They don’t call the outdoors “great” for nothing. Receiving professional treatment inside of a facility or a hospital is all well and good, but sometimes, people in recovery just need to get outdoors.
Getting out in the sun is associated with numerous health benefits, and exploring nature tends to help people realize all of the good things in the world they missed out on while they were more concerned with cracking open their next bottle or chasing the next high.
The Benefits of Sunlight
The positive effects of sunlight are truly amazing. Granted, you can overdo it and get sunburnt, but even five to 15 minutes of natural light each day can work wonders.
First, exposure to sunlight is associated with increased levels of vitamin D and serotonin. The benefits are:
- Vitamin D has a direct correlation with one’s mood: If the level is high, then the person’s mood should be positive.
- Serotonin is also associated with mood, in addition to calm and focus.
Low vitamin D and serotonin levels can bring feelings of depression flooding in. If you’ve struggled with anxiety or depression in the past, taking in more sunlight is a natural way to reduce some of those symptoms.
Additionally, vitamin D plays a role in bone health. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to osteoporosis in adults and rickets in children.
Helping with Skin, Digestive, Reproductive and Other Conditions
The World Health Organization states that sun exposure might help with several skin conditions, such as:
Although still being studied, sunlight is also showing some promising early results in treating other health conditions, such as:
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
If a skin or other health condition isn’t bothering you as much because you’ve taken in enough sunlight, then your mood is going to be further elevated.
Remember to use sunblock if you’re going to be outside for more than 15 minutes, especially if you have fair skin. Use a sunscreen of at least SPF 15, and consider a hat or shirt with sun protection, as well.
Recreational Activity Options
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of being out in the sun, let’s look at several of the activities you can do while you’re outdoors. Some of the more high-intensity activities that people in recovery tend to enjoy include:
- Swimming (in pools or lakes)
- Biking (or BMXing)
- Outdoor Basketball
- Mountain climbing
- Outdoor yoga
And for the more leisurely pursuits that still give you an excuse to get outdoors, consider:
- Painting or drawing
- Playing instruments
- Barbecuing with family and friends
- Boating or Jet Skiing
- Watching soccer or baseball games
- Relaxing poolside or on a beach
And those are mostly warm-weather activities. If you’re out in the snow, you still have plenty of options for recreation, from skiing or snowboarding to sledding or simply building a snowman.
The point is, the opportunities are almost limitless when you get outdoors, and you can pick what works for you. In many cases of addiction, the substances slowly robbed users of their creativity, dignity and sense of purpose. As you’re recovering from addiction, the outdoors will help rekindle your imagination and childlike wonder, giving your new purpose on your journey to sobriety.
Don’t Be a Hermit!
Another benefit of outdoor activities is that they usually have a social component. Even if you can’t talk some friends into joining you on a particular day, there’s a good chance you’re going to bump into and meet new people as you’re out swimming solo or on a hike by yourself.
Isolation is one of the most prominent triggers for relapse, but that’s rarely an issue when you’re committed to doing activities outdoors every day, or at least several times per week. When you’re cooped up inside and all alone, the thoughts and cravings of prior substance use might come roaring back. You can sidestep these temptations by developing an active and outdoor-oriented lifestyle.
What to Look For in a Rehab Program
We firmly believe that some of the best inpatient rehab centers in this country are located in rural or semi-rural areas. Or, at least, they are situated on a large enough property to allow clients to get outside and “stretch their legs.”
Rehab facilities that are landlocked and that offer an overly clinical or hospital-like environment tend to be at a disadvantage. They are missing a piece or two of the puzzle when it comes to holistically helping people recover from addiction.
- Wilderness therapy
- Adventure therapy
- Outdoor therapy
- Outdoor behavioral health care
- Experiential therapy
These are all essentially synonyms for the same concept: therapy that takes place outdoors. You might even see some facilities that call themselves an “outdoor rehab,” or that they offer an “outdoor rehab program.”
Granted, the amount of emphasis each facility places on wilderness/adventure/outdoor therapy and the types of activities it promotes will vary. But, the point is to at least check to see if a facility of interest offers this type of therapy before you start digging further and making your final selection.
Outdoor Therapy for Relapse Prevention
Encouraging you to take a greater interest in the outdoors isn’t just good advice for a healthier recovery lifestyle; it’s a full-fledged relapse prevention tool. Ideally, the treatment center you choose is going to introduce or reintroduce you to a handful of outdoor pursuits that you’re going to take a huge passion in. And by no means do these pursuits need to stop once you graduate the rehab program.
Addiction treatment programs spend considerable time on relapse-prevention education, giving clients concepts, strategies and tangible tools they can use to ward off substance use – in the immediate sense and down the road. Helping clients find their passion in the great outdoors is one of those tools – depending on the program you pick.
And, when you think about it, enjoyment of the outdoors is one of the most practical long-term tools one can have after graduating rehab. A therapist or a sponsor can’t be there to hold your hand every step of the way in the post-rehab phase, but there’s little stopping you from going on a run, hike, bike ride, etc. when your mood is low and you’re battling drug cravings. Getting outside just makes sense.
Your Turn at Bat
Now that you’ve brushed up on the benefits of natural sunlight and the types of outdoor activities you can pursue, we want to hear from you! In the comment section below, please answer one or both of the following questions:
If you’ve been through rehab before, which outdoor activities did you come to love through the program?
Which outdoor pursuits do you personally find the most beneficial for staying committed to sobriety?
If you haven’t been to rehab before but you’re thinking about searching for treatment, Fight Addiction Now can help you find treatment centers that offer outdoor therapy and then evaluate which one is right for you. Just click immediately below to get in touch with our team or call now: 1-844-313-4448.