Understanding “Nature as Medicine” for Addiction Recovery

Addiction Recovery Publishing Addiction Recovery March 5, 2024

Understanding “Nature as Medicine” for Addiction Recovery

The iconic Greek philosopher Socrates said, “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” Nature is an essential part of what makes us who we are, and nature is the way in which we understand that we are not alone in the world. Yet, many people forget or forsake the benefits that nature has to offer. This is especially true for people who are struggling with addiction, and thus why nature is vital for addiction recovery. Yes, this is why we utilize “nature as medicine.”

What Does Healing at the Cellular Level Mean for Addiction Recovery?

Healing at the cellular level has to do with healing the mind, body, soul, and spirit. The mind has to do with our mental state, the body with our physical being, the soul with our psyche and/or self, and the spirit with something outside of ourselves. Some people may call this last spiritual aspect their “Higher Power” or God, and others may believe this spirituality to come from nature. The truth is that the two do not have to be bifurcated. Spirituality can exist both inside of us and outside of us in nature.

This is what healing at the cellular level means for addiction recovery. It means recovering from a “hopeless” state of being and being rocketed into a “4th dimension” of a life that is beyond what once could have never been imagined. 

The American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” This is what healing at the cellular level for addiction recovery is all about – healing what is inside of us so that we may experience all that is around us. In order to do this, we must also get to the root/core issues that underly our addictions.

What Does Getting at the Root/Core Issues Mean for Addiction Recovery?

The renowned Swiss psychologist and early addiction advocate Carl Jung famously said, “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” Getting to the root/core of our problems is essential if we are to fully heal and recover. 

There is a reason why many people in the recovery realm say that “the addiction or substance is merely but a symptom of deeper underlying issues.” Addictive behaviors don’t simply manifest out of nowhere. They are almost always linked to some other aspect of our lives. Usually, these are underlying emotional issues (potentially traumas) that have been breaking us down from the inside out. 

Now, there are many ways of getting to the root/core issues of our addiction. There are psychotherapeutic ways, such as utilizing cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Also, there are more holistic measures that we can take, such as yoga and meditation. Then, there are experiential therapies that can be used. The experiential therapy realm is where “nature as medicine” can begin to play a big role in addiction recovery.

Understanding “Nature as Medicine” for Addiction Recovery

When one thinks of the iconic German physicist Albert Einstein, they most likely don’t think of nature but rather more of scientific equations and hypotheses. However, Einstein was a big proponent of the healing powers of nature. He famously said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” 

Many of us lose our connection to nature, not intentionally, but because the 21st Century way of life has made connecting with nature evermore difficult. Also, many of us now live in urban hubs that have much less connection with nature. The online revolution of the last 30 years has also made nature interaction significantly less prioritized.

Now, according to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Worldwide, countries are gradually losing their ecosystems, as natural landscapes are being replaced by human-built features and infrastructures. According to the World Health Organisation, more than half of the world’s population has lived in an urban environment since 2014, and this is expected to increase to 65% by 2030. Along with the progression of urbanization, there has been an increasing amount of urban land and a decrease in forested habitats.” One way to combat this ever-increasing urbanization and its mental and physical consequences is via nature immersion therapy; “nature as medicine.”

What Is Nature Immersion Therapy?

Nature immersion therapy (also known as “nature therapy”) has gained a lot of traction in recent years. So, what exactly is it? According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Nature therapy is defined as ‘a set of practices aimed at achieving ‘preventive medical effects’ through exposure to natural stimuli that render a state of physiological relaxation and boost the weakened immune functions to prevent diseases.’ Unlike ‘specific effects’ that are typically anticipated from pharmacological treatments, nature therapy seeks to improve immune functions, prevent illnesses, and maintain and promote health through exposure to nature, with the consequent attainment of a state of relaxation.”

Now, while this “attainment of a state of relaxation” is essential to nature immersion therapy, it does not merely stop there. It is important to understand that nature immersion therapy is not merely “a walk in the woods.” No, it takes action and working with a therapeutic specialist to garner the full benefits of nature immersion therapy, of which there are many.

The following are just a few of the benefits that can be gained from nature immersion therapy:

  • Physical improvements, such as lowered blood pressure and increased stamina and strength
  • Psychological improvements that include reduced boredom, enhanced mood, and reduced agitation
  • Helps with cognitive functioning, such as improved memory and problem-solving
  • Aid in the building of communication skills
  • Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Can reduce cravings related to addiction
  • Helps with the creation of a spiritual life
  • Reduces the feelings of loneliness
  • Helps to connect one with their psyche, also called “the soul,” “the self,” and the “sub-conscience”

It should also be noted that there may be no better place on the planet to connect to nature than on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. Here, one can experience some of the most amazing waterfalls, such as the Rainbow Falls and the Akaka Falls, the most breathtaking overlooks, like Laupahoehoe Point, and beautiful beaches, such as Spencer, Carlsmith, and Richardson Beach. One can even experience the stunning spectacle that is the live Kilauea Volcano. Of course, the nature immersion does not stop on land on Hawaii’s Big Island. We also have the expansive Pacific Ocean to help us heal at the cellular level.

Utilizing the Ocean in Nature Immersion Therapy

The cherished novelist H. P. Lovecraft once said that the “Ocean is more ancient than the mountains, and freighted with the memories and the dreams of time.” Just as we believe that nature is medicine here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we also believe that the ocean has the ability to heal.

That is why we utilize the ocean as much as possible in our recovery plans. Our clients swim with the green sea turtles, which are specifically unique to the Hamakua Coast, where we are located. Many of our clients also choose to go on night swims with the majestic manta rays. Often, they come back expressing that their venture can be likened to a spiritual experience.

