Substance Use

Nature Therapy for Drug & Alcohol Addiction Recovery

Man and Woman Hikers in forest with setting sun

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Nature therapy, often referred to as wilderness therapy or ecotherapy, was created by Theodore Roszak. It is an applied practice of emergent ecopsychology. The philosophy behind it stems from the idea that people are connected to a bigger scope of the picture or the web of life. The philosophy maintains that we are connected to the environment rather than isolated or separated.

In nature therapy, individuals can explore their relationship with nature which is often forgotten about in other forms of therapy. At the very core of the philosophy is being able to connect with the earth and its systems, which can help improve mental health.

According to some health care practitioners and researchers, nature therapy can have a regenerative power and can help with depression, anxiety, stress, and improve overall mood. This view has introduced nature prescriptions by healthcare providers for a variety of ailments including post-cancer treatment, obesity, fatigue, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Based on studies by the University of Essex in the United Kingdom, things like seasonal affective disorder and depression are improved in about 71% of participants. Even as little as five minutes in the sun or taking a short stroll has proven to be beneficial.

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What is Nature Therapy & How Can It Help Substance Abuse Recovery?

Nature therapy for drug and alcohol addiction recovery has several effects on your mental health as well as your physical health. Nature therapy can help reduce blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and stress. Many of these are triggers for those suffering from substance abuse disorders. Being out in the serenity of nature can help patients manage their emotions and deal with their feelings in a calmer, healthier way.

Nature therapy contributes to your physical and mental wellbeing, which is the first step in the recovery process for those struggling with addiction. Very often, addicts struggle with feelings of:

  • Self-loathing
  • Low self-worth
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Sadness

When addicts are faced with these emotions, they may be so overwhelmed that they turn to destructive behavior. Spending more time outdoors to connect with nature can help patients release pent up anger and negative emotions they are dealing with in a healthy way instead.

Different Types of Nature Therapy

Though there is much more to this therapy, there are different techniques and activities that can be utilized to help with recovery. Below are a few examples of these.

Nature Meditation

This type of meditation takes place in a natural environment such as a park and has been effective in group therapy settings. During this process, individuals may connect and be attracted to certain things found in nature to help them process certain emotions. For example, an individual struggling with self-worth may find peace by sitting near an old tree that is offering shelter to birds. This sort of activity often ends with members of the group taking turns and sharing their experiences.

Horticultural Therapy

This therapy involves plants and gardening. This is often recommended to individuals recovering from substance abuse, facing burnout, and stress, and isolation for the elderly. Activities include digging in the dirt, weeding, and trimming.

Animal-Assisted Therapy

One or more animals are used to help with the healing process. Studies have shown that working with an animal can help reduce aggression and agitation.

Physical Exercise

Exercising and doing activities like jogging, walking, and yoga in a natural setting is recommended for individuals who need help with stress, anxiety, depression, and anger.


By helping the environment, individuals can often find a sense of purpose and restore hope. Such activities are often done in a group which can help foster a sense of belonging and provide much-needed connection. This has been useful in improving overall mood.


Benefits of Nature Therapy

Nature therapy for drug and alcohol addiction has many benefits when it comes to the road to recovery from addiction. Below are examples of how natural therapy can help support the healing process for substance abuse.

Feeling renewed: Spending time in nature often provides a sense of renewal and establishes a feeling being refreshed and ready to start a new life. This can help patients start over and rebuild what they lost due to their addiction.

Self-sufficiency: The environment can be the perfect place for healing to take place. Spending time in nature can provide individuals with an opportunity to become more self-aware and self-sufficient.

By participating in different activities and learning new skills in wilderness programs, individuals can find a greater level of responsibility towards others, cohesion, and greater self-esteem. Programs like this have shown individuals that they can powerfully walk the long road to recovery and allow them to realize their own self-worth.

Emotional regulation: Learning to identify and regulate emotions is a pivotal part of the recovery process. Because being out in nature can help reduce stress, fear, and anxiety, patients can think clearer, connect with their emotions, and find more constructive ways to deal with their surging emotions.

Improved concentration: It can be difficult to drown out the noise of the city or an unhappy home. These distractions only add to a patient’s level of stress and increase their chances for relapse. Being alone in the open air creates a calming and soothing atmosphere.

This helps patients improve their concentration so they can address their problems and take some time for self-reflection. All of these benefits play an integral role in the success of a drug rehabilitation program.

Happier mood: Spending more time enjoying the beautiful sunshine and the sound of the trees rustling in the wind is a great way to put patients into a happier mood. Exercising outside can boost endorphin production and a patient’s mood.

