Have you ever experienced the peaceful and renewing power of immersing yourself in nature? Do you know that nature has healing powers that can benefit people who are recovering from substance use disorder (SUD)? Experts call it nature therapy or ecotherapy, a way of connecting individuals to a bigger scope of the natural environment. This connection may dispel anxiety and a sense of isolation, leading to the healing of many emotional and mental health problems.
Common Emotional and Mental Health Problems Related to Addiction
People who struggle with SUD often succumb to unpleasant emotions such as paranoia, distrust, low self-esteem, anger, and sadness. These can be both causes and effects of heavy substance use and trigger cravings even long into sobriety. The resulting emotional turmoil may spill over and harm their loved ones. Relationships can fall apart, leaving them more isolated.
Because substances fundamentally change the brain’s structures and chemical processes, addiction also leads to potential mental health issues, including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and even schizophrenia. To treat these co-occurring emotional and mental health problems, professionals traditionally turn to cognitive-behavioral therapy and other clinical methods first. However, nature itself may be a neglected key tool in the addiction recovery toolbox.
The Power of Nature on Our Well-Being
Exposure to the natural environment can lower stress and mitigate anxiety. Many people experience the benefits of nature walks that boost positive moods and even bring inspiration. Most human beings find the sights of mountains and oceans breathtaking, awe-inspiring, and soothing. Nature has captured the imagination and spirits of many people.
Some people call nature therapy “Vitamin N,” emphasizing it as an essential nutrient for healing the soul. It soothes mental distress and restores spiritual strength. In nature, people can gain a sense of wholeness in themselves. This may also be because modern life has robbed many people of the privilege of regularly engaging in nature and the healing effects become more obvious when they connect with it. Humans need that sense of awe to awaken our humanity.
Scientifically speaking, spending time in nature may boost your immune system because of more exposure to sunshine. Physical movement and mindful exploration help improve fitness and a sense of well-being. The sense of nature’s vastness and wholeness can make people ponder about life, giving them more humility as a minute creature in the vast scope of existence. The sights, sounds, and smells of nature can provide a soothing way to center oneself.
Various Forms of Nature Therapy
The healing power of nature has led recovery experts to design various forms of ecotherapy that most people are not aware of. Take animal-assisted therapy for example. Spending time with animals, such as horses or dogs, invites a recovering individual to explore the natural world through non-human eyes. This creates a break from the stressors of their own life. Interacting with animals also builds mindpower and empathy. Watching the simple joy of animals being content with themselves can be therapeutic.
Animal-assisted nature therapy may work miracles for people with traumatic experiences. Participating in hands-on activities such as grooming an animal can help a person get out of their head for a moment while marveling at the beauty of a creature or part of nature. Trained therapy animals also give people a sense of safety and trust. Horses can also help promote emotional regulation, as they are highly perceptive to human emotion and can mirror it, meaning the individual must practice remaining calm and positive for the best interaction with the animal.
Another form of nature therapy is adventure therapy. This can include hiking, camping, and river rafting. For adolescents and teenagers recovering from SUD who are less responsive to traditional psychotherapeutic interventions, adventure therapy can be extremely effective. Recovering adults may also find cravings and negative emotions subside after participating in adventure therapy.
Therapeutic wilderness programs can also help recovering individuals enjoy a nature-based, simple lifestyle. Unplugging from technology and electronics and the initial raw and uncomfortable experiences of facing nature may give way to vulnerability, opening them up for healing. Participants can experience a very real healing power in nature, which cannot be measured. Their self-confidence and self-efficacy are restored.
A Holistic Approach to Recovery
Treatment centers that embrace a holistic approach to addiction recovery tend to offer these various forms of nature therapy. Some facilities may design beautiful garden settings. Others are located in the mountains or near the ocean to have access to the natural environment. They generally encourage people to spend more time outdoors.
Nature therapy can teach recovering individuals much about themselves. Therapists coach them on how to embrace their entire person, including body, mind, and spirit. Because the key to recovery is balance and connection, nature therapy is an important venue to counteract the lack of these things. Recovery is an awakening of the self and a mindful humility about one’s place in natural surroundings.
Have you tapped into the rich benefits of nature therapy? Treatment centers that embrace a holistic approach to addiction recovery tend to adopt various forms of nature therapy, especially when supporting young people to heal from addiction. Health experts have found that nature therapy is a way of connecting individuals to a bigger scope of the natural environment, and this connection may dispel anxiety and a sense of isolation, leading to the healing of many emotional and mental health problems. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our experienced mental health professionals incorporate various forms of nature therapy into our personalized treatment plans to support recovering individuals. We encourage bringing pets, as many people benefit from therapeutic animal companions during their recovery. Call us today to discover how you can be part of our community and use nature as part of your healing. For more information, call (954) 329-1118.