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Lifestyle Changes that Aid Addiction Recovery

By Jill Anderson, Guest Author

If you’re fighting an alcohol or drug addiction disorder, you are not alone. 2.6 million American men and women undergo therapy for addiction each year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It takes commitment but it’s a battle worth winning. Here are a few lifestyle changes that can strengthen your body (and mind) as you combat your compulsions.

Focus on fitness. Believe it or not, exercise is one of your most effective weapons against many factors known to contribute to addiction. When you establish a regular physical fitness routine a number of internal – external – changes occur. The most obvious is weight loss but the benefits of exercise go well beyond your waistline. Ilene Straus, Ph.D., reports that exercise stimulates brain chemicals that can improve your mood and help you relax. Physical activity can also give your mind a positive direction and lead you away from negative thoughts.

Initiating a new fitness routine begins by identifying activities that you enjoy. Fortunately, no matter where you live, there are parks, gyms, and group fitness classes to help you get started. In California, for example, there are dozens of retreats from the mountains to the beach that can get your body moving and put your mind at ease. Your journey toward whole health should include plenty of outdoor activities and exposure to sunlight. Something as simple as a few hours hiking can help you reboot and reclaim your sobriety.

Start sleeping through the night. Insomnia is often a side effect of drug and alcohol use. Over a long period of time, sleep deprivation can take a toll on the body from the inside out. Alcohol has been associated with sleep apnea and, despite its reputation as a depressant, is detrimental to the natural sleep cycle. New York’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services reports that regular sleep disturbances are unquestionably associated with relapse.

Insomnia is often treated with medications. However, as a recovering addict, you may wish to forgo the pharmaceuticals and focus on a holistic approach to sound slumber. Dr. Ellen Vora of One Medical notes that 30 minutes of exercise each day along with exposure to natural light can help you feel more rested in the evening hours. She further suggests sticking to a regular sleep schedule and avoiding caffeine and other stimulants past noon.

Balance your diet. The US National Library of Medicine asserts that relapse is more likely in those with poor eating habits since food is the fuel that keeps our minds and bodies running. Feed yourself well by eating between three and six meals per day, consisting of a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, and complex carbohydrates. Include healthy fats in the form of lean meat, fish, and nuts.

Establishing healthy eating habits begins at home. Make an effort to prepare most of your meals in your own kitchen and keep things simple. Avoid processed foods and opt for fresh fare when possible. You might, for example, make your own mashed potatoes with dinner instead of using boxed potatoes. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water, which will not only help keep you full but is also vital in washing away waste products. Dehydration can cause headaches and low energy levels, which are common triggers for drug use.

While addiction is often linked to genetics, environmental factors play a role in both the development and treatment of the disease. By focusing on your health, you give yourself the power to make better decisions and ultimately overcome your own internal enemies.