Perhaps the most difficult step in recovery is admitting the problem and deciding to change it, but that is only the beginning. In addition to standard detox and twelve-step programs, the commitment to get well requires a new mindset and wholesome lifestyle. Everyday issues like dealing with stress, choosing friends and pastimes, and taking everyday medications require a plan. In addition to ample time, the recovery process requires patience, motivation, and support. Creating healthy habits in the beginning will make it easier to succeed during and after the process.
Five Steps to a Healthy Recovery
Meet new people and learn new skills.
In 2015, a study at Brigham Young University found that loneliness and social isolation play a major role in life expectancy. Other research shows that isolation may lead to relapse for those in recovery. This means it is important to get out of the house, interact with positive people, and participate in activities that interrupt old patterns and help to establish new ones. Online recovery groups work too but should not replace face-to-face social networks. Caring for and loving a pet, or even a plant, is also a good first step.
Choose a healthy diet and eat mindfully, taking time to savor every bite of food.
Not only does this curb snacking and overeating, but it also makes digestion easier. Nutritious foods elevate moods, build energy, and help vital organs recover more quickly and function more efficiently. In addition to nutrients, water is needed to flush toxins from the body and restore the balance of electrolytes, especially when health has been neglected for a period of time. Water also helps to reduce cravings.
Maintain a regular sleep schedule.
Sleep deprivation has been associated with depression, fatigue, and chronic illness, as well as relapse in recovery from alcohol. Experts recommend an average of seven or eight hours per night. To make this easier, doctors suggest a cool bedroom, a nightly routine, and no television, computer, or cellphone screens before bedtime. A good night’s rest makes it easier to meet the challenges of a new day and discourages relapse.
Develop an exercise plan.
The activity can be as simple as walking around the neighborhood or doing stretches in the living room, although going to the gym provides the additional benefit of social interaction. Exercise reduces stress, increases confidence, and improves mood. It also contributes to better sleep and helps to restore the hormonal imbalance caused by addiction.
Look for a connection to something greater than yourself.
This will mean different things to different people. Feelings of isolation, doubt, and vulnerability are common during recovery, and the loss of compulsive behaviors or substances leaves a void no longer filled by the addiction. Contemplative practices, such as meditation, yoga, or martial arts, help to quiet the mind and tune out negative emotions. Research shows that actual changes occur in the brain during meditative activities, especially when they are practiced regularly.
Although the recovery process has its discouraging moments, it can also be a meaningful time for re-establishing healthy relationships, reaching out to others, and learning self care. Something as simple as volunteering in a soup kitchen or cutting an elderly neighbor’s lawn can improve self-confidence. Whether listening to music or watching a sunset, finding joy brings positive growth.