A healthy mind and body are crucial elements to successful addiction recovery in the long term.
It’s common, as with all new things that enthusiasm and attention can fade as the reality that there are no quick fixes for addiction treatment sets in. Adding mindfulness and recreation to your rehab program can re-energize your commitment. That’s why, at Landmark, our patients have access to mindfulness & therapeutic recreation activities and practices. Patients are free to choose from daily exercises and while in therapy will be exposed to and encouraged to practice being mindful.
Numerous studies have been published correlating meditation and mindfulness activities for addiction recovery with alleviating a host of mental and physical health problems such as, insomnia, headaches and more. It has become such a widely accepted form of therapy that it is now implemented in rehab programs at treatment centers along with cognitive behavioral therapy. Mindfulness and meditation-based therapies can help patients in addiction recovery combat depression, anxiety, addiction, and other challenges.
Meditation and being mindful is about being present in the moment, focusing one’s attention and thoughts on the here and now. Mindfulness practices teach you how to calm your brain when experiencing urges and cravings. It also helps you recognize the self-sabotaging thoughts that enter your head and teaches ways to dismantle and invalidate those fears. Mindfulness promotes more introspective and critical thinking about the ways your addiction affects yourself, your life, and the people around you.
Mindfulness and mindful practices have been linked to helping individuals with a host of mental health difficulties, including addiction. It’s so effective, in fact, that mental health professionals now routinely use a new form of group and individual therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, to help their patients combat depression, anxiety, addiction, and similar mental health challenges. Being mindful and present in the moment helps our patients practice coping with the world as it is, not how they perceive it to be. Mindfulness can also help you become sober by:
- Teaching you a way to calm your thoughts when you experience cravings.
- Helping you recognize automatic self-destructive thoughts before they begin.
- Making you more aware of the ways your addiction affects both you and the people around you.
- Focusing on breathing allows us to focus on things we can control when there are so many things in life that we can’t control
Meditation, mindfulness, and mindful practices can help positively reshape the brain which helps promotes overall well-being
THERAPEUTIC RECREATION ACTIVITIES FOR ADDICTS
Exercise is an important but often understated component of successful addiction recovery services and rehab programs. No single workout or routine can cure addiction, but the many benefits of regular exercise and therapeutic recreation activities can significantly improve your chances of long-term recovery. Exercise helps give recovering addicts structure, keeps the mind preoccupied, enhances health, reduces stress, and increases self-esteem. That’s why, at Landmark Recovery, our patients get 30 minutes each day to use for fitness, as well as free time later in the day to use for more exercise if that’s what they choose. Patients in our rehab programs have full access to our gym which comes with multiple exercise machines including an elliptical machine and treadmill.
The physical and psychological benefits of regularly scheduled exercise have been proven in numerous clinical trials. Here are just a few evidence-backed studies that demonstrate how effective exercise and therapeutic recreation activities can be for the recovering addict:
- In this Danish study from 2010, 75% of participants reported that regular exercise with a trained specialist over six months significantly increased their mental and physical health, as well as reduced their cravings for drugs, with 25% remaining completely sober more than a year later.
- According to Harvard scientists, regular exercise can improve the way your brain protects itself and even enhances your cognitive abilities. For recovering addicts who have put their bodies through years of abuse, regular exercise can help repair some of the damage.
- According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, regular exercise can reduce the body’s long-term response to stress and even increase your tolerance for stressful situations, a useful tool for combating cravings moving forward.
- A study out of Vanderbilt University looked at college-age marijuana users who were asked to run on a treadmill for 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week. Participants reported 50% fewer cravings for their drug of choice and decreased their drug usage.
BENEFITS OF EXERCISE IN ADDICTION RECOVERY
Having structure is an important part of addiction recovery. Many people who struggle with addiction often turn to substances when their lives feel unmanageable or out of their control. Creating a regular exercise routine gives a person structure to their week, and if you include fitness goals in your routine you can give yourself extra motivation to stick to that routine. Also, addiction can wreak havoc on the body. An exercise routine can help the body slowly heal from the self-inflicted damage.
Keeping the Body/Mind Occupied
One of the hardest things recovering addicts must face is boredom. When your mind becomes unoccupied, it’s easy to slip back into old modes of thinking such as, “Having a drink would make this more enjoyable”, or “I can get high because I have nothing to do right now”. For those fresh out of rehab, all that time they spent acquiring and using drugs is now freed up. Working out, whether its running, yoga, weightlifting or playing a sport, helps take the recovering addict’s mind off thoughts of using again.
Produces Healthy Neurochemicals
Much like the drugs they used to abuse, recovering addicts often find that a regular workout program can be an addictive habit for feeling good, albeit with positive instead of negative consequences. Recovering addicts are often victims of depression or reduced ability to experience pleasure, a feeling known as anhedonia. When you exercise, your body naturally releases endorphins that create a natural high. Dedicated physical exercise may hurt at first, but as the body heals it will gradually introduce your body to natural levels of endorphins.
Increases Self Image and Mood
Numerous studies on the subject have shown that exercise can help alleviate symptoms of long-term depression. This is because, in addition to creating feel-good neurochemicals, exercise also strengthens your body, raises your energy levels, and increases your oxygen capacity. Studies in the UK have also pointed out that those who exercise experience greater feelings of self-esteem and confidence than their counterparts who didn’t exercise. In fact, regardless of whether people are achieving their fitness goals, simply the act of being engaged in a regular exercise routine increases your confidence.
Get Better Sleep
For addicts experiencing withdrawal or who are further down the road to recovery, insomnia can be a common occurrence during treatment. The body struggles to fall back into a natural rhythm without the use of substances. Fortunately, exercise can be used to get your body back into a regular routine. There’s a substantial amount of evidence that regular exercise improves not only the quantity, but also the quality of sleep we get.
Helps Combat Cravings
Urges are natural part of the recovery process that can unfortunately hinder sobriety progress by making you want to relapse. Fortunately, exercise can be a helpful tool in reducing and curbing cravings for drug and alcohol use. A study out of Vanderbilt University looked at college age drug users who were asked to run on a treadmill for 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week. Participants reported 50% less cravings for using their drug of choice, and decreased their overall drug intake.
Helps You Maintain Physical Health/Weight
Addiction is known to cause either severe weight loss or severe weight gain. For that reason, recovering addicts may find that their eating habits need to drastically change to avoid falling back into the same routines. A healthy body is linked to higher self-esteem and body image, as well as higher energy levels and better immune system. Overall, there’s really no downside to exercise outside of the time commitment necessary to get into shape.
Harvard scientists have pointed out that exercise can immediately reduce levels of stress in the body by regulating levels of cortisol and adrenaline in the body. These hormones are responsible for our stress response. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, regular exercise can also reduce the body’s long-term response to stress in general, increasing your tolerance for stressful situations.
Improves Your Memory
Serious drug and alcohol abuse can take a toll on your mental health, not to mention your memory. According to Harvard scientists, regular exercise can help improve the way the brain protects and enhances your cognitive abilities. In other words, research is showing that dedicated exercise can make your brain stronger. Scientists found a link between regular aerobic exercise and boosts in the hippocampus region of the brain, which is the area governing memory and learning. Exercise is also shown to reduce insulin resistance and inflammation in the brain.