Is a Warm Climate Better for Your Recovery?
When you are trying to decide where to go for treatment for addiction or mental health issues, there are many factors to consider–inpatient or outpatient? Near home or far away? What kind of therapeutic approach will work best for you? What kind of facilities would make you feel most comfortable? One consideration you may not have thought of is what kind of climate will best support your recovery. You may want to consider some place warm.
Although people living in cold climates love to point to the character building effects of digging your car out of a foot of snow on a cold morning, there are some good reasons to believe that warmer weather is actually healthier. If you are recovering from addiction or mental illness, you’re not just letting go of destructive behaviors; you’re also giving your body and mind a chance to heal. There are some compelling reasons it might be better to do that in a warm climate.
The sun is good for you, mostly.
People spend more time outside in the sun when the weather is warm. Exposure to sunlight is how your body produces vitamin D, which is necessary for many vital functions and has been linked to improved mood, stronger bones, and lower risk of cancer, heart disease, and depression.
Sunlight plays an important role in regulating our circadian rhythms. When you don’t get enough sun, you may end up feeling half asleep all the time because your brain never got the signal to wake up. Additionally, many people suffer from seasonal affective disorder, that awful feeling you get when you only have eight hours of gray daylight. If you do live in a cooler, more northern climate, the lack of sunlight may be holding you back by making you feel unnecessarily depressed.
Longer days and more sunlight in the winter means less risk of seasonal affective disorder. The only caveat is that you don’t want to spend so much time in the sun that you damage your skin and risk melanoma.
Warm weather means more exercise.
Most people want to get outside when the weather is nice. Even if it’s a bit hot, you can at least go to the pool or beach. New research shows that exercising in hot weather–within reason–may actually have additional benefits, including better cardiovascular health, reduced anxiety, and better mood. When it’s warm, you want to walk places and do things outside. You end up getting quite a bit of exercise without really trying. When it’s cold, people tend to stay inside, maybe going to the gym if they get any exercise at all. There are fewer options when it’s cold and most people just want to be cozy.
Disease spreads faster in cold weather.
There are several reasons the winter is cold and flu season. People are packed inside together, breathing the same air. Whenever someone sneezes the drops stay suspended longer in the cold air and travel farther. Your mucous membranes are drier and less efficient at catching germs early. Less sunlight and less exercise means people’s immune systems are weaker and they’re more prone to illness. None of these problems are as bad in warmer climates.
When recovering from addiction or mental illness, the last thing you want to deal with is a physical illness too. Colds and flus drag you down, mimicking depression in some ways, and isolating you from other people. That is the exact opposite of what you want. It’s important to build relationships during treatment. That sense of connection is vital to your recovery, and you don’t want some virus to slow you down.
People live longest in warm climates.
Author Dan Buettner identified five regions, Blue Zones, where people often live more than 100 years, and they are all in relatively warm climates. They are Okinawa, Sardinia in Italy, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Icaria in Greece, and Loma Linda in California. Unfortunately, a warm climate is not sufficient to guarantee a long life, but it seems to help, mainly for the reasons above. People living in warmer climates walk more, which means they get more fresh air, and see their friends and neighbors more. They are more likely to have gardens in warmer climates too. Keeping a garden is good for you because it promotes both daily physical activity and healthy eating.
Warm climates typically have greater biodiversity.
There are exceptions, of course, such as deserts, but in general, the warmer a climate is, the more different kinds of life there is. Energy is more abundant and more species can thrive. Studies have shown that spending time in natural environments has many positive impacts on our health, including better mood, more resistance to illness, and less stress. Diverse species of plants and animals present novel stimuli to your brain, engaging your attention and curiosity.
Warmer weather means less stress.
Cold weather puts a lot of stress on your body. Your muscles contract to keep you warm, there’s more danger of getting sick, and you would rather bundle up than open up. Of course, stress happens in every climate, but humans evolved in warmer climates and we’re generally more comfortable being a little too warm than a little too cold. That lower level of baseline stress makes it easier to relax and open up.
If you’re struggling with addiction or mental illness, The Dawn Medical Rehab and Wellness center can help. We are one of Thailand’s most respected addiction treatment and wellness centers. We use cutting-edge treatment modalities to provide personalized care to treat addiction, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, PTSD, and executive burnout. See our contact page to reach us by phone or email.