Physical Activity for Mental Health and Addiction Recovery
Physical fitness is vital for your body. When you were a child, you probably heard about the importance of running and jumping jacks to keep you healthy. As you got older, you might have moved on to gym memberships and exercise machines to stay fit. Physical wellness can go a long way to boost your mental health and aid in the addiction recovery process.
You want to keep your mind and body in great shape. Nutrition and exercise can help improve your mental health. Exercising can decrease your chances of relapse with substance use disorders and can also aid you if you have a mental health issue. According to the Harvard Medical School, many people with substance use disorders found that regular exercise distracted them from cravings, especially for those who added workouts to structure their days. Exercise can help you form positive social connections. When combined with other therapies, exercise can improve treatments for anxiety and depression.
The American Psychological Association found similar results in another study. The evidence shows that those who are active tend to be less depressed than inactive people. These effects of physical activity are not just for short-term results. More research proves that exercise can alleviate long-term depression. Participants who stopped exercising after a long period of time tend to be more depressed than those who maintain regular physical fitness routines.
If you want to improve your mental health during the addiction recovery process, you can add the right nutrition and exercise plans to your daily routine. By maintaining a sound mind and body, you can help ease the effects of depression and anxiety. In most cases, your exercise routine will help structure your day as you are on the road to recovery.
With any type of physical activity, there is a biological response that results in improved mental health and physical benefits. Research is showing that exercise is an effective treatment for depression and anxiety, and it can also serve as a significant component in the addiction recovery process. In other words, individuals who engage in a regular fitness regimen have happier and healthier lives.
When you exercise, your body releases endorphins. These endorphins can diminish your perception of pain as they act like sedatives. The endorphins are manufactured in your spinal cord, brain, and other areas of your body. They are released in response to your brain’s neurotransmitters. The activation of the receptors does not lead to dependence or addiction like morphine or opiates. Fitness programs allow you to experience a natural high without the use of mind- or mood-altering substances. Those “feel-good” endorphins will help nerve cells make new connections and grow. As that happens, your brain will improve with an added boost to your mood.
There are many benefits of engaging in a physical fitness regimen for your mental health and sobriety. These benefits include:
• Helping manage frustration and anger
• Relieving stress
• Improving cognitive function
• Promoting a restful sleep
• Providing discipline and structure
• Filling up your time
• Decreasing depression and anxiety
• Increasing confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth
Finally, if you are overweight and out of shape, you have a higher chance of experiencing depression and anxiety. To complicate matters, when some people recover from alcohol and drug use, they may turn to food as a coping mechanism. Weight gain is a very common problem for those in the early stages of recovery. A person in recovery eats food to cope, and that indulgence leads to weight gain. The weight gain may then decrease the recovering individual’s body image, causing him or her to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. Therefore, weight gain and depression lead to a vicious and horrible cycle for those in recovery.
By following a fitness and nutrition plan, you can recover from addiction and improve your mental health. A regular fitness routine will strengthen your recovery and lead to a healthier and happier life.
Workout Tips for Your Addiction Recovery
With all the studies previously mentioned, you know that exercise can aid in addiction recovery. If you are in recovery, you’ll want to add some physical fitness routines to your daily schedule. You don’t need to get a pricey gym membership because most activities can be completed at home. However, you will need to commit to a program for the best results.
Stroll around the neighborhood: If you are dealing with long-term addiction, your body might feel worn-out, especially after a detox program. You might not feel like engaging in high-intensity sports. The key is to start small and build up your stamina. A short 30-minute stroll has many benefits, including helping to relax you at the end of the day.
Hiking: If you can get outside, hiking can lead to a boost in your mood. In addition, the sunshine can allow you to get some vitamin D. You don’t need any special gear to get out and hike. You should wear some suitable shoes for the trek, though. Many people start on the easy trails at a local park. If you are tired, you can always take a break and enjoy nature. Hiking is a great motivator. Find a trail and look forward to a great view at the end of it.
Yoga: If you want a less strenuous activity, you might want to try out yoga. This activity can double as a meditation method. You can choose from several types of yoga, including everything from strenuous programs to relaxing practices. Due to their popularity, you can find yoga classes at most community centers or gyms.
CrossFit: This program incorporates many different types of exercise, including powerlifting, calisthenics, and high-intensity exercises. For many people, this type of activity provides many benefits. You can enjoy the competition and coaching from individual CrossFit trainers as you build strength and muscle.
