Now that the weather is warmer, it’s a good time to get outside. Being outdoors for even a short amount of time is incredibly beneficial for lowering stress and improving mental health.
I’ve written on this blog about how weekly hikes with a friend were an important part of my early recovery. When new sobriety felt like the biggest thing in the world, I needed the reminder that there was something larger than myself. Exercising outside combined the benefits of moving my body and getting outside.
Why is Nature Good For You?
But you don’t need to exercise when you’re outside to feel the benefits. A 2019 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research found that nature improves mood whether physical activity is involved or not.
Participants visited a local park wearing an accelerometer that tracked their physical activity. Afterward, they filled out a questionnaire that asked questions about their life satisfaction and mood. Subjective well-being increased in 60% of participants; this included those who engaged in physical activity and those who didn’t. Simply being in nature improves mood.
Many addiction treatment centers—like TruHealing Centers—offer hikes of local trails as recreational therapy. When you’re new to recovery, you’re experiencing perhaps the biggest change of your life; it’s comforting to note that nature is constantly going through cycles of change.
Wherever there is death in nature, there is also growth. When you get sober, it can feel like you are losing so much—even parts of yourself—but those losses make room for so much growth and joy.
Being Outdoors Lowers Stress
But you don’t have to use nature as a lofty metaphor. It engages your senses in a very practical way. It is usually pretty, which can give you something positive on which to focus. Sounds in nature are good for us on the physiological level. An article by Harvard Health Publishing says, “Calming nature sounds and even outdoor silence can lower blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which calms the body’s fight-or-flight response.”
This past winter—when work, socializing, and exercising were all online or inside for me because of COVID—my mental health suffered. Going by anecdotal evidence, I know I’m not alone in this. As we come out of a very stressful year, it’s useful to plan time outdoors. It’s free, but rich in benefits.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you find peace and joy in recovery. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.