Physical health in recovery has long been touted as one of the key factors in preventing addiction relapse. When discussing self-care, experts will often speak in terms of a “whole-person” approach, meaning mind, body, and spirit. Through 12-step groups, those in recovery learn how to care for their mind and spirit. The resentments are removed and the character defects are addressed. The will and control are turned over to a higher power, and acceptance replaces discontent.
12-step groups rarely address the factors necessary in taking care of one’s physical health in recovery. Our physical health has a huge impact on how we feel, how our minds function, and even our emotions. Physical health impacts our energy levels and our ability to handle the daily problems that arise in life. It even influences our decision-making skills.
Read on to learn five ways that we can improve our physical health in recovery to increase the quality of our lives after addiction.
1. Physical health in recovery helps us maintain energy, focus, and accomplish goals.
We hear it in the doctor’s office on a regular basis…diet and exercise. Lose weight. Don’t smoke. Reduce caffeine intake. We let it pass over our heads, or we try it for a few days and give up. Does it really work? Will these things improve our lives, as opposed to going without?
The answer is…absolutely! But as with anything, taking care of our bodies doesn’t heal them overnight. It may take weeks or months to see a difference in how we feel and improve our energy levels. The cells in our bodies regenerate in varying cycles, so it may be years before some of the damage is undone. While this may be discouraging, it's important to realize that the longer we adhere to a healthy lifestyle, the better we will feel. It may even take years but in the long run, the effort is definitely worth it.
Taking better care of our bodies means increased energy levels, and a better ability to accomplish our daily goals. It means better ability to concentrate on any given task, and that our tasks will take less time to complete. It also means that we’ll do a better job, whether it be at work, caring for our families, or caring for ourselves.
2. Taking care of our bodies gives us greater pride in ourselves.
In active addiction, we often have poor self-esteem. We don’t value ourselves. We don’t take pride in our appearance or how we present ourselves to the world.
When we take care of our physical health in recovery, it's important to make self-care and appearance a priority. Merely changing how we care for our bodies and physical appearance can have a drastic impact on how we see ourselves in our world. Granted, it won’t solve all of our self-esteem problems, but it will pave the way for increased self-confidence, value, and worthiness. From there, we can work through the 12 steps and improve our self-confidence through counseling, daily meditation, and interpersonal relationships. These are all important parts of a strong recovery program that will lead to long-term happiness after addiction.
3. Emotions are intensified when we don’t feel good.
How we feel physically has a huge part to play in how we feel emotionally. Depression, anxiety, and stress can be intensified, or even directly caused by physical illness. This, in turn, can impact our energy levels, decision-making skills, and even our relationships.
This isn’t a new idea. Medical science has produced numerous medications specifically targeting the physiological causes of depression and anxiety. While medication may be warranted in some cases, there is a huge amount of research that indicates that diet and exercise have a very positive impact on mood disorders.
Medication is a useful tool for addressing depression and anxiety, but it is never best to rely on medication first or medication alone. Some may find that medication isn’t necessary after implementing a healthier lifestyle, while others may find that medication isn’t necessary once the body receives the proper nutrients and physical activity level.
4. Healthy minds and bodies reduce stress and provide for better physical health in recovery.
In line with preventing negative emotions and mood disorders, our brains benefit from receiving proper nutrients as well. Many of us may not struggle with depression or anxiety but may benefit from a higher level of concentration and decision-making skills simply by improving our self-care. When the brain receives the proper vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids, our memories improve, depression levels decrease, and intelligence can actually increase.
This translates to an increased ability to handle the stress of life. With more energy and improved decision-making skills, we’re equipped with what we need to address life problems as they arise. We make decisions out of sound, rational thinking rather than panic or emotions. We can have the confidence that we are making the best decisions to improve our lives.
5. Physical health in recovery means living healthy and living longer.
In addiction, we often have little will to live. We may even be suicidal. Extending our lives through proper self-care is usually the last thing on our minds. We look to numb the present through any means possible.
Once we come into recovery, we typically find a lot of reasons to live. It may be for our relationships, our children, or simply a love for life. This is all the more reason to take care of bodies and give them what they need to thrive. This isn’t a new idea either – for over 100 years science has shown a strong correlation between proper self-care and living longer. At the top of the list is always what we put into our bodies and our physical activity level.
We want to be around for a long time to be a service and support to those around us. We want to see our grandchildren grow up and support them through their early years. We want to experience and enjoy life to its fullest for as long as we possibly can. Proper self-care is a very important aspect of physical health in recovery.
Improving self-care will improve the quality of our lives in recovery.
Self-care isn’t just about 12-step groups and meditation. It's about taking care of all aspects of ourselves – mind, body, and spirit. Attend support groups and follow the mind and spirit directives that are given, but also be mindful of the impact that our physical well-being has on our mental well-being. Talk to a doctor and develop a plan to improve physical self-care, not just mental and spiritual. Improve the quality of foods and ensure enough rest and exercise. Changing life habits can lead to a drastic improvement in moods, mental states, energy levels, and length of life. Maintaining our physical health in recovery will help us prevent relapse, and lead to long-term quality recovery after addiction.