The Unexpected Benefits of Nature

Jul 23, 2021

July is National Park Month, which gives us the open space to celebrate nature with family and friends. Sure, in some outdoor places, July is like a sauna, while in other spots, you might catch some snowfall. Either way, there’s something special about being outside and enjoying creation with others. That something special is simple: positive physical, emotional, and even spiritual enhancement, which then boosts your overall ability to excel throughout treatment. 

Enhances Short-Term Memory

Directed attention is the attention that overrides involuntary attention, while involuntary attention is kind of like the “panic and freeze” part of the brain, the part that sees the danger or distraction and is locked in on that one central point, unable to divert and reroute. 

Directed attention is what snaps involuntary attention back into focus, allowing the brain to then make decisions to avert a crisis or step back into a scenario and provide cognitive action. This directed attention aids short-term memory and experiencing nature in something as simple as taking a daily walk outside aids directed attention. 

This cyclic effect of just being outside turns into higher retention rates that allow you to focus on what’s most important — from acing school tests to actively working through your addiction treatment. 

Lowers Stress Levels

The outdoors has an immediate impact on the brain — and all for the better. Scientists have known for quite some time that nature acts as a “breather” for the brain, letting it slow down and find a rhythmic routine. 

However, the benefits do not stop there. If you are willing to engage in medium to high-intensity outdoor workouts, like jogging or playing a pickup game of basketball, your heart rate and blood flow increase, both of which stimulate the physical body while reducing stress for the mental body. 

An Alcohol Research review found that the brain’s volume of alcohol responds to stress. As stress increases, so does the need to increase alcohol levels, so lowering stress levels is crucial to avoid the brain’s need to scream for alcohol. 

Boosts Vitamin D

In 2013, ResearchGate published a research project that found, from their clinical study, that Vitamin D can play a crucial role in addiction recovery. However, before diving into the science, you must first understand the basic importance of Vitamin D: it stabilizes nearly all bodily functions. While most people think of it as nothing more than the vitamin you need from the sun, this “sunshine” vitamin is what most organs in your body need to remain regulated. 

More intense than expected, it is also important to point out how Vitamin D enhances the addiction recovery process. Research shows that Vitamin D serves as a dopamine regulator in the body. Alcohol, and other addictive substances, typically throw dopamine levels out of whack. While high levels of dopamine can give us a high or a buzz, this imbalance often causes the disorderly conduct and actions that we most regret. 

Meanwhile, with Vitamin D serving as dopamine’s unofficial moderator, the body doesn’t crave that dopamine spike that comes from addictive substances. Since Vitamin D is readily available, at a reasonable price, at nearly every grocery store and pharmacy, you can and should take advantage of this overall stabilizer. 

Getting Out in Nature

The benefits of nature in light of recovering from addiction don’t stop there. Getting out into nature improves vision, sleep, and the immune system, all while allowing you to gain a deeper sense of spirituality. 

If we believe that God took the time to handcraft nature, spelling out the details in Genesis, then it’s safe to believe that creation serves a deep purpose, almost like a natural aid to both the natural and supernatural pieces of us. 

Sure, it’s not always easy to keep the long-term goals at the forefront of your mind, like implementing a daily outdoor activity, especially when you’re in the grit and grind of your recovery process. Like all other aspects of the journey (the physical, mental, and emotional), it takes some uphill work and a constant willingness to stay in the fight to see the hope that lies on the other side of putting in the daily work over and over again.

So grab your bike, a ball, some earbuds, maybe even a friend, and hit the hiking trails, the local park, the ballfield, whatever gets you soaking up the sun and breathing in the fresh air. It will do wonders not only for recovery but for your soul, too. 

A temptation-free environment

When you spend time outdoors, you’re communing in an environment free of the temptations you’re used to seeing in your day-to-day life. Take time each day to step away from your everyday routine—even if only for a few minutes—so that you can enjoy the restorative benefits that nature has to offer. The time you spend will help distract you from cravings, and breaking up your routine will help keep you from falling back into old habits.

Better mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of paying special attention to the here and now. It is a form of meditation that involves coming to close terms with your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Mindfulness is a great technique for recovering addicts in helping them to face their addictions head-on and to acknowledge their cravings without giving in to them. It also carries with it strong stress management benefits. Spending time with nature is one of the best ways to practice mindfulness and to strengthen your mind in such a way that it can handle the mental challenges that come with battling addiction.

Natural pleasures

The sun on your skin, the smell of freshly cut grass, the sound of crickets chirping at night—simple pleasures are abundant in nature. As you spend more time outdoors, you’ll likely find that the joys you experience far outweigh any pleasures you sought to fulfill with your previous addiction. Hobbies involving nature like hiking, camping, and fishing can also bring this simple, natural pleasures into your life. Spending time outdoors will introduce you to a much more fulfilling lifestyle as you seek to rid yourself of old habits.

Practice overcoming challenges

Nature offers a wide variety of challenge-based activities to help you train yourself in overcoming challenges during recovery. Channel your energies into scaling the side of a mountain, or into navigating through rapids with a kayak or raft. Try hiking to the top of the highest mountain nearby, or taking your bike through an especially hilly trail. As you overcome the physical challenges that nature offers, you’ll gain confidence as well as a stronger mind for overcoming the challenges of addiction.

Who would’ve thought that something as simple as getting outdoors could impact your recovery process in such a strong, even spiritual way? Here at Renaissance Ranch, we understand how important healing is for mind, body, and spirit — and we want to take advantage of all the ways you can find healing. We know that this is often easier said than done. If you’re having trouble seeing the light at the end of the addiction recovery tunnel, or you need someone to hold you accountable, our staff at Renaissance Ranch is available to connect you with the right people and resources. We’re here to take a nature walk with you, to get you outdoors where you can talk things out and find relief and true recovery. Healing is hard, but you don’t have to walk through it alone. If you’re struggling with any aspect of addiction, addiction recovery, or reintegration, we can help. To learn more about our assistance, please contact us today at (801) 308-8898.