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The Positive Effects of Sober Outdoor Activities

hikers crossing a river outdoors

If you are in recovery from a substance use disorder, sober outdoor activities can help you stay on track. Connecting with the outdoors helps reduce stress, depression, and anxiety, all of which are known risk factors for relapse. Outdoor activities can increase your sense of well-being as you enjoy nature either on your own or with other health-minded people.

Whether you are just beginning your recovery journey or have been in recovery for some time, you are forging a new, healthy path. The more invested you become in your physical, mental, and spiritual health, the more likely you are to embrace your life as a happy, productive, and sober person.

Benefits of Sober Outdoor Activities

Successful recovery often means cutting ties with people, places, and activities associated with past drug or alcohol use. Forming new friendships with other sober people, learning new activities, and connecting with the natural world are powerful ways to support your sobriety.

The health and social benefits of outdoor activities include personal and spiritual growth, a better quality of life, and greater life satisfaction.

Here are some of the many ways sober outdoor activities can benefit you physically, mentally, and socially:

Physical Benefits

  • Depending on your level of activity, you can boost endurance, improve your range of motion and increase muscle strength.
  • Outdoor exercise can trigger the release of endorphins in the brain, creating a sense of well-being and making you want to repeat the experience.
  • Studies find exercise speeds the repair of damage to the brain and body caused by repeated drug or alcohol use. Research shows people heal faster when they are in natural environments.

Mental and Emotional Benefits

  • Various studies have found outdoor activities promote a positive attitude, decrease stress and anxiety, improve focus, increase self-awareness and improve overall happiness.
  • University of Michigan research published in Psychological Science found that interacting with nature, walking in a park, or simply looking at pictures of nature increased memory and attention span by about 20 percent in study participants.
  • Connecting with nature increases awareness of yourself and your surroundings, which can enhance your sense of belonging in this world and lead to inner calm.
  • Outdoor activities help you overcome isolation and boredom, both major risk factors for relapse.
  • Interacting with people and activities outdoors helps you discover you can have fun without addictive substances.

Social Benefits

  • Outdoor activities provide the opportunity to connect with others who value a sober lifestyle, share your enjoyment of outdoor activities and nature, and support one another in their sobriety.
  • Sharing outdoor experiences with others helps you improve your social and communication skills. Group activities also help you improve problem-solving skills and promote teamwork.
  • Taking on new challenges can improve your self-esteem and give you the confidence to cope with the unexpected, which is vital to successful recovery.
  • Making plans with others, whether indoors or outdoors, helps you stay motivated to keep your commitments and recovery goals.

Examples of Sober Outdoor Activities

  • Running, walking, hiking
  • Bicycling
  • Kayaking, canoeing
  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice skating
  • Climbing
  • Team sports
  • Gardening or visiting a garden, park, or arboretum
  • Outdoor yoga or meditation
  • Viewing the night sky
  • Picnicking in a scenic area
  • Relaxing by the water
  • Attending an outdoor concert or another outdoor event

Resources

It is easier to make a major lifestyle change when you have support. There are many organizations, community groups, and resources geared to help you have fun, improve your health and make new friends as an active, sober person.

The Phoenix is a sober active community for all those on the recovery path, whether you are just beginning your recovery journey or have years of sobriety. They offer activities and events in person, on-demand, or via live stream. The goal of both Phoenix staff and members is to support one another on their recovery journey.

Activities offered by The Phoenix include exercise and mindfulness classes, rock climbing, bicycling, running, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, camping, water sports, and social meetups. The only cost of membership is 48 hours of sobriety.

Meetup.com Sober currently has 161 groups dedicated to sober activities. If there isn’t a group in your area, consider organizing one.

If you live in the Tampa, Florida area, The Phoenix Tampa’s Sober Community is a meetup group that provides free events to anyone with 48 hours of sobriety. Meet sober friends for a workout or a walk or to play games, paddleboard, rock climb or share coffee and dinner.

Sober Outside provides co-ed and women-only travel adventures in the U.S. and overseas for the sober community. They are alcohol and drug-free, meaning they strictly ban alcohol or drug use on their trips. Sober Outside trip planners focus on helping travelers enjoy nature in some of the world’s most beautiful locations.
Sober Travel provides alcohol-free health and wellness travel experiences for people in 12-step recovery and their families and friends.

Recovery is a lifelong journey. Never hesitate to reach out for help if you feel you are in danger of relapse. Contact your treatment program, your support group sponsor, your physician, or one of the support groups listed on the SAMHSA virtual recovery site.

Turning Point of Tampa has been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Addiction, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987. If you need help or know someone who does, please contact our admissions department at 813-882-3003800-397-3006 or admissions@tpoftampa.com.