace camping, both meditation and general mindfulness have been linked with decreased stress levels. The less stress a person experiences while on his or her recovery journey, the more likely it is that sobriety will be successful.

Vitamin D

Sometimes getting outside and interacting with nature can benefit people on a basic level: vitamin D. We absorb vitamin D from sunlight and when our levels of vitamin D are up, our energy levels and mood improve.

If you want to incorporate nature into your recovery, many recovery programs and treatment centers recognize the value of nature in recovery and already have plans designed that involve nature. Alternatively, you can bring nature into your recovery on your own time. Some ways to do so that you might want to consider include:

  • Hiking, running, jogging, walking, or biking are all activities that are great for a person who wants the rush that comes along with steady movement and wants to take in some scenery while at it.
  • Rock climbing, ice skating, snowboarding, skiing, and similarly intense outdoor activities are great for a person who craves the intensity and focus required to perform these tasks.

You don’t need to be especially active to benefit from time spent in nature. You can devote a few days a week to visiting a park or garden and relish in the vitamin D you’re soaking up while taking in the beauty around you.

There’s something in nature for everyone, so take some time and figure out which part of nature appeals to you most and, if you’re inclined to do so, try to incorporate that aspect of nature into your overall recovery.


Elizabeth Seward has written about health and wellness for Discovery Health, National Geographic, How Stuff Works Health, and many other online and print publications. As a former touring rock musician, Elizabeth has firsthand experience with the struggles of substance abuse and the loss of loved ones because of it. She believes in the restorative power of yoga, meditation, talk therapy, and plant-based diets and she is an advocate for progressive drug policy reform.


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