Spring is a time of renewal, rebirth, and new beginnings. With the changing weather, outdoor and leisure activities are more appealing than ever.
But activities associated with leisure are often a sticky topic for those recovering from substance abuse and those newly committed to sobriety. For these folks—and maybe you’re one of them—leisurely activities might be tied to your first time engaging in drugs or alcohol. And as the addiction grew, it’s likely that your hobbies and free-time activities suffered.
While hopping back into those hobbies and activities may seem intimidating, your physical and mental strength will slowly build up again over time. Finding a new hobby or re-discovering a renewed joy for an old activity is a great way to help you stay sober and continue to grow in your recovery. What better time to start than with the fresh green buds of spring?
Addiction and Leisure Activities: What Types of Outdoor Activities Can I Do?
Whether you live in a city or rural area, many of us have some type of access to outdoor spaces. Some may just minutes from your front door, while other might require a bit more planning. These spaces can provide relaxation, fun, exercise, and escape for just about anyone.
Some of these activities include:
- Mountain Biking
- Indoor or outdoor climbing
Hiking with a group might sound appealing to you, whereas others might find solitary mountain biking their cup of tea. In any case, the outdoors will be sure to help just about anyone find what they are looking for.
Benefits of Outdoor Leisure Activities
All of these activities come with their own combination of physical, mental, and social benefits. And with recent studies in “therapeutic recreation,” it is becoming clear that those suffering from mental health conditions and substance abuse disorders (SUDs) can benefit greatly from these types of activities.
Physical Health Benefits of Outdoor Activities
The physical benefits of outdoor activities are immense. When done consistently, all of the above activities can help you boost your stamina, burn fat, and build muscle mass. By getting yourself in better shape, you will find yourself more willing and able to get off the couch and use your free-time to enhance your quality of life. Ultimately, this lowers your risk of relapse and reverting back into old habits.
Another positive aspect of exercise in the outdoors is the sort of physical “high” that many people experience. This feeling is caused by the release of brain chemicals that are very similar to those triggered by drug and alcohol abuse. This “high” not only makes you feel good in the moment but can also work to draw you back to outdoor activities. But this time, it’s an activity that helps you instead of harming you.
Exercise is also proven to stimulate new tissue growth and repair brain damage that may have been caused by prolonged drug or alcohol abuse. Starting to reverse these negative effects on the brain will only help you in your recovery process.
Don’t forget that you don’t need to work too hard to gain the physical benefits from being outdoors. Even leisurely hikes or picnics in the mountains will be beneficial to your physical health.
Mental Health Benefits of Sober Outdoor Activities
In addition to the physical benefits, outdoor activities also have a number of mental health benefits, especially for those in recovery. Such benefits are sometimes not as obvious as the physical benefits, but they are just as—if not more—important.
Outdoor activities can improve mood, decrease anxiety, reduce stress, and provide a clearer perspective. The fresh air, green scenery, and experience of the natural world all provide a deeper sense of ease and connectedness. And is well-established, the interaction between body and mind are not separate. If one is happy and healthy, the other one is likely happy and healthy, too!
For most people, spending time outdoors is essentially fun, a quality that is objectively good for your mental health. If it is a general goal to increase your personal happiness and stress reduction, you will find it a huge help to you while you thrive in your recovery journey.
Social Benefits of Sober Outdoor Activities
On top of the great physical and mental benefits outdoor activities provide, they also make it easy to find new friend groups and connect with other like-minded people. This often leads to wonderful new friendships while also making it easier to avoid falling back into unhealthy relationships that may hurt your life of sobriety.
Like-mindedness also includes those who are trying to improve their lives by being outside. Physical and mental goals are good qualities to have in common with your friend group. What better place to meet them than doing the activities that you both love?
Taking the First Step
Remember that getting outside in any capacity has positive effects to help you with your recovery. If adventurous outdoor activities aren’t for you, things as simple as taking a walk through a park or sitting next to a creek can have the same mental health benefits. The important thing is to find what makes you excited and continue to move forward in your healing process.
By heading outside, you can fill up your leisure time with activities that positively impact your physical and mental health. At the same time, you can make new memories and build new relationships in a healthy context that brings you closer to wholeness.
Whether you decide to get into hiking, start skiing like you used to, or would rather simply sit by a stream and meditate, you can feel good about your choice knowing it is helping you continue on your path of sobriety and recovery.
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