Green trees, parks, and beautiful vibrant outdoor scenery is something that is immediately associated with a calming effect for many people. Seeing green spaces from your home can even reduce alcohol cravings. In a recent study conducted by the University of Plymouth has shown the health benefits of green spaces and cravings. Spending time in nature and seeing it from your home can greatly reduce cravings associated with alcohol addiction and experiencing negative emotions that often prompt cravings for alcohol.
Green Spaces, Alcohol Cravings and Mental Health
Spending time in nature has long been recommended to everyone, from kids to adults, but now especially to people in recovery from drugs and alcohol. The study that was done by the University of Plymouth shows the link between green spaces and reduced craving strength and frequency for alcohol. The link between green spaces and mental health is undeniable. Green space is an umbrella term for either maintained or unmaintained environmental areas such as parks, nature preserves, and parks.
In urban areas, people who have greater access to green space have less mental distress, less anxiety and depression, greater wellbeing, and healthier cortisol levels compared to those in urban areas with less accessible green space. Consistent exposure to green space from childhood can even prevent some psychiatric disorders like depression. The beneficial effects aren’t limited to children, while it can improve their mental health, green space also has a strong benefit for adults.
Adults in urban settings often deal with many stressors from work, family, a daily commute to bills, and balancing home life. Adults who are in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction also must factor in the stress from maintaining sobriety, healthy meeting attendance, and step work. Although some days are easier than others to maintain sobriety, cravings can still pop up from time to time. Green space can help to reduce stress, which often triggers cravings. There have also been links between exercising and an increase in mental health and reducing stress. There have also been links between exercising outdoors as well. Although not everyone is a fan of exercise or may be limited by seasonal weather, having access to green space is beneficial with or without exercise.
Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders
The association between substance use disorders and mental health has long been a topic of discussion, especially in recent years. Mental health disorders can trigger substance use disorders, and substance use disorders can trigger mental health disorders. Being that addiction to drugs and alcohol is a threefold disease that affects mind, body, and spirit all must be treated.
Addiction is treatable, just like other mental health disorders. Green spaces can benefit from recovery from both mental health disorders and drug and alcohol addiction. Mental health can be treated a variety of ways, just as substance use disorders. At GH Recovery Solutions, we focus on both group therapy and a 12-step immersion program. All of these combined treatment methods help our clients to heal from substance use disorders and help manage mental health disorders. Our treatment center in scenic Nashua, New Hampshire, which offers an array of green spaces that help our clients in their recovery. Our alumni camping (https://ghrecovery.com/treatments/alumni-program/)trips also help to get clients and past clients together in an outdoor setting to show them the usefulness of being outdoors and how it can assist their sobriety.
When mental health disorders, like depression and anxiety, arise, it can cause cravings for drugs or alcohol because that was a coping mechanism to deal with those feelings in the past. Green space ties into alleviating some of these symptoms that often trigger cravings. While this is not a cure-all for dealing with cravings, green space is a free and easily available addition to a recovery toolbox.
How do Green Spaces Help Alleviate Alcohol Cravings?
While the exact reason why green spaces help alleviate unhealthy cravings hasn’t been announced, but it’s been proven that they do. While holistic recovery isn’t for everyone, some prefer 12-step meetings or therapy, but green space can work wonders for mental health. Research has shown that people who have visibility of green spaces from their homes and have access to green space in the neighborhoods have lessened frequency and intensity of cravings. The cravings don’t just apply to alcohol and drugs, but also for nicotine and unhealthy foods.
Green Spaces Lessen Cravings for Unhealthy Foods as Well
For those in early recovery, food and nicotine become a comfort item in the place of drugs and alcohol. Some foods, especially junk and high sugar foods, flood the brain with dopamine the same way that drugs of abuse such as cocaine, and alcohol. Cravings for unhealthy food are very similar to cravings for drugs and alcohol. The craving is about requiring a “reward.” The reward center in the brain is flooded with dopamine and makes you feel good. The same way that drugs and alcohol interact in the brain. The cravings that lead to eating more junk food also leads to tolerance in the same way that repeated use of addictive drugs does.
By green space lessening the frequency and intensity of cravings for drugs, alcohol, nicotine, and junk food it allows people to not give up one harmful addiction for another. The thoughts, cravings, and behaviors related to craving unhealthy foods are similar to those tied into addiction.
How to Incorporate Green Space into Your Daily Life in Recovery from Alcohol and Drug Addiction
Some of us aren’t fortunate enough to have access to green space already, either from living in extremely urbanized areas or long work schedules. Here are 10 easy ways to incorporate green space into your daily life in recovery from drugs and alcohol.
- Go to your local park
- Put a plant in your office and home
- Open your curtains in your home and see the greenery outside
- Make time to go to local nature reserves and parks
- Go to a 12-step fellowship meeting that’s outdoors
- Start a community garden
- If you have dogs, take them to a dog park
- Eat your lunch outdoors if weather permits during the workday
- Go for a walk around your community
- Try a leisure activity outdoors on the weekend like reading, step work or meditation
The benefits of being outside and seeing green space are extremely helpful, even if it’s just a short amount of time per day. The free benefits and the decrease in lasting, strong cravings for alcohol, drugs, and unhealthy foods can greatly improve your mental health. Many of those in recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol also struggle with mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. Green spaces can help to alleviate some of the symptoms associated with these mental health disorders while helping to alleviate cravings that mental health disorders can create.
Green Space at GH Recovery
GH Recovery Solutions is a drug and alcohol rehab in Nashua, New Hampshire. In Nashua, you are surrounded by green space and can incorporate it into your daily recovery program and experience the benefits from green space. We offer cutting edge addiction treatment modalities and can help you recover in a serene and peaceful setting. Contact us today at 888-345-2025. You can heal, we can help.