Health and Wellness in Recovery – Health is a vital part of life that many people take for granted. For those going through recovery, health and wellness become tools that needs to be used in the struggle to stay clean. Fortunately, understandings in psychology and the health sciences have increased and diversified what can be done to heal both mind and body in the aftermath of addiction. Health and wellness in recovery do not have to be employed as a means to simply reach a goal – they can provide a person with a new meaning and perspective on life.
Nutrition and Healing
Close attention to health starts with nutrition. A person who completes medical detox may be severely weakened as a result of vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, or insomnia. For those with severe addictions, these acute effects are also often accompanied by a history of nutritional deficiencies, dehydration, and possibly impairments in liver or kidney functioning.
The staff at a specialized treatment center should ensure that the patient remains hydrated and fed with the right foods in appropriate amounts to increase the person’s strength and get the body working normally again after the arduous process of detox.
An ideal balanced diet includes fruits and vegetables, as well as lean protein such as poultry, whole grain foods, and low-fat dairy. Foods that are processed or too sugary could delay physical recovery and hinder long-term rehabilitation.
Eggs and cereals contain vitamin B-12, which is required for the production of new cells in the body. Fish, milk, and carrots are good sources of vitamin A, which supports the immune system, and vitamin D, which promotes the health and strength of bones. Dairy foods and greens increase calcium, which also helps with bone density, and meat boosts iron levels, which are essential for the transportation of oxygen throughout the body.
Keep in mind, every health and wellness benefit provided by these foods aimed at undoing the damage wrought by addictive drugs or alcohol and healing the body after detox. For example, in the same way that long-term, excessive alcohol use can cause mineral deficiencies in the body, proper combinations and amounts of food can restore balance.
Exercise and Recovery
As noted, nutrition is a vitally important part of the treatment process, but it must be combined with other forms of physical restoration. Many treatment programs have now implemented holistic approaches to mind and body healing that consider the psychological and physical aspects of wellness to be inseparable, and as such need to be addressed simultaneously.
While science has long supported the mental/emotional perks of exercise in addition to its physical benefits, other disciplines which seek to bring the two dynamics even closer together are now being employed to improve the relationship between mental and physical wellness.
Yoga was originally developed as a physical discipline to bring the body and soul together in harmony. While this element still exists, some styles of yoga in the practice’s adoption in the Western world have focused on mental health benefits. Moreover, yoga is sometimes used as a complementary component of treatment to encourage clients to engage in a physical expression of their healing and recovery.
Yoga works by drawing the practitioner’s attention inward, putting aside the struggles and troubles of the external world. Simple practices, such as counting breaths and purging negative thoughts and emotions through well-regulated exhalations provide practitioners with a blank canvas to begin their day or even the rest of their lives.
Yoga during recovery can also provide a sense of community. While almost no one gets it right the first time, reaching the destination together, and offering help along the way gives participants a sense of accomplishment as a group member, taking their first steps towards recovery together.
Physical Exercise and Emotional Healing
But yoga is only one form of exercise available to clients during recovery. Treatment centers usually have gyms and sometimes personal trainers who work with individuals on specific fitness goals.
There is a surplus of evidence that reveals how much physical exercise promotes mental health, and these advantages are not lost on the treatment community. Working out can be fun, engaging, and inspiring, as well as a vital ingredient for improving mental health while facing depression, anxiety, or the temptation to relapse.
Exercise also offers personal milestones to achieve, with the idea of setting gradually harder goals. A fitness plan can give clients something to work towards, and something that also tracks their progress in terms of accomplishments.
Through this, people in recovery learn that they don’t need to resort to the use of alcohol, stimulants, or narcotics to feel satisfied with themselves. They can witness improvements in their physical form and mental well-being as examples of a healthy mind and body, no artificial substitutes needed.
Serotonin and Dopamine
Exercise certainly feels good and has benefits, but why exactly does it work so well, and how does that factor into the treatment of addiction?
When people engage in exercise, the activity prompts their brain to release neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that relay information from the brain throughout the body by way of the central nervous system. For example, one neurotransmitter released during exercise is serotonin, a chemical that regulates mood. In some, serotonin is not correctly processed by the brain, which is a critical factor in the development of clinical depression.
Copious amounts of research has suggested that exercise (aerobics, running, biking, yoga, etc.) increases serotonin, which may be also useful for those who are too psychologically vulnerable to be prescribed antidepressants. Another important effect of exercise is the release of dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that serves numerous functions in the central nervous system. When dopamine is released in the brain region called the “reward center,” it tells the brain to expect rewards from certain activities. This action is why when people use drugs or alcohol, they may feel very strongly compelled to continue using. In addition to the enjoyment of that initial rush, their brain is now becoming wired to anticipate and desire another one.
But the release of dopamine isn’t always related to drug or alcohol use. In fact, it is more often a result of eating delicious food, sexual intercourse, listening to music, exercise, or hundreds of other innocuous, normal sources.
Treatment for Addiction
Nutrition, exercise, and mental well-being and balance are vital components to the recovery process. While these elements alone are often not enough to facilitate recovery, their benefits as part of a comprehensive treatment program are strongly supported by evidence. As such, most specialized facilities spend time focusing on these aspects of recovery.
Harmony Treatment and Wellness offers an integrated approach to the treatment of addiction, including psychotherapy, individual, group, and family counseling, mental health support, health and wellness programs, peer support, aftercare planning services, and more.
But recovery from addiction does not stop at the last therapy session or the most recent support group meeting. It is a continual, lifelong process, but it does not have to be strenuous and solitary. With the support of addiction professionals, friends and family, and the company of like-minded people, health and wellness in recovery can provide a person a rich, fulfilling, and healthy outlook on life.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, please contact us as soon as possible. Discover how we can help you overcome substance abuse and reclaim the happiness and well-being you deserve!