Adventure Therapy: The Benefits of Hiking in Recovery
When most people think about the best therapy options for recovery, they don’t typically think about hiking. However, hiking, or adventure therapy, can become an essential holistic treatment option for those recovering from substance use and mental health disorders. Adventure therapy positively affects mental, physical, and emotional health, helping to reduce anxiety and stress, and promotes creativity and inspiration. Adventure therapy, incorporated with other forms of treatment, can become an integral part of your recovery regimen. Let’s examine the benefits of hiking in adventure therapy and even look at some of the best hiking spots in the Boulder area.
Great for Mental Health
An essential part of recovery is managing and promoting good mental health. Additionally, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, nearly 50 percent of those recovering from substance use also have a co-occurring disorder. If mental health is not managed appropriately in recovery, then the risk for relapse is much greater. Hiking is a great way to cope with symptoms associated with mental health, such as anxiety, depression, anger, or suicidal thoughts.
Research shows that individuals who walk in natural areas for as little as 90 minutes showed decreased activity in the amygdala, hippocampus, and dorsomedial thalamus. These are the regions of the brain associated with thoughts and feelings of anxiety, depression, and suicide. In addition, the combination of sunlight, fresh air, sounds of nature, and disconnection from technology create “feel good” hormones such as endorphins which help promote an optimistic outlook. Finally, the physical aspect of hiking also plays a role in benefiting your mental health. Not only are you recycling your anxiety into energy, but you achieve a sense of accomplishment after a hike, and this is great for your self-esteem and confidence.
Manage Stress and Anxiety
In early recovery, you might experience a range of changes in your daily life, which could cause emotional mood swings. Trying to cope with everyday life now that you are sober can perpetuate stress, anxiety, hopelessness, and doubt. It is essential to practice healthy ways to reduce stress. Therefore instead of self-medicating, which leads to more negative thoughts and behaviors, hiking is a natural remedy that helps you get in touch with nature and yourself. As a coping mechanism for anxiety, it can release the tension and stress within your body.
Additionally, being in nature is also inspiring and can help you get in touch with thoughts and feelings that you might not have confronted or experienced in a long time. As a form of mindfulness, having to mind your next step on the trail places you in the present and helps ground you in reality. Developing and maintaining this focus not only helps put your thoughts and perceptions in perspective, but it is also very empowering.
Excellent Source of Vitamin D
After years of using harmful substances, you might have developed habits of neglect for your physical health. However, recovery is about introducing new practices that promote health and restore any nutrient or immune deficiencies you might have. For example, hiking will expose your body to vitamin D, which is excellent for your immune system. Vitamin D gets produced as a natural response to sunlight. It helps promote bone strength, heart health, cancer prevention, and dietary absorption. It can also decrease the risk of disease by boosting protective immunity. So, instead of practicing all of your therapies indoors, taking one hike weekly can provide the benefits of vitamin D.
Curb Your Boredom
Boredom can unravel even the most resilient in recovery. Boredom can also make for a very monotonous and unexciting regimen if it persists, and this could lead to the impulse of wanting to use again. Additionally, it is just plain hard to find things that keep you busy and distract you in healthy ways. Hiking can help to mitigate boredom. The time it takes preparing for a hike and appreciating the wilderness, and spending time with hiking buddies can provide for an all-day activity to stay busy. Staying busy helps keep the mind from negative thinking.
Foster Healthy Relationships
Another cornerstone of recovery is maintaining healthy relationships, which also help you build healthy support networks. Isolation from loved ones is often among the first symptoms people experience preceding relapse. Hiking with friends, family, and peers is a terrific way to build teamwork, trust and develop bonds with others. While there are many online and social media options to interact with, spending time face-to-face is ideal because you share an experience. In addition, connecting with others helps you build a support system to confide and seek guidance; such relationships are imperative to sustaining a lasting recovery.
Boulder Area Hiking
The Choice House location is amid the beautiful landscapes of the Boulder, Colorado area. These areas contain many hiking trails that range from easy to moderate to difficult. Therefore the possibility for growth is endless. Here are some incredible trails near Boulder, Colorado:
- Boulder Falls, 100 yards, Difficulty: easy
- Eldorado Canyon State Park Trails, 0.5 miles, Difficulty: easy to moderate
- First and Second Flatirons Hike, 2.6 miles, Difficulty: moderate
- Bear Peak Summit Hike, 7.4 miles, Difficulty: difficult
- Green Mountain Summit Hike, 5.5 miles, Difficulty: difficult
At Choice House, we strive to provide therapy and treatments for all men in need of help for their mental or substance use disorders. Our programs are designed with conventional and alternative approaches because we believe that recovery is not a one-size-fits-all ideology. Among our many goals, our primary one is to meet the concerns of each individual and therefore work to come up with a treatment and therapy plan for which they can build on long after initial treatment. Since we occupy the beautiful area of Boulder, we utilize the natural resources for healing provided by nature. However, you don’t need to move to Boulder to reap the benefits of nature; we aim to show everybody from anywhere how they can get their dose of adventure therapy no matter where they live. If you are struggling to get your recovery off the ground, then the time to reach out is now. With 24/7 admissions, you can contact us any time. To learn more, call Choice House today at (720) 577-4422.