There’s a health care solution that’s free, accessible anytime day or night, and incredibly effective. It provides immediate relief from stress, frustration, and some studies say anxiety and depression, too. It also has very few side effects (although inclement weather is nothing to mess with). The great outdoors is truly a healing tonic that benefits everyone.
Nature: Good for What Ails You
Nature’s impact on our well-being has sparked a lot of research. The American Psychological Association lists findings from numerous studies, such as:
- The cognitive benefits of nature include improved “working memory, cognitive-flexibility, and attentional-control tasks.” Additionally, according to the Kaplan Attention Restoration Theory, “these interactions with nature only require ‘effortless attention’, which can help to give the brain a break from ‘directed attention’ and thus help restore its cognitive functioning.”
- Psychologists also believe that, based on ancestral patterns, “we have an innate drive to connect with nature. The stress reduction hypothesis posits that spending time in nature triggers a physiological response that lowers stress levels.”
- Evidence from studies at the University of Washington indicate that “contact with nature is associated with increases in happiness, subjective well-being, positive affect, positive social interactions, and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, as well as decreases in mental distress.”
The Japanese practice of “forest bathing” has also revealed some interesting insights. Known as shinrin-yoku, the practice has diverse health benefits “on immune system functioning by increasing natural killer cells, and the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. The health benefits of shinrin-yoku are not limited to physical well-being; improvements have been described in mood disorders and stress, and mental relaxation.”
But here’s what’s really astounding: outdoor retailer REI notes that comprehensive research recommends being outside just 120 minutes a week to reap all these benefits. That’s approximately 20 minutes a day to feel healthier, less stressed, and at ease. Better yet, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing in the fresh air—it’s being in the natural environment that makes all the difference, whether in two hours all at once or broken up into individual segments.
How to Make the Most of Nature
The stressors of everyday life can bog us down but feel even more oppressive when we’re cooped up indoors. Think back to the start of the pandemic in 2020—being outdoors was exactly the remedy most of us needed to regain some semblance of calm.
In fact, according to a 2021 report by the Outdoor Industry Association, here were some of the findings about people engaging with outdoor recreational activities for the first time, which we provide verbatim:
- New participants are more likely to be female, younger, living in an urban area, and slightly more ethnically diverse than existing participants.
- New participants primarily sought socially distanced outdoor activities in order to spend time with loved ones safely, to exercise, stay healthy, or to reduce screen-time fatigue.
- New participants are largely motivated by outdoor recreation opportunities with low barriers to entry that are available and accessible within 10 miles of their homes, including walking, running, biking, and hiking.
So, what about you? Are you ready to add a daily dose of nature as one of your sobriety remedies? Here are some ideas:
- Create a daily walking habit, starting with 5 minutes and increasing as time and fitness allow.
- Enjoy a meal al fresco (in the open air) as often as weather permits.
- Try a longer walk or hike once a week on different trails of varying lengths and intensities.
- Engage in a new outdoor habit, such as birdwatching, fishing, gardening, or photography.
- Meet friends and family at a local park for outdoor games such as catch, Frisbee, a scavenger hunt, geocaching, and others.
- Plan a monthly picnic at a county or state park, maybe somewhere with a lovely water feature such as a river, lake, or the Gulf of Mexico.
- Do a more introspective activity while outside, such as reading books about recovery or meditating.
- Gather your thoughts in the early morning or evening by relaxing outdoors for a few minutes each day.
Additionally, if you live in Texas or are just with us for a short visit, add this outdoor bucket list to your must-dos!
Find Peace and Healing at Great Oaks
Our 50-acre rehabilitation facility outside of Houston utilizes the power of nature to ensure you have a haven for healing. Whether you choose to explore the countryside, roam the trails, or simply sit on our farmhouse veranda at night for quiet reflection, we’re confident you’ll leave the chaos of addiction behind and find clarity and peace. This virtual tour shows the way.