Better sleep: De-stressing in nature therapy can help many people sleep better at night. Pent-up emotions and stress can drastically affect the sleep cycle and lack of sleep can lead to a slew of other problems including reduced inhibition control. Better sleep can mean better chances of maintaining sobriety in the long run.

Lower blood pressure: The damage of substance abuse can cause lifelong effects, like high blood pressure and cardiac stress. To offset that damage, spending more time in nature can help. It is proven to reduce blood pressure, which can improve your cardiac health.

Increased self-esteem: Struggling with feelings of worthlessness can be debilitating for anyone, especially someone recovering from substance abuse disorder. Being outside, feeling healthier and happier, and getting physically active can help increase self-esteem. This is a crucial element in the recovery process. The ability to love and believe in oneself is what patients need to propel themselves forward and stay on the path to sobriety.

Time for self-reflection: Self-reflection is one of the most challenging parts of recovery. It forces people to come to terms with some unfavorable decisions they’ve made or actions they’ve taken.

This can be emotionally stressful to relive, but it is key to overcoming your addiction and forgiving yourself. Nature therapy places you in an environment where you are free of judgment and can take the time to reflect on yourself and make plans for how you want to be better in the future.

How can nature therapy help me overcome my addiction?

It’s important to understand that there is no one way to treat and cure addiction. Substance abuse disorder is a challenging disease that can damage lives and relationships, but through several different types of therapy, substantial support, and dedication, sobriety can be achieved.

Nature therapy for substance abuse addiction recovery is just one piece of the puzzle but it can be a very critical piece of that puzzle. Getting out in nature can immerse you in a whole new world and help you discover new hobbies.

Keeping busy with safe activities like hiking or jogging, for example, can keep patients focused on getting clean and keep them from falling back into old, unhealthy habits. Nature therapy can be the first step in starting physical activity.

Nature is also a great place to enjoy meditation, which can be an excellent strategy for recovering addicts. Learning to cope with emotions and fight the urge to relapse can be achieved through the power of meditation.

Will I have to be alone?

While nature therapy for substance abuse addiction recovery can be beneficial to many individuals in solitude, group nature therapy is also an appropriate treatment for individuals who do not wish to spend time alone. Patients recovering from addiction can still enjoy the same benefits of nature therapy in a calm group setting. The key to recovery is finding the treatment path and strategy that works for each individual’s needs.

Family therapy is another recovery strategy that works for many people and this can easily be performed as nature therapy. Families can find their footing in nature, express themselves, and find their own paths to forgiveness and healing through nature therapy.

To determine what type of therapies may be best for each patient, it is best to sit down with an experienced rehabilitation healthcare provider. They can help patients discover new therapy programs and choose the programs that are best for them. Recovery may also consist of a variety of therapies.

How to Integrate Nature Therapy into Your Life

Nature therapy for substance abuse addiction recovery can be integrated into a patient’s life in several ways. Some patients may enjoy walking in the quiet woods where they can think deeply and enjoy some quiet time. The peaceful sounds of nature are conducive to some excellent meditation techniques.

Nature therapy also works in group settings where small groups hike together and get to know each other. Building solid connections is a bonus to group nature therapy.

Gardening is another great way to get out and enjoy nature. It also incorporates a new hobby into your life that can help you stay on the path to sobriety. Keeping your mind and your hands busy with safe, enriching activities is an excellent way to avoid relapses in the future.

The road to recovery is a long one but there is so much potential around you for change. Finding the nature therapy plan that works for you will be an individual journey, but when you unlock the power of nature, you will begin to see yourself and your addiction in a whole new light.

To integrate nature therapy into your life, you may start out by trying different things to see which activities you connect best with. It may be a jog along the seaside, a walk through the trees, a meditation session by the lake.

How do I get started?

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse disorder, know that you are not alone. There are millions of Americans battling this heartbreaking disease every day. But each day is a new opportunity for you or your loved one to change everything. The addiction recovery process is not an easy road. It is filled with challenges, but if you are determined, you can achieve anything.

Nature therapy for substance abuse addiction recovery is an excellent way to bring peace into your life and help you regain control of it. However, there are several other therapies that can be tried as well. Recovery involves many different types of therapy that all work together to help patients find their footing again and start rebuilding their lives.

Nature therapy and innovative wildness programs can offer individuals great support while they work through the addiction treatment and recovery process. You may also want to consider art therapy as part of the recovery process. In most cases, a combination of various therapies will work together to help bring patients into recovery.

If you are suffering from addiction, reach out to us at Zinnia Health today and find out how we can help.

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(855) 430-9439
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