Tag Archives: Adventure Therapy

Skill-Building Activities for Mental Health and Addiction

“Recovery is non-linear, characterized by continual growth and improved functioning that may involve setbacks.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Steps to Recovery

Recovery takes time, a community, and will involve many different steps for each person. In recovery, a setback may be inevitable. However, a setback is not a reason for recovery to be abandoned. Everyone struggles with something in their own way and will face obstacles and setbacks. One of the best courses of action you can take is to accumulate various tools and means of support. Addiction is complex and thus your recovery will also be complex. This does not mean it is impossible, but simply that it is a process that will take serious effort.

The thought of addressing mental health issues, particularly when in recovery, may not be the most appealing. In fact, it may feel like an exhausting task. However, it is possible to engage without using all of your energy. With recovery, there are different forms of therapy that will be needed. Among them, Adventure Therapy is a way to participate in therapy while staying active. Understandably, it is not always going to be possible to engage in more strenuous physical exercise. Sometimes you just need something that is calming and simple. The good thing is there are a lot of options for low-impact activities. They will do a lot to improve your mental health and help you in your sobriety.

Low-Impact Activities to Improve Mental Health

A sense of purpose is incredibly important for any person and especially so when you are in recovery. When you have a routine and engage in physical exercise or social activities, that is a part of establishing your identity. There are low-impact activities like gardening and volunteering that allow you to be active without extending too much energy. They may even help you find a sense of self-worth.

With gardening and volunteering, you can take care of where you live and the community around you. When you give back to others, you should do so without expecting anything in return. Nonetheless, it will in turn enrich your life and you may find great improvements to your mental health. While gardening and volunteering can differ, both will develop the communities that are immensely important in recovery.

With gardening, you can work with a wide variety of plants that are visually pleasing as well as plants that can provide food. As you nourish the plants, it is rewarding to see the results of your labor. It is also fulfilling to know you are helping to create and maintain life. When you volunteer, you may be able to gain leadership and team-building skills. These skills will be essential in work and day-to-day life.

Practicing Mindfulness

Activities like yoga, meditation, cooking, and walking are all easy-going ways to relax, ease stress, and reduce symptoms of mental illness. They won’t be an instant fix, but they can be a component of the working parts that comprise your recovery. Yoga, in particular, has been shown to be helpful for stress and pain management. A Harvard Mental Health Letter cites a study by the University of Utah, which showed that people who practiced yoga had better stress regulation and in turn better pain management.*

There are many different ways to practice meditation, with no one way being correct. Often, people who practice meditation want to focus on their breath and focus on the present moment. The idea is to create a state of calm and peace, which will allow for internal reflection. From an article published by the US National Library of Medicine, author Michael McGee MD, wrote, “Several studies have also suggested that meditation can be helpful for the treatment of anxiety, addiction, aggression, suicidality, and depression.”*

Often, we can be our worst enemy when we constantly over-think our problems. This feeds a negative mindset from which it is hard to recover. Meditation and yoga are great ways to calm a racing mind. Adventure Therapy can be totally calm like yoga and meditation or high-impact like team sports and white-water rafting. Whatever you choose, it should help you to stop dwelling on the negative aspects of life that keep you down.

Cooking and Walking as Therapy

Cooking and walking are two activities that can do a lot to help your physical and mental health. With walking, you can get much needed exercise without too much of a strain. When you are walking outdoors, you may find that you are able to find time for reflection and it may help relieve some stress. Cooking is an activity that requires you to learn and focus on the tasks at hand. You may end up learning a lot about nutrition which obviously affects your physical health, but also affects your mental health in ways you may not even realize.

What you eat can greatly affect your mental health, but the act of cooking itself can be immensely helpful.  As you cook, you gain new knowledge and also you can practice mindfulness as you focus on each step. Mindfulness may appear to be simple, but it something that when you practice it, it yields extraordinary benefits. Among the benefits, it will help reduce the time you spend worrying which feeds into mental illness.

Mental Health and Recovery

While the activities listed above are calm and low intensity, they can still be adventurous and you can learn. Sometimes just learning new facts and skills can be an exciting experience. Any type of Adventure Therapy should help you develop life-skills, interpersonal relationships, and even enable you to learn more about yourself.

As the types of Adventure Therapy vary, the benefits will also vary from activity to activity. You can try a wide variety and figure out what is best for you. Whatever you choose, hopefully you are able to challenge yourself and find experiences that will be so fulfilling you will only want to move forward on this new path.

