Take a Hike! Why Is Nature Important to Health?

Take a Hike! Why Is Nature Important to Health?

Nature is our life-support system. According to the World Health Organization's report, “Ecosystems and Human Well-Being," nature is “indispensable to the well-being and health of people.” The first element of a person's needs, according to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, begins with one's environment: food, water, and shelter.

Our environment sustains us, both emotionally and physically. Without nature, we would have nothing. As the world becomes increasingly urban, finding options for natural experiences becomes limited. Our ability to live well and eat well is determined by supermarkets and screens. We often opt for quick fixes for our attention, cognitive well-being, and wellness. However, the best fix for what ails us can be found in green (parks, trees, and fields) and blue (water scenes, oceans, and rivers) spaces.

Our health relies on how we feed our minds and bodies. When one considers this, the option of farm-to-table eating becomes more necessary than before.

What Is Farm-to-Table?

Farm-to-table was developed in 1915 by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. He believed the ability of farmers to sell directly to consumers and that individuals growing their own food was more beneficial than over-commercializing the process of getting food to consumers. So, farm-to-table was born and encouraged local produce to be delivered to more localized areas, improving residents' health outcomes. When food is grown and produced locally, it offers a surplus of personal and environmental benefits.

For example, when grown and consumed locally, honey protects consumers from local allergens. Local meat and vegetables grown by individual farmers have greater nutritional content than those grown on large corporate farms. Sustainable and conscientious farming occurs more often at the local level than in larger corporate farms. Also, when using a farm-to-table focus, food is delivered safely with less waste and more focus on consumer needs.

Healthy eating is just one benefit of nature. This nature intervention benefits our physical well-being through food, but there are other benefits to be derived from nature.

How Can Nature Help Our Mental Health?

Research shows that various experiences with nature are associated with improved mental health status. Experiences in nature can have a positive effect specifically on our cognitive well-being, including functions related to:

  • memory
  • attention
  • impulsive inhibition
  • imagination
  • creativity

As a society growing more and more fixated on screen time, we ignore the many benefits that nature offers. There was a lower incidence of mental and physical health problems in years past since people more readily engaged with nature. Also, there was less urban development, meaning more nature was available to the public at large. As opportunities to engage with nature declined, stress increased, and positive well-being decreased.

Mental health is critical to the development of self-esteem, creativity, and one's ability to withstand stressors without resorting to behaviors that can cause long-term problems. Nature provides a means of developing positive well-being, either by actively engaging with it or simply observing it.

How Can Nature Impact Our Physical Health Beyond Food?

While eating a healthy diet from locally grown food can benefit our bodies, another benefit to our bodies comes from experiencing nature. Being in nature is known to:

  • Improve cognitive functioning related to:
    • concentration
    • memory
  • Increase productivity
  • Increase sense of community
  • Improve self-esteem, mood, and relaxation
  • Improve heart health

In an article published in the Health Place journal, researchers explain how everyday contact with nature can improve quality of life and reduce the impact of disease in multiple populations. Overall, there is growing evidence of the positive impact of nature on one's physical well-being. This impact should not be overlooked.

How Can You Best Interact With Nature?

While society has moved away from wide-open spaces, finding a means of experiencing parks, trees, and open fields will improve your mood and other health outcomes. The same can be said for walking along waterways and seeing rivers, oceans, and streams. Any form of nature exposure will help improve your outlook on life and help you develop positive coping skills for dealing with difficult situations.

However, for those that live in urban areas, finding opportunities to explore and experience nature may be difficult. So, viewing photos and videos – and even imagining being in a natural setting – can improve your mental health and reduce the risk of physical problems.

At Enlightened Solutions, we recognize the value of engaging with the natural world. We provide access to Hope Farm and other natural resources, which enable our clients to enjoy local trails and local produce. We believe in the power of nature to improve well-being both physically and emotionally. We believe in holistic care and treating the individual's whole self: body, mind, and spirit.

Experiencing nature is critical to beginning the process of recovery and becoming your best self. At Enlightened Solutions, we recognize nature as an important component in healing from addiction to alcohol and/or other substances or behaviors. One's well-being in recovery is dependent upon a variety of factors, not just overcoming addiction, which is why we focus on helping the whole person and offer holistic therapies. We follow 12-Step programming and encourage our clients to pursue complete recovery in all aspects of their lives. We offer a variety of services beginning from detox to outpatient care and believe in your ability to recover. Our caring, professional staff are ready and able to help you. Reach out to us today and learn how we can support you in finding your best life. Call Enlightened Solutions at (833) 801-LIVE and begin the process of recovery. You are worth it. 

