Rehab 4 Addiction

Recovering from Addiction with Outdoor Therapy

Nature has a mysterious habit of restoring the mind and body.

You may not realise it, but you’ve probably been positively affected by the outdoors at some point in your life.

Spending time in the sun, wind, rain, or even snow has a therapeutic effect, making it a perfect environment to tackle addiction.

Recovery centres set in a scenic, remote, and peaceful areas provide an inspiring and distraction-free environment for recovery, such as alcohol rehab in Bristol.

What is Outdoor Therapy?

Whatever you want to call it; wilderness therapy, nature-based therapy, adventure therapy, wild therapy, ecotherapy, outdoor therapy, or walk and talk therapy, outdoor therapy refers to an outdoor style of counselling.

Allowing the great outdoors to contribute to the therapeutic process is highly beneficial to recovery.

Outdoor therapy allows individuals to learn new skills, reconnect with nature and focus on their recovery without the stresses and negative links to everyday life.

The below activities lead to improvements in stress management, resourcefulness, reflection, and adaptability:

  • Day Hiking
  • Backpacking
  • Camping
  • Fire Building
  • Shelter Construction
  • Canoeing
  • Outdoor Yoga
  • Rock Climbing
  • Wild swimming

Mental health problems like anxiety and stress often accompany those suffering from addiction.

Using the therapeutic nature of the outdoors makes it easier for individuals battling both addiction and mental health problems.

Let’s explore the other ways that people in recovery can benefit from spending time outdoors.

1. Nature’s Medicine: Natural Vitamin D and Serotonin

Vitamin D

Stepping out into the outdoors equals exposure to natural sunlight, allowing the hormone Vitamin D to flow around the body naturally.

Vitamin supplements, although beneficial, are never a direct substitute for the sun’s natural Vitamin D, which is essential for a healthy immune system and improved energy levels.

Without Vitamin D, the human body is more susceptible to illnesses and diseases. Feeling fit and healthy is extremely helpful in long-term recovery.


Letting the warm glow of the sun-bathe your face and body is another way to boost serotonin levels.

A chemical messenger generated by nerve cells, Serotonin is known to boost mood, improve sleep, increase energy, and stabilise mood.

Vitamin D and Serotonin are most helpful to our bodies when spending consistent time outdoors, allowing for improvements in mental and physical health and reductions in relapse chances. [i]

2. Battle Boredom

Experiencing the excitement of a new outdoors hobby is a beautiful replacement for the boredom that sobriety can bring.

However, a massive threat to recovery can be the monotony that comes with the gap that was previously filled with drugs, alcohol, or gambling.

Unsure how to fill your time now you’re free from addiction?

The outdoors brings a world of new outdoor activities, including nature photography, hiking, gardening, golfing, mountain biking and fishing.

Reducing this empty time is essential for lowering the chances of relapse, but it also improves mental health, creates a sense of peacefulness, and helps tackle addiction cravings.

3. Managing Stress

Daily life and the stresses of detox can make anxiety a real obstacle to recovery. Spending time outdoors is one of the easiest and healthiest ways to reduce that stress.

Think about it, how much less stressed would you feel when surrounded by tweeting birds, green trees, and beautiful blue skies. Don’t you feel relaxed already?

Exercising outdoors for addiction recovery provides a calm and peaceful setting to reduce stress and anxiety and improve positive thoughts.

4. Sooth the Soul with Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for recovery as it aids both physical and mental health, especially as those battling addiction may have developed irregular sleeping patterns.

Believe it or not, even spending a small amount of time outdoors per day can help sleep patterns.

In contrast to time spent indoors in front of the television or computer, outdoors using pent-up energy, allowing the body to fall asleep faster and stay asleep.

The relaxing environment of nature also allows for more calm ways of thinking, allowing you to process your thoughts which might otherwise keep you up at night. [ii]

5. Dealing with Depression and Anxiety

Those dealing with addiction often suffer from anxiety and depression. Ill mental health can either be one of the root causes of addiction or arise because of the addiction.

Either way, people often suffer more profound depression and anxiety as their addiction develops, making both conditions worse.

Getting plenty of sunlight, clean, fresh air and Vitamin D through exercise is one of the best ways to battle mental health issues.

All these things, plus the soothing sounds of nature, are proven to reduce the effects of depression and help you decompress as you attempt to go through recovery.

In addition, making time for even a tiny amount of outdoor exercise every day reduces your chances of relapse by improving your mental health.

6. Exercise

Outdoor exercise in any form is always beneficial to the brain and body.

Physical activity, even just walking, releases Dopamine and Serotonin into the body, improving your mood. Exercise does this by producing positive endorphin responses, increasing the flow of the neurotransmitter dopamine to the brain. [iii]

These incredible bodily responses spark positive feelings in the body. These positive feelings improve mood and energy levels and are essential in reducing the effects of panic attacks, anxiety, depression, stress, and co-occurring mental health disorders.

7. Positive thoughts

A positive mind is essential in the recovery process, and your mind will frequently challenge those on a recovery journey. However, research has found that spending time outdoors increases positive thought and improves cognitive function.

Therefore, wilderness therapy increases your ability to problem solve and focus, paying better intention to the recovery process and reducing the frequency of cravings and intrusive thoughts.

Experiencing positive, intentional focus in an outdoors setting means these thoughts or triggers become less problematic, easier to deal with and less frequent.

Being surrounded by the smells, sights, and sounds of nature can also have a soothing, therapeutic, and hugely positive impact on mood and thought patterns.

8. Improved Self-Esteem

Your self-esteem can take a massive hit when addiction becomes too much of a compulsion to overcome.

Those dealing with addiction often do things that would usually go against their morals, like lying, stealing, or even committing crimes.

It’s easy for anyone battling an addiction to start to feel inadequate, but choosing better options in the form of outdoor therapy and exercise can improve this level of self-esteem.

As people begin to immerse themselves in the positive habits of nature-based treatment, their view of themselves often enhances as they learn new skills.

In addition, new feelings of accomplishment and pleasure that individuals in rehab may not have felt in some time can also help to improve self-image and self-confidence, in turn helping with recovery.

What’s Next?

Although listed here are some fantastic benefits of outdoor therapy, this list is by no means exhaustive.

There’s an endless list of positives for spending time outdoors, so there’s no doubt that adventure therapy is a proven and fun way to help with sobriety.

If you need to improve your mental health, sleep, self-esteem, fitness levels, or chances of recovery, try adding regular outdoor activity to your daily routine.

Even a gentle stroll or relaxing session of outdoor Yoga can be essential in helping those on a recovery journey.


Boris is our editor-in-chief at Rehab 4 Addiction. Boris is an addiction expert with more than 20 years in the field.  His expertise covers a broad of topics relating to addiction, rehab and recovery. Boris is an addiction therapist and assists in the alcohol detox and rehab process. Boris has been featured on a variety of websites, including the BBC, Verywell Mind and Healthline.