Swimming: If you want an excellent option for a workout, try swimming. This activity is easier on the body, and it can be soothing to be in the water. You don’t even have to do any laps around the pool. If you are older, know that swimming is a great exercise that doesn’t impact your muscles or joints. Find a pool and do an hour of freestyle swimming, or join an aqua-aerobics class for some extra fun.
Fitness boot camp: If you are looking for another high-intensity workout, you might want to try a fitness boot camp. These programs can help you build strength with group interval training. Many of the programs have a combination of pushups, running, and other strengthening activities. Along with the added mental health benefits, these workout classes can help you lose weight and improve your muscle strength.
Group classes: If you want a workout without the intensity, you should consider a group exercise class like dancing or Zumba. Many of these programs are available at your local community center or gym. In addition to the physical benefits, you can also build friendships that will help you in the recovery process.
Get the Proper Nutrition
While physical activity is important, you need a balanced diet for an even healthier mind and mood. In some cases, food can easily be a replacement for drugs or alcohol. You want to add the right foods to your diet to maximize their benefits. Some foods have nutrients that can help you manage your anxiety or depression.
According to the Mayo Clinic, depression and diet might be related. In some studies, those who ate a poor-quality diet that was high in processed meats, chocolates, and high-fat dairy were more likely to report symptoms of depression. However, those who ate a diet rich in vegetables, fish, and fruits had less chances of experiencing depression.
According to Mental Health America, there are some foods and nutrients that you should add to your diet. Consider the following:
• Spinach, fruits, nuts, kale, and whole grains contain a high level of folate, which is associated with lowering the risk of depression.
• Diets rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, unsaturated fats, and fish are less likely to cause depression than those meals high in dairy and fat.
• Omega-3 fatty acids can help you stabilize your mood and combat depression; you can find these essential fats in spinach, eggs, flaxseed oils, and certain types of fish.
• There has been a link between low levels of vitamin D and depression. You can find high levels of vitamin D in some fish and fortified amounts in orange juice and milk.
• If you are prone to panic attacks, you might want to skip your morning cup of coffee because caffeine is known to trigger panic attacks in those who are suffering from anxiety.
Adding the Best Foods to Treat Addiction
Certain foods have important nutrients to help in certain stages of addiction treatment. Depending on your substance use disorder, you want to find the right foods that will help alleviate cravings and boost your recovery efforts. There are some foods that you should eat for your particular addiction:
Alcohol addiction: With heavy alcohol use, your body will experience some nutritional deficiencies, including low levels of folic acid, zinc, vitamin B1, and vitamin B6. The lack of these nutrients can lead to issues with the nervous system and may cause anemia. As you progress through recovery, you’ll want to add zinc-rich foods like nuts, whole grains, and dark chocolate to your diet.
Cocaine addiction: This stimulant can cause you to stay up for long periods of time without eating. In the process, you might experience multiple nutritional deficiencies. Omega-3 is very important, and you need to add it to your diet. You can find this nutrient in canola oil, eggs, dairy products, and fish. Without omega-3, you have a higher chance of heart disease and depression.
Heroin addiction: If you are addicted to opiates or heroin, you want to add more fiber-rich foods to your diet. You can find fiber in vegetables, fruits, and some animal products. Fiber can help you reduce toxicity in the liver during your recovery process.
During certain stages of detox and recovery, your doctor may prescribe some dietary supplements. In most cases, these supplements will help you replace those essential nutrients. You also want to stick to the recommended dosage. By taking too much of a nutrient, you can actually overdose on it. For example, alcoholism can decrease your vitamin A level. However, if you add too much of that vitamin, it may cause fibrosis in your liver. Omega-3 is an excellent nutrient, but too much of it can also lead to thinning of the blood.
Supplement Your Recovery Program
It can be challenging to try to add the right foods and exercises in your daily life, especially as you recover. However, with excellent planning on your part, you can maintain a well-balanced lifestyle. Diet and exercise are important, but you also need to get enough sleep as well. By getting restful sleep, you can improve brain function and reduce stress. You also should focus on finding a support group. During the recovery process, it can be difficult. You want a helping hand when you need it. Finally, you need to stay positive. Recovery is a long journey, but you can help reduce negativity by reflecting on your goals and accomplishments.
Many experts in the mental health and addiction recovery fields believe that fitness is essential to living an addiction-free life. By combining these healthy lifestyle changes with a balanced diet, you can create a great plan to aid your recovery process. In turn, your mental health will improve as you gain strength and fitness.
If you need any additional help with substance use disorders or mental health issues, we are here to help. Green Mountain Treatment Center and NFA Behavioral Health both focus on well-balanced treatments for substance use recovery. We can create a personalized treatment program to help you get back to a healthier lifestyle.