HOW DOES HIKING IMPACT RECOVERY?
The benefits of hiking and exposure to nature impact recovery in many positive ways
Not only does it help relieve stress and enhance overall wellness, but hiking also gives patients the opportunity to build awareness, improve their mental health and gain more independence and confidence. Although often overlooked, it’s important to address the full spectrum of a patient’s physical, mental and spiritual needs to ensure that they can achieve deep, lasting sobriety. A closer look at each of these benefits demonstrates the significant impact they have on the recovery process.
BUILD AWARENESS AND HONESTY
Drugs and alcohol have an isolating effect that separates us not only from our loved ones but from ourselves as well. Addiction has a way of creating a disconnect or tension that can be difficult to resolve. We often forget our beliefs and values, engage in harmful behaviors and become unaware of the consequences of our actions. This often causes emotional conflict and prevents us from looking at ourselves honestly.
To truly begin to heal, we have to rediscover our values and remember who we really are. Hiking in nature provides an ideal opportunity for self-awareness and reflection, allowing us to reconnect with ourselves and our surroundings. This awareness can relieve the tension we’ve been feeling and restore balance in a therapeutic way. It also helps us gain some perspective on our thoughts and behaviors, so we can confront ourselves honestly and allow our deepest wounds to heal.
REDUCE STRESS AND IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH
Stress, anxiety and depression have a significant role in addiction. The constant pressure we often feel may lead some to self-medicate in an attempt to escape the demands of daily life. This often creates an unhealthy cycle in which the symptoms of stress and anxiety worsen as substance use increases. Hiking in nature can break the cycle by providing patients with the opportunity to manage their stress in a healthy way. Studies have shown that spending just 30 minutes outdoors each day can reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood and increase overall happiness and resilience. For patients in recovery, hiking reinforces positive coping mechanisms while enhancing their ability to manage the obstacles and difficulties of the treatment process. It also encourages physical activity and exercise, which provide similar benefits to one’s overall wellness. Nature is a healing force that helps patients cope with the exhaustion and mental fatigue they may encounter while overcoming addiction, and hiking is a way to help them remain strong and focused on recovery.
PROMOTE INDEPENDENCE AND SELF-RELIANCE
Another benefit of hiking is to improve problem-solving abilities, develop more independence and rediscover a sense of self-worth by learning new skills. A good hike empowers patients to rely on their own capabilities and improve teamwork, discipline and accountability. Patients will begin to feel more confident in their abilities, which can help remind them that, while the process may be difficult at times, recovery is possible. Hiking outdoors also increases physical fitness and encourages healthier habits. Hiking can be adapted for all patients regardless of their fitness level, allowing them to work on their strength and endurance at their own pace. Patients can set goals and increase the difficulty level of their excursions as they become more confident and capable, tracking their progress with each hike.