Unfortunately, trauma is something that most people will experience in their lifetime. The effects of trauma can reach far and wide, affecting both the body and the mind. While the impact of trauma can be significant, it doesn’t have to stay that way; trauma can be healed. One way it can be healed is through nature immersion. Read on to discover how nature immersion can help empower the patient to take control of their healing.
Nature immersion, sometimes referred to as forest or outdoor therapy, is used as a complementary therapeutic technique. In nature immersion, patients are taken into the outdoors by a professional guide and taught to focus on their breath. This allows the patient to temporarily escape from the demands of life, appreciate nature, and adopt a meditative mindset.
An article from the International Journal of Research and Public Health explains, “Recent years have seen a rise in nature immersion programs that make use of Guided Forest Therapy walks in a standard sequence of sensory awareness activities to expose participants to natural environments in a safe but effective manner.”
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains, “A traumatic event is a shocking, scary, or dangerous experience that can affect someone emotionally and physically. Experiences like natural disasters (such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods), acts of violence (such as assault, abuse, terrorist attacks, and mass shootings), as well as car crashes and other accidents, can all be traumatic.”
It is important to note that trauma is subjective. As a result, what is considered traumatic for one person may not be considered traumatic for someone else.
Trauma can affect our bodies in multiple ways. According to an article in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, research shows that the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex parts of the brain are affected when we experience high levels of stress. These are the parts of the brain that alert the rest of the body of potential danger, also known as activating fight-or-flight mode.
Furthermore, the article goes on to explain, “Stress results in acute and chronic changes in neurochemical systems and specific brain regions, which result in long-term changes in brain ‘circuits,’ involved in the stress response.” As a result, the effects have lasting consequences on the nervous systems and mental health.
Once fight-or-flight mode is activated within the sympathetic nervous system, it will typically stay activated until the danger is gone. However, sometimes the body has a hard time recognizing that the threat has passed. As a defense mechanism, the amygdala keeps sending messages that danger is present and needs to be defended against. When this happens, the nervous system is stuck in hyperarousal. As a result, the brain and body sometimes disconnect from each other.
The good news is that, even though the brain and body can become out of sync, it’s possible to reconnect them healthily.
Nature immersion has multiple benefits, including positive impacts on mental and physical health. According to another article in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, researchers found that “forest therapy elicited a significant decrease in pulse rate, decrease in salivary cortisol levels, increase in positive feelings, and decrease in negative feelings.”
Another benefit of nature immersion is that it allows patients to process their emotions without having to verbally discuss them. It is important to note that program requirements will differ based on the individual’s needs and the treatment facility. However, as previously discussed, nature immersion is used for establishing a meditative mindset, controlling the breath, and connecting with the body and nature.
Another way nature immersion helps heal trauma is through physical activity. Statistics prove that physical and mental health are intertwined and can also influence each other. When used in conjunction with other techniques, physical exercise can effectively aid in healing trauma.
According to Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports, “Studies have also found that physical activity reduces the symptoms of depression as effectively as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), pharmacotherapy, and even bright light therapy in individuals with [major depressive disorder].” It is important to note that physical exercise does not have to be intensive to be effective. Sometimes, just moving one’s body outside can have a significant impact on mental health.
Here at Sage Recovery, we know how important it is to heal from trauma. That’s why we ensure that every single staff member is extensively trained to provide trauma-informed care. Our licensed master’s level clinicians specialize in innovative treatments to ensure that our clients receive the individualized care they deserve. These treatments include nature immersion, art therapy, equine therapy, and yoga. In addition to our robust, innovative treatment options, our clinicians are also experts in traditional evidence-based techniques. These techniques include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectal behavior therapy (DBT), and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).
Healing from trauma can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be done alone. Here at Sage Recovery, you’ll find that our friendly, empathetic staff are ready to walk alongside you every step of your healing journey. We believe there are multiple pathways to healing, which is why we offer a variety of innovative and traditional therapeutic techniques. Our clinicians will use their expertise to build a customized treatment plan that addresses your unique needs, desires, and goals to help you achieve lasting healing. Reach out to us today at (512) 306-1394 if you are ready to begin the healing process. We’re here to cheer you on every step of the way.