Reduced Anxiety and Depression
People who suffer from anxiety and depression are nearly twice as likely to turn to drugs and alcohol. Since addiction usually comes with a number of co-occurring disorders, addicts may also be suffering from:
- Social anxiety disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorders
Thankfully, nature can help with these illnesses. It can lower the levels of cortisol in the body which helps decrease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
If you didn’t already know, cortisol is a natural stress hormone that is released in the body when we feel like something is dangerous. When someone is in nature with no distractions like cell phones, electronics, substances, or toxic relationships, the triggers that release cortisol disappear.
As a result, cortisol levels drop. People only need about 20 minutes in nature to experience a significant drop in their cortisol levels. The more time spent outside, the more your cortisol levels drop.
For people in recovery, nature offers a payment-free way of reducing any pressures they may feel when it comes to overcoming their addiction.
Boost Your Health
High levels of cortisol can take a major effect on the body. Cortisol leads to a weakened immune system, a greater chance of weight gain, and a higher chance of heart disease.
When you lower your cortisol levels, you are boosting your overall health. The likelihood of developing chronic health issues like high blood pressure decreases overall.
Nature also encourages exercise, which boosts your overall physical fitness. Being outside means that people can get away from the regular stressors of life while also allowing them to be physically active.
Nature also has its benefits for mental health, too.
When you exercise, the body creates natural endorphins that boost your overall happiness. The brain becomes more sensitive to serotonin and norepinephrine, two other hormones that reduce feelings of depression.
These endorphins also reduce bodily pain and give you more energy. As you can see, nature is valuable for those suffering from the after-effects of withdrawal.
Additionally, being outside exposes you to the sun, allowing your body to create more vitamin D. Vitamin D is also another chemical that boosts your mood.
Enhanced Self Esteem
When someone starts addiction treatment, it’s common for them to feel like they are broken and need to be fixed. During the recovery process, you will learn that you are still whole. There just might be some areas where you need a little extra help to get back on your feet.
This is where nature can help.
Many studies report that people who spend more time outside have a more positive body image of themselves. As previously discussed, nature promotes more positive chemicals in your body, but don’t forget that birds and trees don’t care what you look like either!
There is a healthy focus on the body when in nature. People who enjoy nature’s benefits focus more on what they can do in nature rather than what they look like in nature.
When we face stressors in life, they can affect how we create, open our minds, and use our imaginations.
However, nature removes these stressors that hinder our creative processes and allows us to use all five of our senses. One study even found that taking a four-day hike helps people solve high-level creative tasks by more than 50%.
Researchers believe this drastic increase in creative abilities comes from opening the body up to more natural stimuli and reducing the amount of reliance on technology.
Nature improves mood and lowers levels of aggression. The constant use of technology, however, has been linked to more negative mental states while also hindering creativity.
Improve Mental Fatigue
Everyone has suffered from fatigue at one point or another. Patients recovering from addiction experience fatigue, too, and it’s not uncommon for these feelings to feel even more overwhelming.
Nature also helps someone alleviate their fatigue.
One thing that many researchers point to is a theory known as the Attention Restoration Theory. It suggests that the daily requirements that this technology-driven world demands require us to complete high-level cognitive functions.
With so much high-level processing, our brains become tired.
However, parts of this theory suggest that exposure to the natural world parts and circuits of our brains that are constantly stressed from daily fatigue.
The reason these circuits are restored is that the daily stressors of society, such as alarms, cars, or cells, disappear. The natural world gives our brains time to decompress.
Overall, the high-level functions that we are so used to become easier because mental fatigue is restored.
Connections Are Created
Nature builds connections. It reminds us that we are a part of a larger world, and it can even help us make friends!
Researchers believe that the reason nature creates connections is that the spiritual and social benefits of nature arise from the knowledge that we are a part of a greater whole. Our attention is turned away from our self-interests and self-doubts that we think about so much, and we instead focus on how we impact the world around us.
These things can create healthy ties between one another since we are no longer thinking about ourselves.
Although we should be kind to others, it’s important to be kind to ourselves, too.
Nature inspires kindness and generosity. Some studies have even found that people that have been exposed to beautiful pictures of nature were more kind to those around them.
Additionally, those that were surrounded by plants were more likely to be kind to the people around them compared to people who were not surrounded by plants.
When you’re in recovery, it can be hard to be kind to those around you and remember that they want what’s best for you. It can be even harder to be kind to yourself and remember that you are working towards a greater goal and a healthier lifestyle. Don’t forget that you have the ability to be whoever you want to be, and with hard work and dedication you will be able to get there.