Nature experiences are known to have a positive impact on addiction recovery. Nature appeals to the five senses: sight, touch, hearing, taste, and smell. What is lesser known is that nature appeals to three non-sensory pathways as well. The benefits of nature experiences are abundant and can become a useful sobriety tool when included in addiction recovery treatment.
In fact, nature experiences have been used to heal and destress for centuries. There are records of Hippocrates stating that air, waters, and places of nature are necessary for mental and physical well-being. Choosing to consciously engage nature means committing to being present, at least for a moment. Having a nature experience can be as simple as stepping outside and taking a deep breath.
Nature Experiences and the Senses
Nature sounds can make for a soothing background. Think of rain on a tin roof, waves crashing against the beach, or wind passing through leafy trees. The quiet of a forest is different than the quiet of an apartment. A thunderstorm can be soothing, just as can as the silence of a meadow just before dawn. Additionally, nature sounds “improve health, increase positive affect, and lower stress and annoyance,” according to The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
You don’t even have to step outside to have a nature experience anymore. If it is nature sounds you are looking for, there are plenty of recordings of nature sounds you can listen to from the comfort of your home. These include campfires, forest animals, bird calls, and waterfalls. Nature sounds are popular background sounds for focusing or relaxation. Ocean waves are a favorite for falling asleep.
However, there is more to nature than sounds, and nothing can replace the experience of intentionally stepping into the world and engaging your senses. Whether it’s your backyard or a national park, try naming the following while you are outdoors:
- 5 things you can see: This could be clouds in the sky, a bird in a tree, or a dog on a walk
- 4 things you can touch: Look around you and see what is within arm’s reach
- 3 things you can hear: Try closing your eyes to see if you can identify more sounds
- 2 things you can smell: Are there any flowers nearby? Maybe a lawn is freshly mowed
- 1 thing you can taste: Pick a honeysuckle flower and see if you can find its sweetness
Doing this engages each of the five senses, bringing your focus to the current moment and what it has to offer.
Additional Ways to Pursue Nature
Nature offers a catalog of options. The opportunities for finding wellness through nature activities extend beyond sound or smell; it is a great place to join groups and pursue exercise. Walking, running, or riding a bike on a trail, for example, is a great way to undertake the experience of nature.
Since nature is something everyone has access to, nature experiences are also an ideal option for forming a community. Check into group meetups for hikes or sports events, and consider a sober bonfire with friends who support your recovery.
Every season offers something new. Summer is prime for swimming, while winter is the time to ski and snowboard. Walking in the woods is arguably the nicest in spring or fall. Changing locations and activities can also be seasonal. Think of apple picking and corn mazes during autumn. Nature experiences can encourage travel and breaking free of routines that do not serve your sobriety.
Nature Experiences and Addiction Recovery
Since nature experiences lessen stress, they are a great tool in drug or alcohol addiction recovery. Relapse prevention often focuses on managing stressors and maintaining positive mental health, which is achieved through multiple avenues of self-care.
In order to determine what types of nature experiences will serve your recovery, you need to first identify your personal recovery goals. Then you can think of how different experiences can support you in achieving them. If your goal is to hike the Grand Canyon, you may want to set some smaller goals to help you get there. Consider starting with hiking local trails once a week as a way of getting yourself fit and ready for a bigger goal. It also gives you time to save money and dive deeper into your addiction recovery.
Alternatively, you may want to find a space where you can simply be. Setting up a chair in your yard could do the trick. Whether it’s in the sun or in the shade, you can create a space just for yourself.
A final example is gardening. This could begin with one plant indoors that is later transplanted and tended outdoors. With gardening, you see and smell plants, but you also feel soil when you relocate them. If you are growing something you will consume, you can literally taste the fruits of your labor, which can be immensely rewarding.
We are surrounded by nature, and all we have to do is consciously cue in to benefit. Whether it’s a dandelion poking through a crack in the sidewalk or a breeze coming through a cracked window, you can connect with the world around you. If you are struggling with feelings of stress and anxiety, nature experiences are an excellent option for lowering your cortisol levels. Nature is a great tool in addiction recovery because it appeals to all five senses and three nonsensory pathways. If you or someone you know is curious about how to use nature experiences as part of drug or alcohol addiction recovery, contact West Coast Recovery Centers at (760) 492-6509 today.