Why The Great Outdoors Are Essential For Recovery Survivors


While there’s a standard protocol one with a drug or alcohol addiction must take in order to heal both mentally and physically, incorporating activities that last beyond a 12-step program can increase the odds of maintaining sobriety for the long-term that includes spending time outdoors, for example.

While any form of exercise has been proven to reduce cravings, alleviate stress and anxiety, and boost self-esteem, spending time in the fresh air has also been connected to  improving one’s mental outlook. Even a short, 15-minute walk can boost one’s mood while providing a much-needed dose of vitamin D. Studies show natural light can also improve concentration, energy levels and sleep, three necessities that a recovery survivor was previously robbed of. Unlike other aspects of recovery, spending time in the sunshine is an everyday, functional activity, so it’s a “treatment” that also helps individuals reclaim normalcy in their lives. It can be difficult to find the motivation to get dressed — let alone leave the house — when starting the recovery process, but even small steps can make a big difference in terms of overall progress.

Start Simple

Anyone who struggled with drug or alcohol abuse can tell you that exercise was not top of mind, which can make it all the more difficult to rally in the beginning. Despite symptoms of withdrawal such as anxiety, nervousness and fatigue, spending time outdoors can actually help reduce these side effects. Added health benefits from simple walking include improved heart health, regulated blood pressure, decreased risk of dementia and cancer, improved circulation, increased lung capacity and stronger bones and muscles.

Consider Team-Based Sports

While it may take a substantial amount of time to regain enough energy to get through a more rigorous workout, graduate to a team-based sport such as tennis, volleyball, baseball, or soccer when both body and mind are ready those can have numerous benefits for a recovery survivor. Aside from being an excellent form of exercise, team sports provide a social outlet, boost morale, teach the importance of working together, provide stress relief and force one to push oneself to support the group. One caveat is choosing a group of like minded-individuals as to not be tempted by post-game beers. Recovery group coaches or hospitals may have leads on sober leagues in your area.

Find A Spot To Meditate

Spending time outdoors doesn’t always have to equate to working out. Finding a grassy knoll or sitting along the beach to meditate, reflect, or simply collect one’s thoughts is a simple, yet, effective exercise. Learning how to be quiet and enjoy time alone without having to rely on drugs or alcohol is an important part of the recovery process.

Outdoor Safety

Any time spent outdoors should be done responsibly, so that means liberally applying an SPF (minimum 15) and reapplying every two hours — sooner if sweating profusely or going into the water. When going into the woods or areas where there are a lot of bugs, spraying a DEET-based repellent can reduce the risk of getting bites. Appropriate dress includes a good pair of shoes, moisture wicking clothing (layered depending upon the weather), and accessories such as a hat with a brim and sunglasses.

The road to recovery is a long one that may have some roadblocks along the way but incorporating something as simple and accessible as spending time outdoors is something everyone can get on board with. Regardless of the copious benefits it’s important not to go gangbusters with exercise while in recovery as the body is still adjusting and detoxing. Checking with a doctor prior to starting any program can ensure short- and long-term safety.


Content submitted by Michelle Peterson of recoverypride.org

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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