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5 Ways to Support your Recovery through Nature

Sober Life on the Trail

We are fortunate to live in an era where many pathways to recovery exist. We have a plethora of female specific wonderful support groups such as She Recovers and Women for Sobriety. There is no shortage of Instagram ladies boldly and lovingly sharing their own stories of addiction, grey area drinking, curiosity around sobriety, and recovery.

Yes, we are fortunate to have access to all of this. And, what happens in the time and space beyond our recovery? While it’s wonderful to work a program, it’s equally as important to have activities that fill us up inside, support our growth as humans, and provide soul level connection to ourselves and the world around us.

Nature is a comfort and a resource for many, providing ample opportunities to build confidence and empowerment, to savor sweetness and expansion. No matter if you are a seasoned veteran of the wilderness, or a newbie desiring to increase your connection — check out these 5 tips to use nature in supporting your recovery.

5. Saturate your Senses

Nature gives us a wonderful opportunity to drop into our bodies and give our busy minds a chance to leap off the hamster wheel. We can engage our five senses with the sounds, sounds, smells, tactile stimulation and yes, even taste, if you know what plants are edible! Engaging our five senses helps to bring us into the present moment. It also invites us to be delighted and wondrous at all that surrounds us in the natural world.

Many of my clients tell me they struggle with worry, analyzing all the possibility of what might go wrong. Conversely, old faces of shame and regret can live to close to our hearts, and are made no better when we ruminate on what might have been. Neither of these thought patterns help us to move forward as the strong and courageous women we are.

Certainly, self reflect when you need to, and make new choices when it is wise to do so, BUT, give yourself some moments of peace and presence. Breathe in the smell of towering pines and explore the textured bark with your fingertips. Closely observe a trail of tiny ants walking sideways up the tree. Notice, and feel.

The more we come into our bodies and feel at home here, the more peace we have in our lives.

You can find a detailed guide to exploring your 5 senses here.

4. Confidence inspires confidence

Today I was clinging to the side of an indoor rock wall, banging my knee yet again and dangling by a rope 30 feet off the ground while I contemplated the next tiny handhold to sink my sweaty fingers into. My friends at the bottom both supported my life at the other end of the rope, and supported my pathway to finally getting up this particular route. It was the third time I’d tried this one, in as many visits, and it was HARD! After an enthusiastic call of “lemur move!” from below, I gathered my remaining strength and moxie and went for it. Channeling my inner lemur, I pushed up hard and leapt for the next grip, just beyond what I thought I could get.

Guess what? I freaking got it today!

Being lowered down after hitting the top mark of the climb, I was ear to ear grinning, heart pounding, arms shaky. And you know what else? I had a bit of swagger. I did it! Finally.

After that climb, I tried a few more routes, one that involved essentially straddling a wall and hanging upside down. I didn’t make it anywhere near the top on that one, but I had the confidence to give it a try. Confidence begets confidence.

When you start exploring nature and hiking, you may find yourself loving it and celebrating small victories of adding an extra mile, or climbing an extra 50 or 100 feet. Be empowered, sister of the wilds! You are out there doing it!

So many of us drank, used, overworked, over shopped, whatever your thing is — because we had no real confidence in ourselves as humans. We looked for validation and identity in the external. Achieving small goals for yourself is truly priceless. It boots your self knowing one hundred fold. And what better way to feel inspired than to hit the trail and try something new. You may just surprise yourself!

3. Social Engagement & Wholesome fun

We live in a pretty alcohol centric culture. Drinking is also widely (and weirdly) associated with fun. I don’t know about you, but my drinking (nor my anxiety or obsessive workaholism) was fun. It pretty much sucked. Spending time in nature, hiking, climbing mountains, biking through gorgeous terrain — these are pretty wholesome activities. It is a great way to make like minded friends who aren’t interested in just hopping from one alcohol fueled event to the next.

Yes, I know there are exceptions and some people incorporate drinking into nature time. But, a LOT of people don’t, and you certainly don’t have to. Nature offers a broad canvas with a plethora of options for social engagement, quiet time, physical and mental challenges, or simply peaceful relaxation. If you find yourself not sure what to do with all the free time you now have in recovery, join a hiking group! Heck, I created A Sober Girls Hiking and Adventure Club just for you! Join us here

2. Physical Exercise

We all know it’s good for us. As Elle Woods famously says in Legally Blond, “Exercise produces endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” So true. Tuning into our bodies natural ability to feel good is a no brainer! All the better if we can combine it with fresh air, and the aforementioned sensory delights.

Even if you have never been a mover, or if you once used to love working out but feel the road back is long and hard — now is the perfect time to start. Now as in right now, today. Here’s the thing, if we don’t move our bodies, we are setting ourselves up for a harder time in life. I don’t mean this metaphorically or as some kind of riddle. Practically speaking and based on years of clinical experience in working with the geriatric population, those who move consistently through their lifespan have an easier time as they age. Movement helps to keep your joints lubricated and working properly. Movement, such as sustained walking or hiking is also a weight bearing exercise (especially if you are carrying even a small pack) which helps to increase your bone density. This is incredibly important as we age, especially as women. Hiking and moving in nature not only helps us in the short term, it is an investment in our future health.

It doesn’t matter if you are 16 or 60, you can get started, one step at a time!

1. Deep Connection to something greater than ourselves

Opening our eyes, minds, and hearts to the greater world around us changes us. It helps us to feel our part in the greater whole and puts our lives, relationships, and problems into perspective. A wonderful client of mine from years ago described this so beautifully. On a trip to Africa, she noted one night all of the sounds of the Savannah and the wild around her. She stared into the fire and felt the protective warmth while simultaneously being aware of her own heartbeat. She acknowledged there were two heartbeats happening simultaneously. The inner heartbeat of her body, her life and experiences, her world. There was also the greater heartbeat of the world. The heartbeat of the African wilds, the crackling of the fire and the bugs sing songing in the night air. The heartbeat of the world even beyond the vast landscape she was resting in. She said that awareness of the two heartbeats has always enabled her to take pause and expand her vision and thinking when faced with a difficult problem or moment in time.

We are all a part of something greater than ourselves. I have always been most drawn to the Native American description of the divine, The Great Mystery. For what is life if not a mystery? Being reminded we are not alone on our journeys, and that we are a part of something much bigger than us is innately calming.

We are at once so precious and divine, so interconnected with the natural world around us. Sometimes we simply need to remember.

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