Keeping steady on the road to recovery from an alcohol or drug addiction means more than just quitting a substance; it’s an entire lifestyle change. Rebuilding a healthy life not only helps keep the threat of relapse at bay, but also creates an overall sense of well-being by supporting your success with a vibrant, fulfilling purpose in life.
Creating healthy habits isn’t a one and done deal–it takes time. You’ll want to explore options until you find a few that are right for you. Many people start practicing healthy habits with exercise, hobbies and outdoor activities.
Find a Hobby
When you first began recovery you may have wondered how you will fill your time, actions and thoughts with something other than drugs, alcohol or other addictive substances. If the addiction has been controlling your life for a while, you may not even remember the last time you enjoyed any type of hobby. You can’t just force a hobby, especially if you want to stick with it. To turn a hobby into a habit you need to find something you like doing, that’s convenient to do and is rewarding. Here are a few ways to start:
● Jot down all the activities you enjoyed doing before substance abuse became an issue. Try rekindling your passion for something you used to enjoy.
● Do a simple Internet search for hobbies and activities and make a Pinterest board to categorize all the suggestions you find appealing.
● Explore different hobbies by joining sober friends on their favorite activities.
● Narrow down your options by choosing hobbies that are both mentally and physically challenging, but are simple, relaxing and won’t cause much stress.
Start an Exercise Program
There’s no doubt that recovery has its ups and downs. The stress can be unpredictable and overwhelming–but exercise can help. Recent research shows that adding an exercise routine to substance abuse treatment can help sustain a longer, more successful recovery. Just as there are many different reasons why a substance becomes an addiction, there are also many different reasons exercise can help:
● Exercise provides a healthy release for stress and tension, giving you both a physical and emotional distraction from coping with triggers in unhealthy ways.
● Substance abuse leads to an imbalance in brain chemistry that can damage your ability to feel happy, content and satisfied. Exercise boosts your natural levels of endorphins, a natural way to regulate brain chemistry and mood.
● Regular exercise can result in increased feelings of self-confidence and hopefulness. Working toward and achieving goals can create a powerful positive outlook for someone who might have, not too long ago, felt that the future was hopeless.
Like with choosing a hobby, exercise needs to be something you enjoy and can fit into your schedule in order for it to stick. Some people find exercise enjoyable when they work out with others, like taking a fitness class, yoga or starting a crossfit program. Other people want even more social interaction so they prefer exercise in the form of team sports, like joining a church or community softball league, playing in basketball pick-up games or joining a training group for a race.
Most psychologists agree that getting outside can benefit your recovery efforts, while also giving you a sense of purpose, instilling in you a peaceful feeling of calm and distract you when you might feel vulnerable or tempted. You can harness the beauty and bounty to nature to empower your recovery by:
● Planting a garden to give you a way to practice nurturing skills and eat healthier.
● Walking or hiking in the woods to help learn mindfulness and walking meditation.
● Participating in park or trail clean-ups to enhance your sense of community responsibility.
● Bird watching to build up the ability to feel compassionate toward nature–and eventually yourself.
Getting outside is a great way to combine a hobby with exercise. In fact, you don’t have to choose just one area to work on a healthy habit—starting a hobby, getting exercise, going outdoors and sustained recovery from drugs and alcohol can go hand-in-hand.
It is important to find activities that help you live a balanced life, especially when overcoming addiction. Start easy and simple to give your body and mind a chance to slow down and find joy on your recovery journey.