By Kimberly Hayes
Whether you spent some time in a hospital or treatment facility or began your rehabilitation from substance abuse in some other setting, you probably know by now that recovery is an ongoing effort. If you are looking for ways to stick with a sober and healthy lifestyle over the long haul, you should seek suggestions and support from your healthcare team, reputable peer- and self-help groups, and friends and family members who have your best interest at heart. Here are some strategies to talk over or try.
There are proven practices that can help maintain your mental health, and many of the same habits promote physical health, too. For example, exercise has been shown to combat anxiety and depression by releasing mood-lifting endorphins and other natural brain chemicals that increase people’s sense of wellbeing. Regular physical activity can also help break the cycle of negative thoughts that nurture anxiety and depression and help you manage your mood in a positive way, according to information from the Mayo Clinic.
And you can boost your mood even more if you exercise outdoors. Studies have shown that spending time walking in a natural setting can quiet negative thoughts. Other research found that even five minutes spent in green space can boost self-esteem.
Regular aerobic activity also helps people fall asleep faster, spend more time in deeper stages of sleep, and wake up less often, which can provide a big boost to mental wellbeing. Good sleep hygiene also improves people’s sleep quality. You can clean up your act in the bedroom by cutting down on caffeine, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, and eliminating distractions like electronics in your sleeping space.
Meditation and Yoga
Relaxation techniques including meditation can also impede insomnia by helping you slow down racing thoughts at bedtime. In fact, meditation can help shift thinking away from harmful patterns all day long. And recent studies have shown it can literally change the brain, increasing grey matter in some areas and decreasing the size of the “fight or flight” amygdala area, for example. You can also combine yoga and meditation to realize a bevy of health benefits. For instance, yoga helps regulate nerve activity and the body’s levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. In addition to its mental benefits, lowering stress levels can also reduce muscle tension and strain. Obviously, yoga helps strengthen and stretch muscles. But studies have shown the deep state of relaxation facilitated by meditation and yoga extends all the way to the neurobiological level—meaning your sense of calm is even deeper than it would be if you were reading a good book or relaxing with friends. This level of relaxation produces positive benefits in immune function, energy metabolism, and insulin secretion.
Hypnotherapy or clinical hypnosis also produces a deep state of relaxation during which your thoughts become more focused. While patients are in that state, the clinical hypnotist will then offer suggestions and mental images intended to help change behaviors and relieve symptoms associated with health problems including addiction, anxiety, eating disorders, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and stress. So clinical hypnosis can not only help people change habits, it can lessen the impact of underlying conditions that may have led to addiction. Most adults start to see results in four to ten sessions, and some hypnotherapists might give you self-hypnosis techniques and tools to use at home.
It is a common misconception that hypnotherapists must be part of the medical or mental health field, but a hypnotherapist is a profession all its own. However, hypnotherapists have received extensive training, so if you are considering clinical hypnosis, it’s important to find a qualified professional through groups like the National Guild of Hypnotists (NGH).
These are just a few suggestions that go beyond conventional treatment plans for improving and maintaining your mental and physical health and making yourself more equipped to live a long and healthy addiction-free life.
Kimberly Hayes enjoys writing about health and wellness and created PublicHealthAlert.info to help keep the public informed about the latest developments in popular health issues and concerns. In addition to studying to become a crisis intervention counselor, Kimberly is hard at work on her new book, which discusses the ins and outs of alternative addiction treatments.