10 Jun Benefits of Exercise in Recovery from Drug Addiction
Drug abuse and addiction takes a severe toll on the body, mind, and spirit of an individual. Over time, one may become consumed with drug use and drug seeking to the exclusion of all else. Proper diet and adequate sleep may seem like foreign concepts. Activities which used to be enjoyable sound boring or pointless. Isolation, self-centeredness, and unhealthy living become the norm.
Difficulties lie along the road to long-term recovery. Once an addict stops using, life does not suddenly become perfect. Each individual’s path to recovery looks different, but one valuable tool most recovering addicts can benefit from is regular physical exercise.
Stress and Anxiety Relief
Exercising taxes the body and may even cause some discomfort. In response to this hardship, the body releases endorphins – chemicals produced by the central nervous system which, in part, mimic the effects of opioids such as morphine. Through endorphins, the stress of exercise is diminished, and we feel a sense of well-being and happiness. This phenomenon is responsible for the “runner’s high” many experience as a result of working out.
While exercising, we are focused on the physical task at hand instead of the anxieties and problems of our lives. Channeling mental resources into focused exercise is a great way to expend energy that could otherwise manifest in an unhealthy manner. Many of us consider quiet meditation difficult, finding that our minds race or dwell on whatever issues we are experiencing. However, exercise can be a form of meditation. It may be easier to devote oneself to a physical activity and temporarily suspend inner tensions.
Goal Setting and Feelings of Accomplishment
Proper exercise strikes a balance between challenge and safety – we should push ourselves to improve without injury. Accomplishing this takes some discipline. Strapping on running shoes and hitting the pavement in an unstructured manner is unwise and potentially unsafe. Goal-setting and progress tracking are two important aspects of a well-structured exercise program.
Over time, a natural consequence of exercise should be a steady improvement in our physical abilities. Using our present skill level as a starting point, we increase our exercise difficulty slowly. Keeping an exercise journal is a great way to objectively assess one’s training.
After some time, we can look back on our records and see progress. The self-discipline necessary to maintain progress in an exercise schedule teaches valuable skills to addicts in recovery and provides a great feeling of accomplishment. Exercising then becomes a positive habit, leading to improved self-esteem, confidence, and optimistic thinking.
Rediscovering Healthy Fun and Forming New Social Networks
Early in recovery, it can feel like we will never have fun again. How can we enjoy ourselves without our drugs and partying? What should we do with all this new free time? Transitioning from a life centered on drug use to a balanced life full of healthy activities can be a difficult process.
The improvements in mood and health provided by exercise greatly assist in the appreciation of daily life. Getting out and being active is a great way to start enjoying ourselves again. Finding friends to exercise with keeps us motivated to be healthy and provides new social outlets. Whether you are in recovery from addiction or not, do yourself a favor and get moving!