Addiction is a devastating disease that leads one to lose control over their actions while filling a void with drugs, alcohol, and other substances. Even if a person cognizant realizes that their drug habit is unhealthy or serving them in negative ways, the power of addiction lies in its incredible ability to hijack the brain’s reward centers and lead one down a road fraught with harmful routines. These can include overeating, substance use, gambling, and even the compulsive use of electronics and social media.

Forming the right kind of habits plays an instrumental role in our overall well-being, and breaking the cycle of harmful routines by embracing new ones is a sure-fire way to feel better. Finding new rituals that help rewire the brain can forward the energy previously put forth compulsively through using drugs or alcohol and direct it in a way that benefits the individual and the whole.

Let’s explore a few activities that are proven to return strength and meaning to a person in recovery:

Creating art

Carl Jung once spoke of art as a healing force, recommending from a “therapeutic point of view, to find the particular images which lie behind the emotions.”

Working on a project that allows inner creative energy to flourish can enhance the quality of one’s life while diminishing stress and allowing one to work through with a wide array of trauma, psychological roadblocks, and stress. Simply put, painting a picture of an emotion can often be the best way to face or move on from that emotion.

Art therapy, when used as a treatment for substance use disorder, can improve cognitive functions, increase positive self-image, build emotional resilience, enhance social skills, resolve conflicts, and even advance societal and ecological change. It promotes the implementation of non-addictive, self-soothing techniques that lead to and encourage healthy self-reflection.

While women and adolescents have especially responded to art therapy, the effectiveness of the treatment is leading to more widespread acceptance amongst the mental health community. Graphic arts like drawing, painting, and collaging or spending time journaling and creative writing are all great ways to get started with exploring and regulating your emotions in a beautiful way.

Aerobic exercise

Cardio increases heart rate, reduces anxiety, and depression and can prevent the start, increase, and relapse of substance use.

Daily aerobic exercise, such as running, bicycling, swimming, hiking, and even dancing alters the dopamine pathway in the brain, refocusing the brain’s reward and motivation center in a way that enhances both physical and mental well-being.

A Denver-based training facility opened its doors to any former user at least 48 hours sober, creating a fitness-focused community that redirects lost time using drugs and alcohol and replacing it with high and low impact activities like CrossFit, boxing, weight lifting, and yoga. The sober living community-meets-gym business model has since spread to five states while helping over 20,000 people in their recovery.

“I come to the gym because this place saved my life,” said one of its members.

If you can’t join a gym, the simple act of walking for 30 minutes a day can lead to lower risk of heart attack and stroke while easing joint pain and boosting immune function. Just spending more time outside in natural environments can have a restorative impact on your mood and health.

Cooking intentionally

Exploring the endless world of culinary delights in a hands-on way is one of the most rewarding ways to thrive in recovery.  Cooking is an activity that people can participate in every single day and helps you face your food in an intimate and enriching way.

It involves parallel multitasking that can benefit both the individual and an entire group. Feeding people is a process with many variables that can bring people together for a creative experience that tastes amazing, nourishing both the self and the soul. It can provide a kind of “reminiscence therapy experience,” a type of group therapy that sends one back into pleasurable and nostalgic memories.

It’s also an opportunity for repeated mastery, which leads to greater self-efficacy and self-esteem. Cooking hands you the keys to your own health and nutrition, giving you the power to decide what goes in your body. Your diet affects your mood, and if you make more healthful choices, such as eating more leafy greens and using less salt, you may start to notice results sooner than you can imagine.

Boston Medical Center is one hospital that acts on the connection between healthful cooking and medical conditions, offering a “Cooking for Recovery” class that gives people the tools to fight substance use disorder through the knowledge and implementation of positive techniques that anyone can use in the kitchen. Teaching about which foods are mood enhancers and mood depressors and the importance of fiber on bacteria health, for example, can lead those in recovery to make the right decisions going forward rather than falling into relapse.

Ultimately, replacing negative coping techniques with positive ones is a solid way forward into a more uplifting and more wholesome tomorrow. At Ethos Structured Sober Living, this is what we’re all about. We’re a supportive community that looks out for one another through the cultivation of accountability, camaraderie, and character development.

Contact us today to learn more.