Addiction is a terrible affliction that affects millions of people per year. It can lead to devastating effects on physical and mental health as well as affecting socioeconomic factors in a person’s life. Many of those who are addicted find themselves destitute and without support from family due to the disease. Every step of the process leads them further down the rabbit hole of addiction and stopping hardly ever seems like an option. For many, getting clean is one change that can define them as a person. Despite the many difficulties that surround the process of getting sober, it’s still a very real possibility for every addict.
Seeking help from medical professionals is recommended, but it’s also important to take on some measures that will help bring balance to one’s body. Exercise is considered one of the best natural remedies to addiction and many twelve-step programs advocate it. Here are some of the improvements you could see by kicking addiction the natural way.
1. How does addiction affect your mind?
The human mind is a pretty complicated system. It’s ruled by the flow of neurotransmitters and hormones. No two minds are the same, but they function in a pretty similar way. Take addiction for example. The human brain secretes dopamine during some pretty important moments. Whenever you achieve something you see as important or get closer to someone you love, dopamine starts to kick in. You are flooded with wonderful feelings and your mind takes note that you should keep doing whatever made you feel so good. This gives you some concrete motivation to achieve your goals.
The interesting part is that dopamine can be triggered by a bunch of other substances without needing additional external stimuli. Your mind gets hooked on these substances because it wants that feel-good kick from dopamine receptors without actually having to do anything. You can think of it as being the quickest and easiest way to get that wonderful feeling. It sounds good in theory, but dopamine releases are only part of the cycle that makes us feel good. If you only get your pleasure from a dopamine release, you’ll find that it doesn’t last very long.
Abusing alcohol and other drugs can lead to an increase in dopamine secretion. Many addicts substitute leading a normal life with the substances that they consume. When you’re getting your regular dopamine rush, it can be hard to focus on anything else. Everyday activities become a chore and leading a normal life can become increasingly difficult. Your brain is constantly reminding you to find ways to get that euphoric feeling again. For most addicts, the solution is to continue abusing the substance that gives them this feeling.
It doesn’t even have to be an addictive substance that gets you hooked. Many addictions are caused by a mental state. Gambling is one of the best examples. Gamblers don’t actually consume anything; they just get a rush from the risk and reward system that makes up their chosen game. Chronic overeaters are addicted to consuming large amounts of food, despite the fact that food isn’t actually a drug. The brain can respond to a variety of stimuli by getting addicted, as long as it can cause some form of pleasure.
Some substances are consumed regularly but don’t cause addiction. Many individuals can function properly on moderate amounts of alcohol and not find themselves addicted. The only metric that truly determines whether or not you’re facing addiction is how much it affects your life and daily functions. Many addicts don’t realize that the substance is taking over their lives and they continue down the spiral until it starts to affect their financial and personal lives.
2. Treating addiction properly
Addiction is a disease like any other and medical professionals treat it as such. One of the key differences in treating addiction and other diseases is that you won’t see a lot of medication used in the process. It’s a psychological phenomenon which requires a great deal of therapy and mental fortitude to overcome.
The first step towards successfully overcoming addiction is getting help from professionals. A lot of substances can be quit cold turkey, but this can lead to some serious consequences in others. Alcohol, for example, has devastating withdrawal symptoms that can’t be disregarded. It’s possible to lose your life if you aren’t careful with quitting.
As many addicts may tell you, the initial quitting isn’t the most difficult part. Keeping it up and staying sober for a long time is what makes you free from the illness. There are hundreds of factors to take into account when it comes to getting sober. Many addicts are close friends with other users, which creates a suitable environment for relapsing.
The mind is often rewired from using, which is why nothing except the addictive substance can satisfy the person completely. Luckily there are ways to mitigate this change and cause the mind to focus on something else.
3. Exercising as a way to treat addiction
For decades now, the positive effects of exercise on additions have been documented around the world. Exercising is an all-around good habit to have in your life. It can better your physical, mental, and emotional state while also giving you something fun to do in your free time. There’s no doubt that exercise has its benefits. When it comes to addictions, exercising can do a lot more than you might think.
Much like the way that addictive substances affect your mind, exercise also fires up certain pleasure centres. Working out releases endorphins which make you feel good and it helps you associate the workout with pleasure. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the mechanism is very similar to how dopamine is released. Keep in mind that the endorphin releases from working out aren’t instantaneous and they take a while to get established. However, once you get the ball rolling, it can be a very pleasurable experience.
During the rehabilitation process, the body undergoes numerous changes. They might seem hellish and torturous at the beginning, but they are a net positive on your organism. Withdrawal symptoms can manifest themselves with increased stress, a lack of proper sleeping patterns, and even depression. Ultimately, they won’t be pleasant. Exercise is great because it positively affects every one of those withdrawal symptoms, while also giving you a boost when it comes to metabolizing toxins.
4. Better sleep schedules
Sleep is one of those activities that we all take for granted. A proper sleep schedule is one of the key elements of healthy living. We all like to forego that schedule every once in a while. Sometimes, you’re going to stay up late watching shows or movies the day before work. This won’t be the end of the world, but it might make you a bit sluggish the day after. The occasional hour or two of missed sleep can’t harm you, but constantly having low amounts of sleep will trigger some consequences down the line. Every organ benefits from a regular sleep pattern. Our circadian rhythm determines the secretion of hormones like cortisol and testosterone. Our brains and skin benefit from proper sleep most of all.
Addiction can have quite an adverse effect on sleep schedules. Wanting to use can lead to restlessness and stress during the night and most people cope by using right before bed. This is especially prominent when it comes to excessive alcohol consumption. Users find that they can’t get any quality shut-eye if they haven’t taken a couple of shots.