Addiction and mental health issues are not always going to feed in to one another. However, they can end up forming a vicious cycle when left untreated. Even if you are fortunate to never face serious mental illness problems, it will still be beneficial to you to work on your mental health. When you are in a better place mentally, you are better equipped to fight addiction. Mental health and addiction are both complex issues and not something you can solve by yourself. Engaging in these light activities with the support of your community will be important steps in your recovery.

Harvard- Yoga for anxiety and depression
US National Library of Medicine – Meditation and Psychiatry
Newsweek – 1 in 5 suffer from a mental illness

How the Outdoors Benefit your Mental Health

It is important for every person to take care of their mental health, no matter who they are. Most people understand that being outdoors is good for them. When adding an active lifestyle to that, you are taking important steps to improve your physical and mental health. While research is still in the early stages, it is clear that outdoor therapy is beneficial. When you are in recovery, it helps to have a variety of activities for support.

According to a study published by the US National Library of Medicine, “Research to date has shown that nature exposure can provide a wide range of mental health benefits, related to…stress and anxiety, sleep, emotional stability, and self-perceived welfare or quality of life.”* Depression, stress, and anxiety can lead to substance abuse or can be newly developed as a result of drug use. Nature is not an instant fix, but it is a wonderful and calming way to help many of those symptoms.

Types of Outdoor Recreation

Nature is a place where we can feel free from a society that is often over-saturated with technology. In addition to spending time outside, it can be even better for your mental health when you engage in physical activities. The number of outdoor activities are vast and are frequently free or often very cheap. This variety and affordability allows for you to find different activities that work best for you.

Some of the many types of outdoor recreation include hiking, rock climbing, trail running, mountain biking, and camping. You can also walk along flat trails for an easier physical activity, while still enjoying the nature around you. With every type of outdoor activity, you can work your way up to more challenging levels. While your brain benefits from simply being outdoors, you will also feel a mental boost from what you are able to accomplish.

Skiing or snowboarding are outdoor activities that can provide an experience that is thrilling and can be challenging. One of the most famous national parks in the world, is the Grand Canyon here in Arizona. While you can hike for a challenge, even just going to visit it and walking along the rim can be an unbelievable experience. The ability to view the Grand Canyon will fill you with awe, provide a sense of peace, and may help you to feel connected with the earth.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity.”

-John Muir

Another type of outdoor recreation is restoration and conservation volunteering. This is a way to help recover and preserve nature, which is especially important when it comes to the community you live in. Participating in this type of activity will help you learn, build social relationships, and feel a deep connection to the land around you. As our world becomes more urbanized, it is important that we engage in a serious effort to protect it.

Volunteering will help strengthen your community for support in your journey. It will also provide a sense of accomplishment that you are working on something much bigger than yourself. According to a study done in part by Rodlescia Sneed at Carnegie Mellon University, “Many people find volunteer work to be helpful with respect to stress reduction, and we know that stress is very strongly linked to health outcomes.”* When you are taking steps to reduce stress, you help ease any pressure on your overall health.

The Outdoors and Your Recovery

As previously stated, the great thing about outdoor recreation is the variety that you can choose from. This will help when it comes to cost, time, and level of difficulty. A California Parks Department study found, “Regular physical activity during recreation can reduce the severity of mental health disorders, enabling individuals to better cope with their daily lives.”* Physical exercise done outdoors is a great, and often free, resource to utilize.

 It is important to remember: none of this will be an instant fix. Still, it can help to alleviate symptoms and can help you cope with day-to-day life. It will never hurt to engage in behavior that strengthens your mental health. Of course, these activities also improve your physical health. This creates a positive cycle of getting your mental and physical health in a better place.

Addiction is a complex issue and maintaining sobriety is also complex. However, it is not impossible to maintain sobriety. It will take time, effort, and a community around you for support. Your journey may even involve failure or setbacks, but that is okay. Life is like that for everyone. When you engage in outdoor recreation, you are developing another tool as part of your continual journey in sobriety.

* California Parks & Rec – Health & Social
* NIH – Bringing Outdoor Therapies Into Mainstream Mental Health
* Harvard Health Publishing – Volunteering

The Benefits Of Adventure Therapy During Addiction Treatment

The most successful addiction treatment programs offer individualized care that addresses each patient’s unique needs. There are many benefits of getting outdoors during drug rehab, but adventure therapy takes this notion a step further, and can help people confront and overcome many of the issues typically associated with substance abuse.

How Young Clients Benefit From Adventure Therapy

Addiction can cause severe mental health problems or occur in tandem with preexisting mental health conditions and make them worse. Substance abuse is also a very alienating experience due to the stigma surrounding addiction and the common repercussions of addiction such as job loss, financial ruin, and destroyed relationships.

