Leisure activities are often a tricky topic for individuals going through recovery and sobriety. This is because leisure is almost certainly directly tied to your first time engaging in drugs or alcohol. As that addiction grew there is a high probability that your hobbies and free-time activities suffered.
While diving back into those previous hobbies and activities can seem daunting, finding a new hobby or re-discovering love for an old activity is an exceptional way to help you stay sober and continue to grow in your recovery.
Utah and the Outdoors
Here in Utah we have top notch outdoor spaces packed with potential just minutes from our front doors. These spaces can provide fun, exercise, and escape for just about anyone, seasoned outdoorsman or not.
Places like Little Cottonwood Canyon, Arches National Park, and the Uinta Cache National Forest, amongst others, provide varying degrees of accessibility and adventure.
Some excellent sober activities to try in Utah include:
- Mountain Biking
Whether hiking with a group or biking alone sounds more appealing to you, the outdoors will be sure to help just about any individual find what they are looking for.
All of these activities come with their own unique balance of physical and mental benefits that will help you find a new favorite leisure activity or life long pursuit.
Physical Benefits of Outdoor Activities
The Physical benefits of outdoor activities are immense, especially at the higher altitudes found in our state.
When done at a high output all of the above activities work to help you boost your stamina, burn fat, and build muscle mass. By getting yourself in better shape you are more willing and able to get off the couch and use your leisure time to enhance your quality of recovery and life. This in turn limits your likelihood of relapsing or falling back into old habits.
Another positive aspect of exercise in the outdoors is the sort of “high” that many individuals experience when they exercise. This feeling is caused by the release of chemicals from the brain that are very similar to those triggered by drugs and alcohol. This “high” not only makes you feel good in the moment but can also work to draw you back to outdoor activities again and again.
On top of these positives, exercise is also proven to encourage new tissue growth and repair brain damage that may have been caused by prolonged drug or alcohol abuse. Starting to reverse these negative effects on the brain will only help you continue in your sobriety.
Remember, you do not have to be working extremely hard to gain a physical benefit from being outdoors. Even leisurely hikes or picnics in the mountains will be beneficial to your physical health.
Mental Benefits of Sober Outdoor Activities
Less discussed than physical benefits but arguably more important to a life of sobriety are the mental benefits of outdoor recreation. These benefits are often not as obvious on the surface as the physical benefits, but they are just as important.
Simply put, spending time exercising outdoors is fun, which is objectively good for your mental health. More specifically, spending time outside can greatly help you reduce stress and anxiety while increasing happiness.
Along with the reduced stress and increased happiness, spending time outdoors in green spaces is also proven to enhance attention span. A study at the University of Michigan saw participants attention spans increase by as much as 20% after spending just an hour outdoors.
This increased attention span, decreased stress and anxiety, and an all around clearer head will increase your personal happiness and help you thrive in your recovery.
Social Benefits of Sober Outdoor Activities
On top of the great physical and mental benefits outdoor activities provide, they also make it easy to find new friend groups and connect with other like minded people.
This leads to wonderful new friendships while also making it easier to avoid falling back into unhealthy relationships that may hurt your life of sobriety.
Now that you are hooked on the idea of getting outdoors where should you start?
Hiking and trail running is a great place to start because you hardly need anything to get involved and can easily start at a skill level that works for you. Just grab a water bottle and some snacks and you are off!
The following trails local to salt lake provide varying degrees of difficulty depending on where you want to start.
- Easy – Bonneville ShoreLine Trail
This trail is located in the foothills just above the University of Utah. Boasting 9.1 total miles of trail you can start from many different parking areas and partake in a fairly flat hike of any distance while enjoying the views of the Salt Lake Valley. The combination of popularity and accessibility of this trail makes it an excellent place to dive into hiking.
- Intermediate – Mt. Wire
Starting on the Bonneville ShoreLine Trail makes this a no brainer as your next adventure. 4.7 miles of quick elevation change and scenic overlooks make this hike worth it every time. As an added bonus multiple loop variations mean you can always turn around a little early if you bit off more than you can chew.
- Hard – Mount Olympus
Located just above 215, Mount Olympus is probably the most demanding hike not starting in one of the Cottonwood Canyons. This 8-mile hike covers 4,192ft of elevation on its way to a dramatic boulder-strewn summit. From this summit you can see the entire Salt Lake Valley below, we personally would recommend a sunrise mission to this one.
Remember that getting outside in any capacity has positive effects to help you with recovery. If adventurous outdoor activities aren’t for you, things as simple as taking a walk through a park or sitting next to a creek and thinking have all the same mental benefits as more involved outdoor adventures. The important thing is to find your comfort zone and continue to move forward in your recovery.
Time to Get Outside
Filling up leisure time is an immensely difficult and important aspect of recovery that many people struggle with. Venturing into the outdoors, especially here in Salt Lake City, provides an accessible, beneficial, and fun way to spend your time.
By heading outside you can fill up your leisure time with activities that positively impact your physical and mental health all while helping you make new memories and build new relationships.
Whether you decide to get into hiking, start skiing like you used to, or would rather simply sit by a stream and think, you can feel good about your choice knowing it is helping you continue on your path of sobriety and recovery.