Overcoming alcoholism, illicit or prescription drug abuse, overeating, workaholism, and other process addictions is tough in many respects. Not only is going through detox to clear out toxic substances difficult to go through, there’s also the issue of learning about addiction, coping measures, getting involved with 12-step self-help groups, and beginning the ongoing process of recovery.
No wonder so many of the newly-sober have mixed feelings about their future in sobriety. It can be a confusing and daunting time – but it doesn’t have to be. Here are five healthy lifestyle habits – the good ones – that can help support lifelong recovery.
After completing rehab and coming home, there may be a tendency to want to cocoon, to hide yourself away from others while you continue to heal. With such self-isolation, however, often comes the discarding of active lifestyle pursuits, which may be exactly the wrong approach to take. One study finds that exercise may offer some benefits to those suffering from depression.
Numerous experts cite the value of being physically active in recovery, not only to help maintain physical health but also to jump-start healing on the emotional front. This doesn’t mean that you need to join an expensive gym or compete in a marathon. Being physically active can take many forms, none of which is particularly difficult. These include taking a brisk walk in the neighborhood, doing stretching and resistance training, taking up an outdoor recreational sport, sledding with the kids, even strolling various levels of the shopping mall while running errands.
Eat When Hungry
A basic and wise strategy that will help keep you healthy is to eat when you are hungry. This eat-when-hungry practice is all the more beneficial when you incorporate mindfulness into the action. Be aware of every bite you take, chewing slowly, really savoring the taste, taking in the sight, smell, noticing the texture. What does this do for you? It helps you slow down food consumption so that you eat until you are full, not overfull. Having slowed your eating, your digestion is also improved, since your body doesn’t have to work overtime to break down the food you’ve just consumed.
Eating only when hungry means no reaching for something salty, sweet or spicy when you feel depressed, anxious, lonely or fatigued. That’s not feeding hunger; it’s trying to overcome emotions you’d rather avoid. There are better ways to deal with that, as in becoming active, seeking out friends, distracting yourself with tasks or picking up a book to read.
Get Enough Sleep
Nothing will make your progress stall quicker than trying to get through the day’s recovery activities with less than sufficient sleep. When you deprive your body of a good night’s rest, you start the day on a tank that’s already in the near-empty zone. Couple that with dashing out the door without eating and you’re really depleting your energy levels.
Researchers have found that disruptive sleep patterns are linked with relapse among those in recovery from alcoholism.
How much sleep do you need? Experts recommend a good 7 to 8 hours a night. It’s also recommended to create a sleep pattern that works for you. Some people find that playing soothing music lulls them to sleep. Others may read for a while in bed until sleep overtakes them. Another tip is to keep the bedroom cool. No TV watching in bed, say the experts. That will disrupt your sleep.
Waking refreshed from a good night’s sleep, you’ll be better prepared to tackle the day. Even things that seemed tough the day before may look a little less difficult after you’ve gotten enough rest.
Develop New Interests
Part of the problem in early recovery for many newly-sober individuals is that they return to the same routines as before going into rehab. While they’re diligently trying to avoid the people, places and things associated with past alcohol, drug or other addiction, there’s a big void when it comes to constructive activities.
How do you fill the hole in your life when you’ve removed the bad habits you used to engage in? The answer is to develop new interests. If nothing springs to mind, or there isn’t anything that you feel you want to do, start doing something positive that gets you out of the house and involved in an activity or action that can potentially benefit you.
If you have a hobby, join a club where you can interact with others who have the same interests. Like to snow ski, toboggan, and ice skate? Find groups or locations where you can engage in this healthy outdoor activity.
Developing new interests also encompasses learning new things. Going back to school to get or complete a degree, taking a class in photography or artistic cake design, brushing up on skills or learning new ones that can advance your career or get you in the door of a new one – all are ways to explore and become involved in something new.
Besides getting you out of the house, developing new interests helps take the focus off of your problems, exposes you to others with whom you can interact, and promotes a healthy lifestyle that is beneficial to your recovery.
Key in on Spirituality
Feeling empty, alone and vulnerable is a common issue among newly-recovered individuals. Following rehab, many people say that they feel like there’s a hole inside them that cannot be filled. Whatever pain they used to numb with alcohol or drugs or compulsive gambling, random sexual encounters, overspending and the like, they now have no clue what to do to get past these negative feelings.
One healthy lifestyle habit that may help is to key in on your spirituality. Meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, Pilates, and prayer have been shown to benefit recovery in ways that seem to defy explanation. Even if you don’t believe in any specific Higher Power, taking time to walk in the woods and reflect on the beauty of nature may benefit your spirituality.