8 Benefits of Getting Outdoors in Recovery

Content Reviewed by Jennifer Wheeler, Clinical & Community Outreach

Getting outside into fresh air seems like a cure-all for everything. After so much time spent indoors during a global pandemic, this has never been more true for both mental and physical health. In recovery, getting outdoors can be beneficial to prevent an addiction relapse and improve your overall wellness.

Below are just a few of the reasons you should get outside today.

#1. You can spend time with people who support your addiction recovery.

Being with other people who support your recovery is ideal for relapse prevention. Getting outdoors with them is even better, as you get the best of both worlds. The social aspect of being outdoors improves your mental and emotional health, while being outside, even in the city, can improve your physical health.

#2. Exercise helps you heal from addiction.

Exercise is known to increase endorphins, which can be helpful to those in recovery because it makes you feel better physically and more positive mentally. As the reward pathway in the brain begins to heal, exercise can be an excellent way to create a healthy reward and re-connect with your body.

Improved cardiovascular function is another benefit of regular exercise. Even just getting outside and walking for 15-30 minutes per day can help your body heal and your heart grow stronger. Other simple exercise activities include riding a bike to work or running errands, jumping rope or roller skating. Getting outdoors to exercise can have multiple benefits for your overall health.

#3. Outdoor activities reduce stress levels.

Many activities can be done in nature that help to reduce stress levels. In addition to the obvious benefits of exercise, getting some fresh air and sunlight can also help reduce stress.

Meditating outdoors is a wonderful way to benefit from being immersed in nature while engaging in a stress-reducing activity. Yoga is another similar practice that aids in stress reduction. Doing yoga outdoors enhances the entire experience and helps to reduce stress levels further.

#4. Being outdoors improves mental wellness.

Spending time outdoors can improve your mental health. According to a 2014 study published in Frontiers in Psychology, spending time outdoors can benefit cognitive function. Research also shows that being outdoors can help reduce depression, improve the cognitive abilities of those with ADHD and decrease anxiety levels.

#5. Sunshine is good for both your mind and body.

For many years, experts have warned against too much sun and the dangers of UV rays on your skin. However, risking sunlight exposure and indulging in natural vitamin D every now and then has benefits internally. Spending small amounts of time in the sun can increase your serotonin levels, which help to balance your mood.

Sunshine also increases the levels of vitamin D in your body, which helps to give you more energy, improves your immune function, and helps your body absorb calcium. Vitamin D is also helpful in protecting muscle, heart and bone health, all of which may have suffered during active addiction.

#6. Being outdoors can improve your sleep quality.

Getting outside regularly can help improve your sleep quality. Exposure to sunlight improves circadian rhythms, which is your body’s sleep and wake cycle. Particularly in early recovery, a regular sleep schedule can be very challenging to achieve. Regularly getting outdoors in natural sunlight can help you get your sleep back on track and even help you to enhance your sleep patterns.

#7. Going outside allows time for self-reflection.

Another benefit of getting outdoors is that it allows time for meaningful reflection. When possible, a natural setting helps to inspire peaceful thoughts and improved breathing. Being near plants, trees or other natural elements can help clear the mind. Many find the outdoors an ideal landscape to achieve mindfulness, particularly through meditation.

#8. Going outside can keep you busy and engaged in activities.

Above all else, getting outdoors helps to keep you busy. Being alone with your thoughts cramped indoors or exposed to triggers inside can be a recipe for relapse. When you make plans to do activities outdoors, that is an opportunity to be mentally and physically occupied and less likely to face triggers. Even if you just step outside to get through a craving or avoid a trigger, inhaling the fresh air, feeling the sunlight on your face or even looking up at the stars can help distract your mind from the urge to use substances.

The benefits of being outdoors on both your mental and physical well-being are unlimited. The activities and advantages listed above are just a few ways to boost your health and recovery. Unlimited opportunities and activities await you outside, even in the city.

DiscoveryMD focuses on improving overall health and well-being. We offer accessible and quality treatment for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. Recovery is not a one-size-fits-all solution, so we offer individualized treatment and the compassion you deserve. Our goal is to help put you back in the driver’s seat of your life. Contact us today.

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