6 Added Benefits of Giving up Alcohol

6 Added Benefits of Giving up Alcohol

When you decide to quit drinking, there might be one big reason: something important that made you decide something has to change. Maybe you lost your job because of drinking, maybe your spouse threatened to leave, or maybe you got arrested for drunk driving. It often takes a major shock to see how much of a problem alcohol has become.

On the other hand, you may fall into the category of just drinking a bit too much. It’s not a problem yet but it may become a problem. Whatever your situation, quitting drinking can significantly improve the quality of your life. The following are some of the bonuses you get when you quit drinking.

Weight Loss

People often don’t realize how much alcohol makes you gain weight. First, alcohol is loaded with calories. On average, one serving of vodka has about 65 calories, a glass of red wine has about 125 calories, and a can of beer has about 150 calories. That might not seem like much, but how often do you only have one serving? Even just two beers a day can add up to about 2,000 extra calories every week.

And it’s not just the calories. Alcohol impairs sleep, which has been linked to weight gain and it changes your hormonal balance, making it harder to lose fat. Obesity isn’t only about vanity either. Obesity increases your risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain kinds of cancer, and other health problems.

People are often surprised by how easily they lose weight once they stop drinking. Often, people don’t even have to try. They just naturally consume fewer calories, they sleep better, they’re more active, and they have a healthier hormone balance. The only caveat is that some people replace alcohol with sweets, so you have to be careful about that.

Better Sleep

Although alcohol helps you fall asleep more quickly, it makes your sleep worse overall. You experience less restorative deep sleep—which, as noted above, can contribute to weight gain—and you spend more time in shallow REM sleep. Your sleep is also more often interrupted after the first few hours. As the alcohol is metabolized and leaves your system, your anxiety shoots up and you sleep fitfully for the rest of the night. This has many negative consequences, including increased alcohol use, next day tiredness, more frequent illnesses, poor concentration, and increased anxiety.

Clearer Thinking

One of the most noticeable effects of a chronic sleep deficit from drinking is muddled thinking. Studies show that sleep deprivation and sleep deficit have a number of cognitive effects, including poor concentration, poor working memory and long-term memory, diminished self-control and emotional regulation, and poor decision making. As a depressant, alcohol can worsen the symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders, which can impair concentration, diminish motivation, and increase worry and rumination.

None of these things are compatible with clear thinking or good decisions. Depending on how heavily you drink, you should find your head clearing up pretty quickly after you quit. If you’re a heavy drinker, you might go through a rough patch of anxiety, insomnia, and irritability as you detox. Detoxing in a facility can help minimize these symptoms.

No Hangovers

People who have been drinking a lot for a long time often forget what it’s like to wake up without a hangover. For these people, the first time they wake up after a solid night’s sleep with no hangover feels like a revelation. Ethanol and dehydration are two major factors that contribute to hangover symptoms. Tannins also appear to play a role in hangovers as well as alcohol metabolism, which varies significantly among people.

Poor sleep and crashing blood sugar probably enter into it as well. Whatever the underlying causes and the specific misery of your own hangovers, it’s not something anyone misses. Waking up feeling refreshed changes your whole orientation to the day.

Looking Younger

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes you to dry out. This reduces the elasticity of your skin, making it look more wrinkled. However, at a certain point, after losing water, your body starts retaining water, so you become bloated. That means, after a night of heavy drinking, you can wake up looking both wrinkled and puffy. Poor sleep also contributes to your appearance. No one looks too good after a night of little sleep and that takes place every night that you drink.

In the long term, the effects are even worse. Lack of sleep impairs your ability to recover from injuries and leads to more frequent illnesses. Alcohol also impairs the absorption of nutrients in your digestive tract, meaning heavy drinkers are often malnourished, which also affects your appearance. When you quit drinking, you start looking better pretty quickly. You’re not sleep deprived or dehydrated. Your liver is able to function more effectively. As time goes on, you get healthier and look better.

Extra Money

As addictions go, alcohol is relatively cheap but an alcohol use disorder can be very expensive. If you drink a lot, the price of alcohol itself can add up, especially if you often drink at bars and clubs. However, the real costs come from the secondary effects: needing to catch a cab or Uber when you’re too drunk to drive home, losing your job, or failing to advance in your career because of your drinking. Other expenses such as legal fees for alcohol-related incidents can really drain your bank account.

Just as with weight loss, people are often surprised by how much extra money they seem to have once they quit drinking. That 20 dollar bill stays in their pocket a lot longer and they have the opportunity to make more money at work.

