Guest Post: Nature Therapy & Recovery From Substance Abuse

Nature Therapy & Recovery From Substance Abuse

The natural world has immense power to heal people who are pursuing sobriety from substance abuse. From lowering stress to building self-efficacy, exposure to nature can help create lasting change in your life. The following article explores the techniques, science, and numerous benefits of nature therapy for people battling addiction.

What Is Nature Therapy?

Nature therapy, also known as ecotherapy or green therapy, is defined as the practice of spending time in nature as a way to improve your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. The basic idea behind nature therapy is that humans evolved in the natural world and being in nature reminds us of our place in the ecosystem, bringing a sense of calm and belonging to our lives. Nature therapy may encompass various activities like hiking, camping, gardening, forest bathing, and animal-assisted therapies. The overall goal of green therapy is to immerse your senses in the natural world to reduce stress.

Different Types of Nature Therapy

There are many ways to practice nature therapy. Below are some of the most common:

• hiking in natural settings like forests, mountains, or beaches
• disconnecting from technology entirely and camping in the wilderness
horticultural therapy, also known as gardening or taking care of houseplants
• animal-assisted therapy that may involve equine therapy or spending time with your dog or cat
• forest bathing, which involves utilizing all five senses in nature
• earthing or grounding, which involves sitting or walking barefoot on the earth
• dark nature activities that take place at night, such as stargazing

While there are many types of therapy involving nature, not all of them will be right for your unique needs. Try to find activities you enjoy that allow immersion in nature, which will help elicit the maximum benefit.

Benefits of Nature Therapy for Drug and Alcohol Addiction

People recovering from substance use disorders can benefit greatly from nature therapy. One of the most prominent benefits is how nature therapy can contribute to the reduction of stress, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues that arise or contribute to addiction. Ecotherapy can also promote mindfulness and living in the present moment, as well as boost physical health through outdoor activities. There’s also evidence that being in nature decreases negative thought patterns while increasing self-esteem and emotional well-being. Overall, nature therapy can help you gain mental and physical strength during the addiction recovery process.

Is There Science Behind Nature Therapy?

There is a growing body of research behind nature therapy showing its numerous benefits. For example, studies have shown that it lowers stress hormone levels like cortisol, improves cognitive function and ability to focus, and can even boost energy levels and your immune system. The combination of surrounding yourself in nature while also being physically active provides a powerful psychological and physical boost to people pursuing sobriety.

Does Nature Therapy Require the Outdoors?

While outdoor nature activities offer the best benefits, only some have ready access to a natural setting. People who live in dense metropolitan areas can still practice elements of nature therapy in the confines of their homes. This can be done by accumulating and taking care of houseplants, displaying pictures of nature, opening your windows and letting sunlight into your rooms, and listening to natural sounds or music. Even small doses of nature can provide benefits for people who can’t easily get to the forest or beach.

Incorporating Nature Therapy Into Your Daily Life

Nature therapy may be part of a comprehensive substance use or mental health treatment program. Still, there are a variety of ways you can continue to incorporate green therapy into your life after formal treatment has finished. Here are some tips for integrating the natural world into your daily life:

• set aside 10-15 minutes a day to sit quietly in nature, observe your surroundings, and use all five senses
• start a gardening project or nurture houseplants daily
• surround yourself with plants, flowers, wood furniture, and photography that appreciates the grandeur and beauty of nature
• make a habit of unplugging from technology for set periods during the day

Nature provides an unlimited source of healing for people recovering from addiction or mental health issues. By incorporating nature into your daily routine, you can continue feeling the benefits for years to come.

Rebecca Fischer
rfischer@arkbh.com