Constance Ray from Recovery Well wrote an excellent guest post on how exercise can play a role in recovery.
If you are a recovering addict, exercise may be a powerful ally. Research shows that exercise is linked to positive feelings and helps defeat low self-esteem and hopelessness. Getting active is great for both body and mind.
Getting strong is empowering
One of the tenets of recovery is that we accept things we cannot control. But that’s not everything. One thing we can control is our physical condition: the tone of our muscles, our total body fat, and our stamina.
These things can be improved through consistent exercise. If you’ve watched “Silver Linings Playbook” you know that one of the main character, Pat’s, treatment methods is getting and staying physically fit.
If you have not exercised in a while, start out slow. Don’t push yourself to the point of pain or exhaustion, because that will make you too sore to work out the next day. Start out with walking and pressing one- or two-pound hand weights.
If you already exercise, increase your exercise regime so that you build up muscle mass. If you need to lose weight, exercise can help you do that, as well.
Choose the exercise that is right for you. If you hate running, take a dance class, a yoga class, or a class in aerobic exercise instead. Set up a schedule for yourself in which exercise takes up at least three hours of your week. Many people find daily morning exercises to be empowering. The more you exercise your stress levels will decrease and it will build self-confidence at the same time.
Exercise fights depression
There are naturally occurring chemicals in the human body that make us content and even happy. One of these chemicals is serotonin. According to Psychology Today, serotonin isn’t just a natural antidepressant. It helps us make better decisions and plan long term rather than just doing whatever brings immediate relief.
We’re all born with a share of serotonin, but it can dissipate. Drug or alcohol use is one of those things that can lower serotonin levels. One solution? Exercise. Exercise raises serotonin content in the bloodstream, making exercise one major defense against relapse due to feelings of despair and low self worth.
The brain body connection
You may have heard of “runner’s high.” That term explains the relationship between running or other strenuous exercise and the sense of well being that people get from that exercise.
According to CNN, endorphins exist to help us through pain and stress. People who have been through major surgery, for instance, are likely to have a high endorphin level. The endorphins rush in to calm us and mitigate the pain.
We can induce that emergency response by strenuous exercise. The body can’t really tell the difference between a medical emergency and planned exercise that is designed to push beyond our usual boundaries. That’s why exercise induces an endorphin rush.
Other naturally occurring chemicals that are important to a person in recovery are dopamine and oxytocin. Both of them make the Huffington Post’s list of happy chemicals.
Dopamine kicks in when we have a sense of accomplishment. But you don’t have to build a log cabin with your own hands before you can get that high. Instead, set a bunch of little goals, and celebrate each one. That keeps a steady stream of dopamine going in your system.
If you are establishing an exercise regime, celebrate your progress. Reward yourself with a lunch outside or take a celebration selfie after doing fifty crunches. After fast walking for three miles, give yourself a pedicure or buy a new pair of walking shoes.
In conclusion, it’s a great idea to incorporate exercise into your recovery regime early on. Find an exercise you love to do, whether it’s running, dancing, or power walking, and see how exercise can create a natural high.