However, the ocean life and sea creatures are not where our interaction and ocean immersion therapy stop. A mere 15-minute journey from our 30-acre luxury recovery center sits one of the best surf breaks on the Big Island: Honoli’i. Here, our clients can get well riding some of the best waves in the world and heal at the cellular level as they mediate between catching them. Of course, just like nature immersion therapy, there is much more to surf therapy.

What Is Surf Therapy?

Surf therapy has been shown to be highly beneficial, yet many people are unfamiliar with what exactly it is. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Carefully planned water activities tailored to the needs of the individual can contribute to correct psychosocial and cognitive development. The International Surf Therapy Organization summarizes the benefits of adequately indicated surf therapy as follows: improved physical health and mobility; improved mental health, including reduction of specific symptoms, such as posttraumatic stress and depression; improved well-being (strengthening of trust and confidence, encouragement of independence, resilience and protective coping strategies) and improved social skills.”

Many people who struggle with addiction also struggle with issues of trauma (this goes back to the understanding of “root/core” causes). Surf therapy has been shown to be particularly helpful for people who struggle with trauma and issues related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Psychology, “The emerging evidence-base suggests that surf therapy is effective in improving mental health outcomes among vulnerable youth, disabled populations, and military veterans. For example, a study conducted in the United Kingdom examining the effects of surfing on the well-being of combat veterans found that surfing elevated subjective well-being through a sense of respite from worries, increased positive emotions, and connection with others. Surf therapy has also been found to be associated with significantly lower post-traumatic stress disorder and depressive symptoms, increases in positive affect, and decreased negative affect, anxiety, and depression.” Essentially, this is a modality that aids in healing at the cellular level.

What Is Horticulture Therapy?

Another therapy that utilizes the natural landscape of Hawaii to help heal at the cellular level is horticulture therapy. We take full advantage of that aspect here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab.

When someone walks onto our luxury 30-acre property, they will be met with an abundance of nature and horticulture. There are rows of citrus and fruit trees, such as tangerine, lime, orange, and longan (a local fruit that is exceptionally high in essential antioxidants). This is also an abundance of guava bushes, pineapple patches, and coconut trees. Then, there are a series of vegetable boxes, all thriving due to the cultivation by our clients.

According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Horticulture has been long used as a therapeutic activity for people with mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and depression. People’s interactions with plants, through goal-orientated horticultural activities in the form of active gardening, as well as the passive appreciation of nature, could be therapeutic to people with mental disorders in many ways.” The following are just a few of those therapeutic benefits:

  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Helps to stabilize mood and bring about a more positive outlook on life
  • Can lead to the formation of a deeper spiritual practice
  • Helps with cognitive capabilities, such as problem-solving and mental clarity
  • Reduces fatigue and can help with poor sleep patterns
  • Helps with communication skills
  • Can bring about a sense of belonging and purpose
  • Increases self-esteem
  • Can bring about a sense of accomplishment
  • Has been shown to reduce feelings of depression
  • Builds a new set of life skills

Utilizing Meditation and Yoga for Addiction Recovery

There are also many holistic practices that can benefit from the nature of Hawaii’s Big Island. Two of the most prominent are meditation and yoga. 

Yes, of course, these two practices can be utilized almost anywhere, but there is something particularly spiritual when they are practiced on one of the beaches overlooking the Pacific Ocean or employed with the sound of a cascading waterfall in the background.

What Are the Benefits of Yoga for Addiction Recovery?

Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years. It originated as a religious practice but has since been shown to be helpful in many different arenas. The renowned author and spiritual leader Amit Ray explains, “Yoga is not a religion. It is a science, science of well-being, science of youthfulness, science of integrating body, mind, and soul.”

Yoga has been shown to have many benefits. According to the International Journal of Yoga, “Yoga therapy involves instruction in yogic practices and teachings to prevent reduce or alleviate structural, physiological, emotional and spiritual pain, suffering or limitations. Yogic practices enhance muscular strength and body flexibility, promote and improve respiratory and cardiovascular function, promote recovery from and treatment of addiction, reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, improve sleep patterns, and enhance overall well-being and quality of life.” Meditation has been shown to offer similar benefits.

What Are the Benefits of Meditation for Addiction Recovery?

Meditation, too, is believed to have started as solely a religious practice. This is no longer the case. Amit Ray says of meditation, “God is whispering in your heart, in the whole existence, just tune your ears.” This “tuning in” also has a plethora of benefits that go with a sense of mindfulness.

Meditation has also been shown to be particularly helpful for addiction recovery. According to the peer-reviewed journal Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, “[B]eyond the context of acute mindful states [meditation], mindful traits may decrease cognitive, emotional, and behavioral tendencies that help sustain substance misuse. Indeed, trait mindfulness has been found to be positively associated with heightened executive control functioning, and small but statistically significant negative correlations have been found between trait mindfulness and craving, as well as substance use. As individuals with SUDs engage in mindfulness practices within MBIs [mindfulness-based interventions], they learn to cultivate trait mindfulness, providing a bulwark against substance use and relapse.”

Healing at the Cellular Level With Exclusive Hawaii Rehab

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, our primary goal is always to heal at the cellular level. This includes utilizing our belief in “nature as medicine” for addiction recovery.

William Shakespeare wrote, “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we believe that by touching nature, we can also learn to live whole again.

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we believe that “nature is medicine.” This is because of all the proven healing benefits of nature, especially where we are located here on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. Nature can truly heal us at the cellular level. If you feel like you or someone you love is struggling with issues of addiction, mental health, or co-occurring disorders, we can help get you on the positive path to long-term recovery. For more about nature immersion therapy, the specific beauty and sites accessible on Hawaii’s Big Island, and why they make recovery in Hawaii unlike any other place in the world, please reach out to Exclusive Hawaii Rehab today at (808) 775-0200.