In the early stages of recovery, the body and brain crave the euphoria associated with frequently using drugs or alcohol. While you may think euphoric sensations can only be secured via substances, this is not true. Exercise offers a natural high.
For many years, research has suggested that exercise can aid addiction recovery due to its effect on the mind and body. Exercise is also a great self-care tool with many benefits.
Here are some ways that exercise is essential in your recovery journey.
Exercise Reduces Stress and Anxiety
The benefits of regular physical activity on health have long been known. Studies show that those who engage in regular physical activity experience less anxiety. This is because exercise causes a dopamine rush which makes us feel good. This is sometimes called a runner’s high.
But you don’t need to start running marathons to experience this rush. Even gentle exercise such as walking or yoga can ease stress, reduce anxiety, and enable you to think more clearly, especially when combined with mindful meditation.
Exercise Improves Your Mood
The endorphins released when we exercise reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety, elevate our mood, alleviate negative mental health, and improve mental clarity. Unfortunately, low moods can trigger an emotional relapse, leading to physical relapse when left untreated.
In addition to the above, exercise is great for boosting your self-esteem and self-image. Having an exercise routine also offers stability and a sense of purpose in your daily life. Small goals gained through exercise are rewarding and motivating. Furthermore, exercise is often social and allows you to be part of a sports group or community. However, solo exercise is a great opportunity to be mindful and reflective.
Although you may think that you need to exercise for prolonged periods to achieve the results exercise offers in addiction recovery, just fifteen to thirty minutes of exercise per day is enough to impact your mental health positively.
Exercise Improves Your Sleep
Unbeknown to many, studies show that exercise has long been associated with better sleep. Not only can regular exercise help you sleep longer, but it can also reduce the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep. This is often because the endorphins that reduce anxiety and stress allow you to relax and sleep more easily.
When watching out for relapse risk factors, think H.A.L.T. This stands for hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness. Sleep improves cognitive function, which improves your mood. Being well-rested is the key to avoiding relapse, and exercise improves your sleep.
What Are You Waiting For?
If you’re sold on the concept of exercising to aid addiction recovery, you might find yourself struggling to get started.
A great way to approach exercise is through a club or group where you can receive support and encouragement. Ask your support system if they know any clubs or groups to join. Perhaps you could encourage a friend or family member to attend a class with you for moral support. If you want to try something like yoga at home, an exercise video can guide you to practice yoga correctly and safely.
Although you can trust exercise to ease your addiction recovery, it is important to listen to your mind and body to understand your physical limits. If you are unsure of your physical limitations, consult with your doctor first.