Rebuilding a life after addiction can be extremely difficult, especially for those suffering from low self-esteem, shame from past poor decisions, and alienation from loved ones. Adventure therapy rebuilds confidence and restores the body to pave the way for a more successful rehab experience.

Encouraging A Healthier Body For A Healthier Mind

Physical activity is undeniably healthy for everyone and it is especially beneficial when recovering from substance abuse. Addiction causes countless physical problems; some people expose themselves to infectious diseases from sharing drugs and drug supplies with others.

Some suffer injuries and illnesses that take longer to heal due to compromised immune systems. Others may suffer abuse and sexual assault that diminish mental health as well as physical health.

Exercise and sports support addiction recovery, and adventure therapy can provide even more individualized therapy for people struggling with addiction.

Overcoming Fears And Self-Doubt

Adventures like fishing trips, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, and rock climbing can help overcome long-standing fears and teach people in recovery more about themselves than they may expect.

Adventure therapy is much more than a jaunt outdoors for some fresh air; these experiences can help people with substance abuse problems confront aspects of themselves in a new light that they were unable to confront before.

A person who thought, “I could never climb a mountain”, and then actually does it, will start thinking about the other things he or she could accomplish with dedication and perseverance. Essentially, adventure therapy can be physically therapeutic as well as psychologically inspirational and offer the push a person needs to pursue addiction treatment wholeheartedly.

Learning From New Experiences And Making Changes

Experiences in adventure therapy can help reshape a person’s attitude about his or her life and offer new insights for tackling the problems common with substance abuse.

For example, a person struggling with a dual diagnosis for substance abuse disorder and depression may find that regular outdoor activity and the thrill of new experiences offers more profound relief from symptoms of depression than prescription drugs.

Even less intense adventures, like a simple camping trip, can be an invaluable experience. For example, people gathered around a fire is a profound and primitive experience that resonates with early man; fire was necessary for survival in the early days of mankind and gathering around a campfire was a sign of community and strength.

Fire offers warmth, a means of cooking food, and the connection human beings have with fire can inspire honest discussions and reveal the layers under a substance abuse disorder.

Developing Healthy Habits For Life After Rehab

Confronting fears and overcoming physical challenges during adventure therapy can be extremely therapeutic in many ways. These events can reshape a person’s attitude about him or herself and offer new insights into solving the problems that accompany daily life.

Adventures can also provide moments of clarity away from the usual distractions of everyday life that allow for deeper introspection and self-analysis in a calm, beautiful environment.

One of the most difficult aspects of recovery is learning to implement the lessons learned in rehab into normal life. Relapse is very common among people struggling with substance abuse, and there is no hard and fast method for preventing relapse; everyone has unique needs and risk factors that require individualized attention.

The lessons learned during adventures or while traversing the wilderness are invaluable and irreplaceable and leave a lasting impact that can benefit a person living in recovery for years to come.

No “Right” Way To Go Adventuring

Anyone considering adventure therapy should remember that these exercises are not about intensity nor are they solely focused on physical improvement. Everyone will learn different things and benefit from different outdoor activities in unique ways.

Ultimately, the goal of adventure therapy is to teach participants how to confront fears, overcome challenges, and learn new problem-solving techniques.

Physical activity also has strong links to mental health*, and regular exercise can boost creative thinking and improve neuroplasticity, improving memory and thinking processes over time that may have diminished due to drug abuse.

Research from the American Psychological Association reported that walking outdoors offers a more profound mental health benefit than walking indoors or on a treadmill. This could be a sign that despite the evolution of mankind and the massive amount of technology at our disposal, human beings still have a profound connection to the natural world and benefit greatly by walking through it, exploring it, and overcoming its challenges.

Adventure Therapy At Reflections Rehab

Reflections Rehab is an addiction treatment facility that offers a full range of substance abuse treatments and therapies with a special focus on outdoor activity.

We believe strongly that exercise and exploration are beneficial for everyone, but those struggling with substance abuse disorders can have especially valuable experiences by exploring the outdoors and learning more about their individual capabilities.

Recreational therapy of any kind offers tremendous benefits. Sports, physical games, and simply walking outside offer a tremendous level of relaxation and balance that can be difficult to find in the busy modern age.

Adventure therapy takes this further and encourages participants to confront their fears, solve problems, and appreciate their place in the natural world. Reflections Rehab provides individualized treatment plans for those struggling with addiction, so explore what we have to offer and contact us for more resources and information about your adventure therapy program.