According to reports, individuals in Europe and the USA, spend upwards of 90% of their time indoors, most of it staring at a screen. This has led to a variety of issues, dubbed “technostress”, with symptoms including poor posture, muscle tension, focus and concentration problems, chronic fatigue, insomnia, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and burnout.
Whether it is a stroll in the park or sitting reading a book in the garden; research has shown that taking just 20-minutes per day to spend time in nature, can significantly lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
A study from the University of Plymouth, ‘Natural Environments and Craving: The Mediating Role of Negative Affect,’ led by Dr Leanne Martin, found that simply being exposed to green spaces, (being able to see them from your home), can reduce cravings for alcohol, cigarettes, and unhealthy foods.
Depression, suicide and “karōshi” (which means death from overwork), are serious problems in Japan. It is therefore unsurprising that the government backed the campaign “shinrin-yoku”, which encourages people to visit forests for their health. Shinrin-yoku, which translates to forest- bathing, is opening our senses to the natural world, to walk in the forest and take time to observe nature in all its glory.
So how can nature have an impact on addiction recovery?
We know that being outside in the fresh air, can be fun…. preferably under a blue sky, (or bundled up in warm clothing when it’s wet and cold) … also refreshing, restoring, and energising.
Nature can generate many positive emotions, joy, calmness, and serenity. Studies have shown that people who regularly connect with nature are generally happier in life; and feel that their lives are meaningful and have purpose.
This has a huge impact on how we view ourselves and the world around us, which leads to:
• Improved mental health.
• Reduced stress and anxiety.
• Lower levels of depression and melancholy.
Strengthened immunity. The fresh air, and particularly the vitamin D the body creates from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors, can help the immune system fight off bacteria and viruses.
Upgraded physical fitness. Vitamin D also plays a role in cardiac health, and is essential for good bones as well as muscle and nerve functions. Being outdoors creates more opportunities for exercise and movement, which could be anything from a simple walk in the park, swimming in an outdoor pool or lake, to jogging along the seafront, or even cycling up a hill.
Better sleep, increased energy. Researchers believe that spending enough time outdoors helps to “reset” your body’s internal clock, which can improve your natural circadian rhythms and allow you to sleep more soundly at night. Plus, all that exercising you are going to be doing will also increase your sleep quality.
Scientists report that by being outside in nature for just 20-minutes a day, we can notably increase our energy levels. Breathing in fresh air supplies the body with more oxygen, helping it to function more efficiently, improving our get-up-and-go.
Enhanced focus and cognitive function. There are several reasons why being outdoors improves our cognitive function. Sunlight helps keep serotonin levels up, which raises your energy and keeps your mood calm, positive, and focused. Nature reduces stress, which lowers heart rates, and the time spent thinking about problems and/or insecurities – improving memory, concentration, and attention.
In addition, academic research done by Marc G. Berman, John Jonides, and Stephen Kaplan, at the University of Michigan, states that: Nature, which is filled with intriguing stimuli, modestly grabs attention in a bottom-up fashion, allowing top-down directed-attention abilities a chance to replenish. Simply put, whilst we are looking at the beautiful plants, flowers, and creatures, we’re not worrying about finances, work, and household responsibilities, so our brain gets a rest.
So why is all this so important in addiction recovery?
Alcohol and substance use disorders destroy lives and break relationships. Addiction isolates sufferers and leaves them lonely and miserable. It can also have a hugely damaging effect on both physical and mental health.
Stress, anxiety, poor sleep, boredom, are all big triggers for addicts, so improving these feelings and functions goes some way to avoiding a relapse. Improved immunity and physical fitness are great ways to start repairing some of the damage done by months or years of abuse.
Recovery is all about connection. Connecting with people; a higher power or purpose; nature and the world around us. Individual or group therapy, and fellowship meetings can help, talking with others, sharing experiences and feelings.
But there is still a lot of time to fill, getting out in nature can immerse you in a whole new world and help you discover new safe activities. Keeping busy with hobbies like gardening, walking, or jogging, can help keep recovering addicts from falling back into old unhealthy habits.
It is also an excellent place to enjoy meditation, whether that is by sitting still or walking. Meditation and mindfulness are great practices to learn, regular participation in these activities further decreases the risk of falling into old behaviours and relapse.
Our luxury residential rehabilitation clinic in Ibiza, is located on an 8-acre private estate, where you are completely surrounded and embraced by nature. Ibiza has on average 300 days of sunshine a year. It is the ideal place to recover, refresh, and restore.
We specialise in the treatment of all forms of addiction and mental health disorders. Alcoholism, drug and prescription medicine dependency, behavioural and process addiction, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, OCD, codependency, eating disorders, and burn-out.
Our team of highly experienced professionals use a variety of treatment methodologies. We offer transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy and have a TMS machine on-site. TMS has been proven highly successful in the treatment of several psychiatric and neurological disorders, notably those struggling with depression.
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