It’s tempting to think about your recovery just in terms of your sobriety, and while abstinence is, of course, an important benchmark of your progress, it’s not the only one. Substance abuse can take a large toll on your life in many ways --
physically, mentally, socially, and, perhaps, even spiritually. Complete recovery means putting all of these different areas of your life back into balance again. Here are a few pursuits that can help you.
Start an Exercise Program
As explained by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, long-term substance use can increase the risk of a range of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer. Physical exercise is a crucial way to contribute to recovery, and it will help reduce your risk of developing serious health issues. Exercise also has a huge range of mental health benefits, including reduced stress, depression, and anxiety -- three disorders that are very common among people in recovery. On top of this, some studies suggest that exercise can reduce the intensity of cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Remember to start out easy at first -- brisk walking will do in the beginning, and you can step it up later.
Improve Your Diet
Many people suffering from substance abuse disorders eat a very poor diet, and weight loss is common. It is also common for people in early recovery to overeat sweets, fast food, and other foods with low nutritional value. But as Psychology Today explains, this can lead to replacing one addiction with another. A healthy diet with plenty of water, vegetables, beans, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, fish, and lean cuts of meat can help improve your overall health and bring your body back into balance. It can also help your recovery, as rapid weight gain can cause body image issues, which themselves can increase the risk of relapse. Finally, it will also help your body recover from the extra exercise you’ll be doing.
Get Out Into Nature
Have you ever noticed that you feel more relaxed after spending time in nature? Researchers have found that natural environments help the brain relax, which can help reduce the symptoms of certain mental health conditions. This is particularly important for people in recovery, who often suffer from high levels of stress. Hiking is a great way to start, and if there are nature trails in your area, you’ll be getting some exercise as well as the benefits of nature. Even if you can’t get deep into nature, local parks, green spaces, and the coast are also beneficial -- studies have shown that people who live near green spaces tend to have better mental health than people who don’t.
Start a Hobby
If you’re in recovery, you may feel like there’s a void in your life, and part of the reason is that your routine and focus has completely changed. It’s a good idea to fill that void with a hobby. This can help you start expressing parts of your personality that maybe you haven’t expressed for a while, and at the same time, you’ll develop skills and build confidence. Isolation is a major trigger for relapses, so hobbies are a useful way to practice social skills and build new friendships. Do you have an old hobby that you used to pursue and could pick up again? If so, consider getting back into it. If you’re not sure which hobbies you might be interested in, check out this guide from The Fix, which can help you clarify your interests.
Don’t think about your recovery just in terms of sobriety. Instead, think of it as a larger project of putting your life back together over a range of different areas. By working on many different aspects of your life at the same time, you can move from surviving to thriving.