Nothing on the above list is likely to be your main reason for giving up alcohol. Addiction has deep and complex roots and the desire to lose a few pounds will never compete with the desire to feel loved or the desire to stop feeling tormented by traumatic memories. However, losing weight, sleeping better, thinking more clearly, not having hangovers, looking younger, and having extra money are nice bonuses that assure you that you made a good decision.

At Enlightened Solutions, we know that addiction is complex and we treat the whole person: mental, physical, and spiritual. We know that to overcome addiction, you have to treat the underlying causes and we also believe that treatment should be an experience that improves your quality of life overall. To learn more, call us today at (833) 801-5483.

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Could Mindfulness Help With Cravings?

We often talk about cravings in recovery like a monster under the bed- if you let them grab a hold of you, you’re a goner. Cravings are, but also are not, that serious. Cravings are a reaction of the brain. Chemical reactions, cravings occur for different reasons. For example, the brain might be processing some residual toxins, memories, and associations which lead to cravings. On the other hand, there might be a circumstantial event which triggers some kind of pain or discomfort in the brain, causing it to want to produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter for pleasure. Long Term substance abuse damages the brain’s ability to produce enough of its own dopamine, at least not to a level that creates the same effect as drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, the brain becomes accustomed to such levels and when it cannot achieve them, especially in response to pain or a perceived threat, it produces cravings. Cravings happen because during addiction drugs and alcohol are the answer to everything. Thus, in order to cope with everything, the brain learns to rely on drugs and alcohol. Without mind altering substances, the brain experiences cravings.

Sometimes cravings are a passing experience. Other times, they are an indicator of spending too much thinking time in euphoric recall. Being mindful of your cravings can help you notice what is going on with them: where they are coming from, what triggered them, and what you need to do to calm them down.

According to Mindful, “Mindfulness could be the key to cutting the link between conditioned cues of desired objects and the craving that leads to addictive behavior.” The article emphasizes that just trying to cut off the thoughts where they are is a futile attempt. Instead, mindfulness helps you “build flexibility into how you relate to your own desirous thoughts...what you need is a heaping helping of mindful awareness of thinking-- of observing your own thoughts without buying into them as absolute truth or trying to force them away.”

Running away from your thoughts and creating a negative association only perpetuates the problem. You conditioned your brain to reward satisfying cravings to cope with negativity of any kind. Giving into cravings for drugs and alcohol doesn’t work either. “What’s more helpful,” the article emphasizes, “is to build your capacity to serve as a witness to your own thoughts.” “Typically, when we think about something we crave, that thought feels very close, as if it’s inside us, part of who we are.” People often take their cravings as serious signs that they are

going to relapse. Mindfulness helps create distance between the mechanics of cravings and reality. As the article explains, “Mindfulness helps us see the thought as merely a moment of information.” Practicing mindfulness with your moments of cravings helps you gain the information you need to make an adjustment to your recovery program and move through the moment.

Cravings are a natural part of recovery. Learning how to live and cope with cravings is an essential part of treatment. Lifelong recovery is possible. Let the compassionate care at Enlightened Solutions show you the way. For information on our programs, call 833-801-5483.

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Laughing Yoga? Using The Breath And Humor For A Good (Healing) Time

Laughter yoga has a simple goal: to make you laugh. Laughter is good for the soul. According to research, it’s also good for the heart, the body, and the mind. Voluntary laughter is a practice of getting yourself to laugh for an extended period of time. For laughter yoga sessions, the goal is usually about an hour. Laughter requires a lot of air intake, either in short spurts or long breaths. In between hysterics there are usually pauses of taking a deep breath, to replenish the lungs. This is the hidden benefit of laughter yoga: oxygen.

One certified laughter yoga practitioner explains that “laughter leads to deep breathing, which sends ample oxygen to the brain When the brain has obtained proper oxygen levels, it functions at peak capacity.” The breath is critically important. Basic physiological science teaches us that breath is a matter of life or death. Once we stop breathing, oxygen stops flowing to the brain. The brain needs oxygen to survive. The brain needs to survive so that it can tell other organs to keep working- like the heart. When we are sad, depressed, or not focused, we breathe in a very shallow manner. Short, shallow breaths cut off oxygen to the brain. It’s because of the amount of oxygen we take in during laughter that makes us feel so good. After a good laugh we might as well say “I need all that oxygen!” rather than say “I needed a good laugh”. A healthy brain is an oxygenated brain. An oxygenated brain is one that feels more positivity and releases higher levels of dopamine, serotonin, and influences production of endorphins.

