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The Benefits of the Outdoors in Addiction Treatment

By December 20, 2018 June 15th, 2023 No Comments
forest near body of water

Spending time outdoors has been proven to have a range of positive psychological and physical effects. For people in recovery, these benefits can be of significant support.

Particularly in remote, peaceful areas, the outdoors can be extremely calming and can provide healthy mental and physical energy. Time outdoors offers an opportunity for introspection. It can help to improve quality and quantity of sleep and improve cognitive function. Particularly during the winter months, it can be difficult to ensure that you spend enough time outside. However, making sure to do so can provide a number of benefits to recovery.

Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres residential clients can take advantage of this by engaging in outdoor mindfulness activities and recreational pursuits. Our addiction rehab centres are located in peaceful, scenic settings which are conducive to recovery. Clients can also spend time between treatment sessions and other activities walking or relaxing in the calming surrounds, allowing them to reflect on their progress and any challenges that they face. The following are some of the benefits that time spent outdoors provides for those in recovery.

Cognitive Function

We know that time spent outdoors improves cognitive function thanks to extensive research. This means that our ability to focus and our problem-solving skills benefit from being outdoors. This makes it easier to invest attention into whatever we are doing, meaning invasive thoughts and cravings to use can become less frequent and less problematic. Improved problem-solving also means that, when a challenge to recovery or a relapse trigger emerges, you will be better equipped to deal with it.

Stress Reduction

The outdoors can also help to reduce stress. Whether this is through exercise, increased exposure to sunlight or the peace and calm of a scenic setting, there are a range of ways that spending time in nature can help to relax the mind.


Being outdoors, particularly in a calm and scenic setting, offers an opportunity for introspection. A calm environment can really help to think through any challenges you might be facing and consider options for dealing with them. It can also be beneficial to let the mind wander and relax, as the work of recovery can be mentally draining. Spending time alone can also really help to calm the mind and become comfortable in your own company.

Improved Sleep

People who have been living with addiction may have developed irregular sleeping patterns due to their addictive behaviour. The removal of substances from the body can also have a significant impact on sleep. Spending time outdoors helps to regulate the biological clock and improves our circadian rhythms. This significantly improves the quality and consistency of sleep. This has a number of benefits to someone in recovery. Good sleep improves the immune system, energy levels and mental health, reducing vulnerability to relapse. It also means you will be less likely to require medications to get to sleep. Many people develop dependencies on substances through this kind of use. Time outdoors reduces this risk by improving the ability to achieve natural, consistent sleep.

Reducing Risk of Boredom

Taking up on outdoor hobby allows you to take advantage of all of the benefits discussed here. Hiking, for example, provides an opportunity for regular introspection and all of the benefits of increased exposure to sunlight. A new hobby also reduces the possibility of boredom. Particularly in the early stages of recovery, many people struggle to fill the time that they previously spent using or obtaining substances. This empty time can be detrimental to mental health and can make someone more likely to relapse. However, filling this time with healthy alternative activities provides distraction and structure and improves mental health, reducing the likelihood of relapse.


Any outdoor activities involving exercise are very beneficial to recovery. Alongside the other benefits discussed here, exercise produces positive endorphin responses and increases the flow of neurotransmitters such as dopamine in the brain. This improves mood and energy levels and helps to alleviate the symptoms of concurrent mental health disorders that often co-occur alongside addiction such as depression and anxiety. We will shortly be publishing a blog providing further detail on the benefits of exercise for people coping with addiction.

Serotonin and Vitamin D Boost

Spending time outdoors also increases exposure to direct sunlight. This can significantly boost serotonin and Vitamin D levels. Serotonin is a chemical produced by nerve cells which reduces symptoms of mental health disorders, increases energy and improves mood. Vitamin D improves our immune system and energy levels. Particularly during the winter months when we are vulnerable to seasonal affective disorder, the mood disorder brought on by the lack of exposure to sunlight, risks to recovery increase. The increase in serotonin and vitamin D levels produced by consistent time outdoors improves mental and physical health and reduces vulnerability to relapse.


If you are coping with addiction or are in recovery, trying to implement regular outdoor activity could be very beneficial for the reasons discussed here. For more information on any aspect of addiction and addiction treatment, contact Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres today.

Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres

Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres

We offer residential and outpatient rehab treatment programs for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.

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