Getting Out in Nature – A True Benefit to Recovery


The famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, used to go out into the woods to find inspiration for his architecture. Known for his surreal home designs, Wright found inspiration for his homes in places where there were no homes. He found motivation from nature. He saw greatness and a wealth of inspiration in the gifts of the world untouched and unhampered by man.

It would seem that a walk through the woods, a stroll on the beach, or a leisurely drive on rural two-lane roads is sometimes all we need to hit the reset button. And if architects can get inspiration for fascinating homes by wandering through ancient forests, can recovering addicts find inspiration in recovery by doing the same?

The Value of Getting Out Into Nature

An article in Mental Floss talked about the simple benefits of spending time outside. The article cited lots of reasons why people tend to do better with a little fresh air, sunshine, greenery, and birdsong. These factors are just as applicable to recovering addicts, too. For example:

  • Being outside boosts energy. Fresh air, mainly when around grass, trees, and other plants, is a significant boost to one’s energy levels.
  • Going outside pushes one’s attention outwards. Suddenly the focus is on trees, walking paths, rivers, lakes, fields, birds, animals, and things which are far away like mountains, oceans, etc. Getting one's attention focused outwards is not only beneficial for personal health and happiness. It’s good for one's eyesight too.
  • Stepping outside and into the direct sunlight boosts healing, mitigates pain, and in general feels fantastic. A daily dose of vitamin D is also said to help ward off depression and apathy.
  • The smells of plants and the airborne chemicals that plants put off are thought to lift one’s spirits and to boost one's immune system as well.
  • Sometimes recovery can present challenges to one’s focus. Old memories or cravings might crop up, pulling one off-target. An hour or two spent immersed in nature can be all it takes to reignite all of the reasons and ambitions one had for a sober life.

And that’s just the beginning. There is also the immeasurable value that comes from investing oneself in activities and efforts that bring one joy. Life in recovery shouldn’t be a grind. It shouldn’t be all about the hardship and the struggle; this preconceived notion that one has to suffer every day just to stay sober. There will likely be hardships in the ongoing quest for a better life, but that hardship shouldn't be the main factor.

Getting out into nature, (on top of the health benefits), is also seen as a highly enjoyable pastime for people. That’s part of what makes the outdoors so valuable.

Do the Things Which Bring You Joy

Friends having fun in nature.

Quoting Henry David Thoreau, “We need the tonic of wildness. At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”

He has a point. The wilderness brings us joy. Nature is a tonic, in its own way.

An addiction is a very entrapping, limiting crisis. It is a hindrance. It is something which makes an individual fold in upon himself, shortening his focus, dimming his sight, and blurring his mind. Even in recovery, people sometimes find themselves experiencing these unpleasant sensations.

Getting outside and into nature does the exact opposite. Surrounding oneself with the sights, smells, and sheer space of nature is the best medicine available for pulling a recovering addict out of the gnawing struggle that sometimes comes with recovery.

People who are in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction should invest themselves in the things that bring them joy, the things that lift their spirits and make them happier people. If getting out into the woods and fields, lakes and streams, and the wilds of America induce joy for those in recovery, such individuals should set aside some time each week to do just that.

Exercise, hobbies, fresh air, nature, constructive activities, positive social groups, there is so much that recovering addicts can do and take part in that is conducive to their health and betterment. Once someone gets sober, he should figure out what truly brings him joy, and he should make those activities regular parts of his life. People find it much easier to stay sober when they are filling their lives with happiness every day.

Get Help When You Need It

Sometimes, maintaining hard-won sobriety is not as easy as simply applying what one learned in treatment, seeking support from family and friends, and getting out into the woods from time to time. Sometimes relapses do happen, in spite of a recovering addict's best efforts to stay sober.

For those who still struggle with drug and alcohol addiction, the best and safest option lies in getting into and through a residential drug and alcohol treatment program. Such programs have the tools, the staff, and the facilities necessary to help people overcome addiction. Whether one has been struggling for years with a daily habit or whether one just relapsed after time spent sober, entering a treatment center will provide one with the tools to stay sober for life.

If you or someone you care about is actively struggling with drug use or alcohol misuse, make sure treatment is made available. Get help if you need it. Help your loved one if they need it. A walk through the woods has an immeasurable benefit for someone who is having a bad day. It can bring focus and joy. It can even pull one back from the brink of a poor decision. But for those who are currently struggling with a drug habit or an alcohol addiction, there is no replacement for a long-term course through a residential drug treatment center.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.