The Spiritual Undertones Of Laughter Yoga

Forced or voluntary laughter is a way to create more authentic laughter. Laughter can be uncomfortable when we are taking life very seriously. Breaking through the ice is what laughter yoga does. Through a series of exercises, the laughter yoga coach creates forced laughter. Soon, everyone bursts out into real laughter and can’t stop laughing. The philosophy behind this exercise is about letting go, surrendering, and realizing that sometimes you have to laugh. There is a famous saying in recovery “don’t take yourself too seriously”.

Recovery starts with you. Start your recovery with Enlightened Solutions. We know that addiction is no laughing matter. Recovery will bring a smile to your face again. If you are ready to heal, call us today for more information on our partial care programs at 833-801-5483.

5 Benefits Of Spending Time Around Trees

Trees are gifts to the world which grow out of the ground. Enhance your recovery by spending time in the greenery provided by trees and reap the benefits.

Benefits Of Spending Time Around Trees

  1. Clean Air, Clean Breathing, Clean Living. Trees are natural anti-pollutants. Ever driven up a mountain to the forest and notice the air just smells and feels different? High density tree areas create cleaner air which helps you breathe cleaner air. Studies have found that spending time in nature can inspire you to take more action environmentally and ecologically. All that clean oxygen goes right to your head and your heart.
  2. Tress Live Long And So Can You. Seeing, visiting, and living in green areas increases longevity, some research suggests. Greenery and green spaces help people feel more relaxed, breathe deeper breaths, and reduce their stress. As a result, their immune system enhances in its functions, preventing a wealth of diseases from developing. The more green space the better.
  3. Trees Make You Happy. Not everyone is a nature person. However, it is difficult not to be moved emotionally or spiritually by an especially beautiful tree. Trees have a deep and mysterious energy, like wise sages. Spending time around trees has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety while increasing feelings of wellbeing, safety, and self-esteem, as well as body image.
  4. Trees Make You Sleepy. From the subtle sound of the air moving through the leaves, to the rich oxygen, to the calming presence of their stature, trees help you get better sleep. Studies have found that there is a correlation in patterns of sleep and proximity to trees. See trees all day and sleep soundly.
  5. Trees Are Regenerating. John Muir was no stranger to the healing benefits of trees. In fact, he quite literally wrote the book(s) on it. Muir felt that regular retreats to the forest and the mountains were necessary for optimal health and happiness. Spending a weekend walking among the trees can help you recenter, reboot, and revitalize your recovery.

Enlightened Solutions is located in beautiful Egg Harbor City, New Jersey, surrounded by beautiful trees and lush green landscape. Our residential treatment programs use spiritual twelve step philosophy with proven holistic treatment methods to provide a program for mind, body, and spirit. It’s time to learn how to enjoy life again. For more information, call 833-801-5483.

The Best Part Of Waking Up

It isn’t always easy to wake up to another day. When we are in the throes of withdrawals, experiencing something difficult in treatment, or going through a bout of depression, a new day isn’t exciting. We quickly forget to count our blessings. Another morning of waking up means another day alive and a new chance for living.

Waking Up With Your Alarm Clock!

The snooze button is an illusion. Yes, it is there, and yes, it feels good to hit it a few times or dozen, but it actually doesn’t help you get any more sleep. In fact, it can make you even more tired. Set your alarm clock earlier by 5 minutes each morning. Avoid hitting snooze by setting your clock on the other side of the room.

Meditating When You Wake Up!

Our brains go in three directions upon waking: thinking everything, thinking nothing, and probably thinking about having to go to the bathroom. Studies have shown that letting your brain buzz, getting lost in scrolling through your social media news feed, or sitting in bed swimming in thoughts, is bad for productivity. Choose instead a mindful and meditative practice for the morning. Try to stretch each of your limbs for fifteen seconds to get the blood flowing.

Cooking and Eating Breakfast!

Some people claim to just not be breakfast people. Most nutritious studies assert that breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it gives your brain its first boost of energy. One of the best meals you can make for breakfast to support mental health is eggs with avocado along with a whole grain like whole wheat toast or brown rice and quinoa.

Drinking A Glass of Water Or Juice!

After anywhere between 6-10 hours of sleep your body is aching for something to drink. Downing a full eight ounces of liquid early in the morning helps set your metabolism and replenish your body. Take that first thing in the morning bathroom trip, then follow it up with a nice refreshing glass.

Enlightened Solutions is committed to helping you and your loved one discover a new way of life. Our program is about holistic lifestyle healing in addition to treatment. For more information on our certified dual diagnosis programs, call 833-801-5483.