Recovery isn’t free from sleep issues, either. Difficulty falling asleep and wanting to sleep during the day are very common symptoms of withdrawal. Even if you get a full night’s sleep, you can still feel sluggish and slow for the first couple of weeks. Some non-habit-forming sleep assistance drugs might help temporarily, but it’s still going to be difficult.
Exercise is a natural remedy that helps balance out sleep schedules. Giving your body a solid workout every day makes it much easier to rest afterwards. The amount of sleep you get isn’t the only thing that gets improved. You also get an increase in quality of sleep. If you do your workouts during the day, it can also help counteract the urge to have a midday nap. As sleep improves, so does your wakefulness. Those who exercise regularly report being able to focus more and tackle daily activities with ease. However, improvements are only noticeable after weeks or months of regular exercise. A degree of patience is required before you get the full benefits of working out on your sleep schedule.
5. Feeling more energized
Addicts in recovery are familiar with the lack of energy that follows staying away from their chosen substance. It’s one of those things that make it difficult to stay sober for very long. Lethargy is a common symptom for many different kinds of recovery. Even when you’re recovering from the flu it can be present. It’s a sign that your organism needs that additional energy to repair itself from previous damage. Addiction is quite damaging to the body, so it goes into repair mode and saps away at your wakefulness and strength.
There’s a saying in many recovery circles: “You have to give energy to get it back”. By using energy during exercise, you’re giving your body the opportunity to create more. During exercise, the body goes into overdrive and it lets more blood flow to your heart, lungs, and brain. It also leads to a boost in oxygen levels in order to make further exercising more efficient. This increase in oxygen levels persists even after you’re done with your workout. The cardiovascular system gets quite a workout as well and this leads to better energy management during the day.
Because of this effect, many people choose to exercise in the morning. This can give them a boost of energy to perform tasks throughout the day. Incorporating exercises into your daily routine can do wonders for your energy levels which is one of the reasons it’s recommended for all recovering addicts.
6. Improvements in diet
Every system goes haywire when you’re battling addiction. Food consumption is often reduced to a minimum because the mind only craves one thing. Getting your diet back in check can be a pretty difficult task. You have to force yourself to eat and this isn’t at all a pleasant experience.
Alcohol consumption tends to lead to malnutrition. Alcoholic beverages usually have a set number of calories that let the body function, but just barely enough to get through the day. Part of the issue comes from the fact that alcohol also slowly deteriorated the lining of the stomach. Critical cells that are required for vitamin B absorption are destroyed and you end up with a deficiency after years of abuse.
Exercise is a great way to get your appetite back. You spend a lot of energy during a workout and that makes your body crave nutritious and caloric food. If exercise regularly and on schedule, your body will learn to crave foods at specific points during the day.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t rush into heavy exercise after a nutritional deficiency. This can be a recipe for disaster. You should be mindful of your own capacity to train when you start out. If you strain yourself early on, you can end up with a chronic injury.
Taking it easy is the way to go, especially when you’ve recently begun your path to sobriety. Your diet might adapt a lot quicker than your muscles can. It’s important that you keep in mind all the additional nutrients you might need after a workout. If you still haven’t adapted to a protein-rich diet, keeping a bunch of True Protein powder on hand could do you a lot of good. After all, proteins are the building blocks of our body. As one fitness expert put it: “Building your body is like building a great wall. One brick at a time done day after day for a long period of time will build everlasting results”. Without having the necessary bricks, you’re going to strain a lot more during your workouts.
7. Getting rid of mood swings
Your mind is in a pretty difficult place when you’re trying to kick an addiction. It isn’t getting the good feeling it craved for so long anymore. The occasional feeling of euphoria and happiness that came after using is gone and the brain reacts in an unpredictable manner. Consider how cranky people become when they run out of coffee and cigarettes and crank it up to a million and you can get an idea of what it’s like.
Even following the process of detoxication, mood swings are still present due to brain chemistry still adapting to changes. One minute, you feel like you feel angry and frustrated, while the next minute might be filled with sadness and despair.
The effects can be so prominent that many psychiatrists are quick to diagnose a recovering addict with bipolar disorder following the withdrawal symptoms. In their defence, recovering from prolonged drug and alcohol use can lead to symptoms that are very similar to bipolar disorders and depression.
Exercising to improve your mood works much the same way as it does when it comes to energy. Putting some beneficial stress on your body and mind during a workout can let you release some of the stress you’ve been feeling due to recovery. Having a way to let off some steam can improve your mood significantly. Even just thirty minutes per day can improve your mental situation considerably. The endorphins produced during an intense workout also serve as a replacement for the happiness and euphoria that were previously created by drugs or gambling. In this way, exercise gives you two beneficial effects for the price of one activity.
Addiction can be one of the most damaging diseases to plague a person’s life. Addicts don’t get a lot of sympathy from society at large and this can do awful things to their status as members of society. A lot of addicts cannot get regular jobs due to the stigma that surrounds substance abuse. Even after successful treatment with medical assistance, a lot of addicts are left on their own to deal with the after-effects of withdrawal and the changes that come with it.
Many find it difficult to adapt both, physically and emotionally, and this can lead to relapsing. It’s a vicious cycle that can only be broken with some major life changes. Therapeutics can only do so much for so long, which is why natural remedies and lifestyle improvements are the most recommended kinds of help for those who are afflicted with addiction.
Spokespersons for successful treatment of addiction swear by exercise as a way to substitute addiction and lead to a healthier life. Hardly anyone can argue against the positive effects you get from regular exercise, even if you aren’t a former addict. Keep some of these important changes in mind whenever you or a loved one is faced with this affliction. It can lead to a significant improvement in the quality of life during and after addiction.