When I first got sober, the drugs had been removed, but I was left with depression and crippling anxiety. The medications I was prescribed certainly helped alleviate some of my symptoms, but I quickly realized that medication alone couldn’t fully treat my mental health. However, through practicing these 5 things daily, I am able to keep both my mental health and recovery in check.
Incorporating healthy habits into your everyday life can aid addiction recovery and benefit mental health. If mental health goes untreated or if symptoms are left unmanaged in addiction recovery, it can make you more susceptible to a relapse. These habits can easily become a part of your daily routine, act as healthy coping skills, and help improve your quality of life.
1 – Journaling
Many people hear the word journaling and think of a diary, but it can be so much more than that! There is no right or wrong way to journal. It can be as simple as writing down what you did each day before going to sleep, or as detailed as explaining your emotions throughout the day.
If you’re new to journaling, two things I do when journaling include making a gratitude list and an achievement list. Listing things you are grateful for will make you aware of the blessings you have and boost your morale. Focusing on the positives rather than the negatives can change your perspective and outlook on life. Making an achievement list has a similar effect. It can help motivate you to meet your goals each day, allowing you to have a higher sense of purpose and self-worth.
2 – Nature Walks
Rather than spending time scrolling through social media, turn your phone off, venture outside, and bask in the fresh air and sunshine. A study conducted by the University of Michigan explains how nature walks can decrease depression, lower stress, and improve mental health. Nature walks are thought to be a non-pharmaceutical method of treating symptoms of depression. Whether it is a 10-minute walk or two-hour hike, you will notice that your mood has been enhanced.
When I go for a walk, I take the time to appreciate the flowers, grass, trees, and bodies of water that I see. I focus on breathing deeply and inhaling the fresh air. You can even take a friend with you to give you an opportunity to foster healthy relationships by connecting face to face rather than on your smartphone. You may be surprised what a little fresh air and sunlight can do!
3 – Nutrition
When I first got sober, I craved sugary foods like never before. Thankfully, I wasn’t alone. It is common for people in recovery to crave sugary foods. Foods containing an abundance of sugar and processed carbohydrates may make you feel better short term, but will likely be followed by a “sugar crash,” making it important to eat nutritious foods. Since many people who are in recovery once placed drugs or alcohol as a top priority, many people suffer from nutrient deficiencies when they get sober. Eating well in early recovery can help reverse some of the damage drugs may have caused to your body and help regulate your mood.
Replacing sugary foods and processed carbohydrates with vegetables, fresh fruits, lean proteins, and whole grain carbohydrates will not only benefit your physical health but it will benefit your mental health as well. Eating this type of nutritious diet will help you feel full and avoid that dreaded sugar come-down. Instead, a nutritious diet will fuel your body and enhance your mood. The first two weeks of nutritious eating were hard, but my body quickly got used to it. Today, I rarely crave sweets like donuts or ice cream, but when I do, I indulge. After all, life is all about balance. We deserve to treat ourselves to the dessert of our choice every now and again!
4 – Art or DIY
Art or do-it-yourself projects are how I allow my creative energies to flow freely. Sometimes, it can be difficult for me to put my emotions into words. If you find yourself struggling with voicing your emotions, using art as a form of expression can help you heal wounds from addiction and provide a venue of mental clarity. Art can be an outlet to help you cope with day to day anxieties and worries in your own way. Art therapy can help improve the mental health of those who suffer from an array of mental health conditions such as addiction, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
These activities can be anything from drawing, painting, sculpting, or following a DIY video that you’ve come across on the internet. In addition, creating something of your own that has practical use can be extremely rewarding and will promote feelings of self-worth. Don’t let a lack of artistic ability stay in your way of creating art – find something you enjoy and make a habit of it!
5 – Meditation
When I was first told to try meditation, I thought that there was no way this would help my anxiety and boost my mood. After finally suffering from anxiety enough, I gave it a shot. I came to find out that meditation is a great way to connect the mind, body, and soul.
If you are new to meditation, try doing a guided mindful meditation. Many of these begin with a deep breathing exercise, which can help alleviate any stress that you may be holding in your body and mind. Mindful meditation will allow you to learn how to listen to your thoughts without judgment, which can help you accept and deal with racing or obsessive thoughts. In addition, mindfulness can help you refocus on your goals, aid in decision making, and prevent relapse.
The benefits of meditation are endless! It can reduce stress and anxiety, enhance self-awareness and emotional well-being, improve cognitive abilities, and even improve sleep. Making meditation a habit will help you feel more in control of your feelings, your recovery, and your mental health.
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