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5 Ways Outdoor Therapy Helps in Sobriety

October 1, 2018


There is a group in Hawaii called the Surfrider Spirit Sessions that takes at-risk youth and teens on the islands and introduces them to surfing. It was created in 2005 as a way to use outdoor therapy to reshape the lives of teens who came from single parent homes, homes filled with drug use or crime, and place them with a mentor who would teach them about surfing, the history behind it, and the gratitude and confidence that come from riding a wave.

The therapeutic value of being outdoors is often lost upon people who are struggling with substance abuse and drug addiction. Sure, no one can deny the beauty of a sunset or how amazing the stars at night are – but outdoor therapy takes that beauty and tranquility to a whole new level.  

Tennessee has long been known to be a magically beautiful place, with rolling hills, the smokey mountains, and the deep-rooted culture. That is why JourneyPure is the perfect location to take a break, look inward, and start moving forward. Here are five, among many, reasons why outdoor therapy is so beneficial to sobriety.

Connection to a Higher Power

Most people that come into the rooms of 12 step programs have a very difficult time grasping and accepting that “Higher Power” construct that is so vital to the program. Many people have past resentments towards any idea of religion or spirituality for any of the following reasons:

  • They were raised in a certain religion, and they have become numb to it
  • They see the wars and the social divide that religion has caused
  • They see people of faith act and behave in ways that contradict what their religion teaches
  • They experienced pain, death, or hardship and no longer believe that a God could really be there for them
  • They have behaved in situations that they think no God would ever accept them
  • They were shunned by a religious group for their sexuality, their actions, etc.

Whatever the reason is, many of us that come into the rooms stop in place when we learn that we have to be “spiritual” in order to be sober. Outdoor therapy provides a new perspective on that aspect. For many, the idea of an old man in the sky, controlling everything, bristles the hair on our necks.

However, when we step outside and explore nature in all of its beauty, we get this inert sense that there is definitely something at work here. Whether it be mother nature, the universe, the energy that ties us all together, or simply the connection you feel with the people you are exploring with, you will find that you feel something special when you are out in nature.

It doesn’t, and sometimes you cannot even begin to need a description, because when you are out there, you can feel that it is real, and you can understand that it doesn’t even need a name.

hiking in outdoor therapy

A Healthy Hobby

Let’s be honest, when we picked up the bottle or the drugs, we slowly started to lose the activities, the hobbies, and the people we used to hold dear. One thing that I see many people in recovery struggle with, is a healthy hobby or activity that allows them to express themselves and find joy and gratitude.

Outdoor Therapy opens a door into, literally an entire world full of healthy, active hobbies that can benefit sobriety. Whether it is :

  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Whitewater rafting
  • Skiing
  • Surfing
  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Or even Rock Skipping!

Whatever floats your boat! The point here, is that you get to be outside, in nature, either alone or with someone you care about, having a GOOD time, sober. They say that the best hobbies to have in sobriety are ones that challenge you, and outdoor therapy helps to ignite that fire.

For example, when I got sober, I discovered rock climbing. I started tinkering away in the rock climbing gym and eventually became enveloped into this amazing group of sober climbing friends. We go climb outside almost every single weekend, and not only do I find a huge sense of camaraderie in all of it, I am also able to be challenged, face fear, face my doubts, and push through it all to get to the top.

I am surrounded by friends that want me to continue to grow, and we can always relate our trials and tribulations back to fears and working through them (perfect for the 4th step!) I also get to explore beautiful and awe-inspiring forests, cliff lines, gorges, coasts, caves, and mountains with the people I love the most – and there is no better way to feel a connection to a higher power than out there, with those that I love.

Increase Self-Efficacy and Increase Confidence

Although many of us believe, after years of drug use, manipulating, getting what we need to survive, see ourselves as something of a Rambo, when we get sober, we learn that we forgot to apply our knowledge to the rest of our lives, rather than just our using.

So, many people in early sobriety get bogged down by the daily mundane, the chores, working at a job again, paying the bills, relationship stuff, etc. I have personally seen more people resort to relapse simply from the stressors of everyday life than I have seen people go out due to the major events.

Outdoor therapy is a perfect tool in increasing self-efficacy, in other words, our belief that we are able to accomplish a task or succeed at a goal. Here’s why:

  • Learning how to build fire in a wet environment will make anyone feel like a badass
  • Being able to read a map, find new locations, and get home safely are huge confidence boosters
  • Cooking your own meal over a fire will make you grateful for every kitchen you’ve ever taken for granted
  • Learning about the wildlife and plants puts you in tune with your surroundings
  • Completing a hike, however hard it was, will always prove to you that the end goal is always worth a struggle
  • Pushing yourself past fears, such as the terror that can come from a low ropes course, can prove to yourself that you are resilient and strong
  • Standing in thigh deep water while fly fishing teaches you the value of patience and perseverance
  • Outdoor group activities teach you the value of community and build trust

Increases Gratitude Meditation

We also learn, when we get into recovery, that gratitude and meditation are beyond compare when it comes to living a healthy sober life. Outdoor therapy is an amazing tool to practice both of these constructs. Imagine a time in your life when you witnessed a beautiful scene in nature, either a full moon, a sunset, or a rainstorm on a hot day.

That feeling you get, that warm, relaxed, and serene feeling deep down in your gut, that feeling is gratitude. Outdoor therapy introduces you to places, people, and situations where you will explore gratitude, what makes you grateful, and how you can harness it in your own life when you enter back out into the world.

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JourneyPure – CPE