In most addiction cases, patients are taken through therapy and counseling sessions in order to help them see the negative effects of addiction and possibly commit to quitting their addictive behavior. This works for some people, but it can’t be said to be 100% effective. There are patients who fail at managing their behavior and end up relapsing. And nobody can blame them, really. Addictive behaviors aren’t the easiest to shake off.
Being outdoors even without exercising vigorously can calm your depressed or anxious mind. It allows you to interact with humanity and nature, which is a powerful coping mechanism for a troubled mind. Add exercise to that and you get all the distraction you need to cope with stress and anxiety.outdoor activity to addiction recovery
How can therapy and counseling- among other approaches to addiction treatment- be improved in order to be 100% effective, or something close to a hundred? Well, psychology experts unanimously agree that the best approach is to help addicts on both mental and physical aspects of depression. Outdoor exercise is known to improve an individual’s mental and emotional health, which makes it a good addition to an addict’s treatment plan. On top of that, exercise a good self-help tool that a recovering addict can use in managing addiction cravings; it is the perfect distraction from addictive behavior.
In this post, we discuss the power of outdoor activities in beating addiction. How can outdoor exercise support addiction recovery and provide a reliable backup therapy to counseling and talk therapy?
- It substitutes your addiction with a healthier craving
Addictive substances introduce endorphins in the brain of a user, creating an illusion of being “high”. Addicts crave this feeling, especially when confronted by the stresses of daily life. The cravings can rise to unbearable levels during the recovery process and as a result, many patients relapse.
Vigorous exercises such as running can also create a sensation of euphoria similar to the “high” feeling drugs or alcohol creates. Your body naturally releases endorphins when you work out, giving your body and mind the same pleasure drugs cause. Although not as intense, this pleasure is enough to prevent a relapse. Studies have also shown that vigorous outdoor activities give recovering addicts a sense of accomplishment, so they commit more to stay sober.
- Helps you cope with withdrawal symptoms
Many recovering addicts become extremely anxious and depressed during the recovery process. Nicotine addicts struggle with addiction-free living due to the damage the drug causes to the user’s brain cells. Other severe withdrawal challenges include lack of sleep, negative thinking, low self-esteem, and neurological problems. Some patients feel like there is a void in their lives that must be filled with drugs.
Intense outdoor activities such as mountain climbing, nature trail hiking, and swimming can foster healthy living by promoting better sleep and fighting stress and anxiety. Being out there in the woods lowers your susceptibility to relapse. The beauty of nature, the sounds of birds and waterfalls, and the calming nature of Mother Nature helps restore damaged brain cells and reduce cravings. Being around supportive friends and playing outdoor games together improves your thinking and lowers the effectiveness of the addictive substance. If you are not much into sports, traveling might be an activity to do with your friends. Traveling is prone to promote happiness and take you mind of things. This, on the other hand, leads to lower cortisol levels, making your feel calmer. Thus, go ahead and make your flight reservation and go somewhere you have never been before. This will help you re-evaluate and expand your mind like you never thought it was possible.
- Helps you to structure your day, minimizing the “free time” you had for your addiction
The structure and routine of your typical day can serve as a constructive coping mechanism when planned properly. Having a set of outdoor activities to undertake every day, for example, will encourage you to not drink at night so that you can wake up fresh and well-rested. Signing up for a charity event discourages you from smoking because you don’t want your cigarette-filled body odor to spoil the party for other people.
For those who abuse alcohol out of boredom or because they have too much free time on their hands, a social outdoor game such as cycling can keep them engaged, so they don’t find the “free time” to drink. Perhaps taking a bike or electric bike is so beneficial for them. Cycling is also fun and interactive, so it is an experience that alleviates stress and anxiety, on top of giving you some exercise.
- Outdoor exercise heals your brain
Research shows that outdoor exercise stimulates your immune system, enhances nerve connection to your brain, and improves your overall mental health. All these benefits combine to help your brain heal and return to its normal state after a destructive period of drug abuse.
- Lowers your chances of relapse
Scientists have been experimenting with animals and have discovered that outdoor exercise has a way of lowering the chances of relapse to alcohol or substance abuse. In the experiments, addiction is induced in animals and then the animals are grouped into two, one group staying indoors and the other group being allowed to roam freely. The group that roams outdoors rarely relapses, but the one left indoors is more likely to relapse. There is a high chance that the same effect extends to humans.
- Natural settings improve your mental wellbeing
Engaging with nature as you exercise revitalizes your mind and soul. Compared with gym workouts, open air exercises are better in promoting the feelings of happiness, joyfulness, and fulfillment. You will fight the feelings of anger, tension, depression, stress, and confusion easily and more effectively when running around the city than you would when lifting weights in a gym. Experts associate this effect to decreased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). The hormone is known to naturally reduce when you are in outdoor settings, even when you aren’t involved in intense exercises.
Without a doubt, outdoor activities have great unexplored potential as a backup therapy to counseling and medication. It helps to recover users to avoid relapse, deal with withdrawal symptoms, and lead healthier lives. Most importantly, outdoor exercise is a natural mood and esteem booster. These benefits accumulate to repair any neurological damage that excessive substance use causes. More research is needed on this topic if we are to maximize the benefits of outdoor activity to addiction recovery processes.