In early sobriety, you may find that you have a lot more free time than you used to because you are no longer spending time obtaining or using substances. What do you do with that free time? You may find that doing nothing and trying to relax creates anxiety, and with boredom comes cravings. So what options do you have? One of the best options is physical activity.
Benefits of Physical Activity
Physical activities reduce stress, increase oxygen flow, and keep you healthy. Exercising provides immense benefits for all areas of your well-being.
Physical Activity Helps With Cravings
Cravings may be the hardest part of early sobriety. When you are sitting around, you may start to feel antsy or jittery and get cravings for substances. The anxiety in you can start to build and cause you to start spiraling mentally.
Physical activities are great for managing cravings. Stepping outside and getting some fresh air can clear your mind. It allows you to take a moment to be outside yourself and calm your racing thoughts. You have to be aware of your surroundings when you go outside or else you might walk into traffic or miss a beautiful sight. This bit of mental awareness can be enough to ground you and take your mind off your cravings.
Replacing Bad Habits With Good Ones
Substance use disorder (SUD) is a dysfunction of the brain. This dysfunction means that your brain's reward system has been compromised. Physical exercise can help rewire that dysfunction in your brain.
Physical activity trains your brain to crave healthy habits rather than destructive ones. In this case, you are replacing substance use with fitness. For example, if you are craving your substance of choice and instead of giving in to that craving you take a short walk, eventually your brain will no longer associate that feeling with the substance, but with physical fitness. This is a very rudimentary example. A lot of times, it is not that simple, but eventually you can replace your negative thoughts with more positive, healthier thoughts.
After establishing the ways in which physical activities can be healthy, it can be helpful to identify some positive activities you can do and how they are uniquely beneficial. These are not the only options; if there is something that you enjoy that is not on the list, like skateboarding or swimming, those are great too. These are just to articulate healthy options that can boost your mental health. Ultimately, everyone is unique and whatever works best for you is great and should be done.
Yoga is great for mental health in many different ways. For one, it is a great way to get the blood flowing in the body without vigorous exercise. Yoga gets oxygen to the brain and can strengthen your muscles while making you more flexible.
The second thing that is great about yoga is that its key fundamental principle is breathing. Breathwork is the key to doing yoga successfully. With each pose, you must be conscious of your breath and how it aids your movements. This is a great way to be mindful and get outside of your own head. When all of your focus is on your breathing, you do not have time to be anxious. Similarly, if you are feeling depressed, yoga is great for getting out of your head and moving around.
You may struggle to find activities you enjoy or just to get out in general. In this case, walking and hiking are great options. These are great, simple activities that require little to no preparation. If you find yourself starting to spiral mentally, simply get up and go outside for a walk.
There are a lot of benefits to just being in nature while hiking. It can be very calming for the mind. Being in nature promotes peace, and the soothing sounds of the environment can give a calming effect.
Other physical activities to consider include:
- High-ropes courses
- Horseback riding
- Team sports
- Long-distance runs
- Anything that gets you moving and feels good in your body
All of this is to say that you a not a slave to your mental health. You have more control over it than you might think. It is not always easy, but just picking yourself up and going for a walk or doing some yoga poses can do wonders. At first, you may find that getting up and going outside is not as simple as it sounds. If you stick to it, you will find that it does get easier over time.
Physical activities are great for your mental health. However, sometimes it is hard to get up and get going or find the motivation to do so. Sometimes you've let your mental health go for so long that the downward spiral gets the better of you, and picking yourself up again feels impossible. When you need help getting out of that place, NorthStar Transitions, located in Boulder, CO, is the place to go. Our experienced staff can help you and those you care about navigate recovery and help you get active to care for your mental health. We offer support for those who are struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues. NorthStar Transitions is here to provide all the help you need to get yourself back on your feet. You can take the first steps by calling us today at (303) 558-6400.