Many people find success with traditional treatments for addiction, but the drawback of traditional methods of recovery is that they sometimes leave gaps in care. Using alternative treatments for recovery, like mindfulness, stress management, and exercise, can help fill those gaps. For some people, that means using these in place of more traditional treatments, while others find that they’re a great complement to what they’re already doing.
When Should Someone Seek Alternative Treatments?
If you’re new to the world of complementary medicine, or if you’re just starting your recovery process, it’s hard to know which approach is right for you. The reality is that anyone can benefit from increasing mindfulness, reducing stress, and exercising. Many traditional treatment programs don’t give you the tools you need to manage stress long term, which is a key piece to thriving and staying successful in recovery. Using alternative methods can put that missing piece into your recovery process, giving you more control over your body and emotions.
How Do Alternative Recovery Methods Work?
They reduce stress. Managing stress is an essential part of recovery. Studies have shown that addiction changes a person’s response to stress, and when people in recovery experience high amounts of stress, they are more susceptible to relapse. Engaging in activities that reduce stress is a simple but effective way to break this cycle. Lifestyle changes like meditation and exercise can provide a long-term solution to managing stress, but it’s also important to do little things daily that reduce stress whenever it pops up. For example, reading a good book for even a few minutes is a great way to let your mind escape, and afterward, you can refocus. You can also reduce stress and anxiety by decluttering and cleaning your home. A space free of clutter can promote a more positive outlook.
They help address underlying problems in ways traditional therapy can’t. For some people who have underlying problems linked to addiction, like depression and anxiety, alternative therapies like meditation can create a relaxation response that helps when traditional therapy doesn’t. Meditation is one practice that can help someone achieve mindfulness — becoming more aware of thoughts and feelings while also being able to remain detached from them. Mindfulness is an excellent tool for regaining control over thoughts and choices. A study in JAMA Psychiatry showed that individuals who used mindfulness-based relapse prevention had a lower risk of relapse than those who used traditional therapy.
They can change your brain chemistry. Of course, exercise is good for your health, but it is also therapeutic. When you get your heart rate up, your brain releases endorphins, giving you a completely healthy “natural high.” In this way, exercising actually has an effect on your brain chemistry that reduces stress and gives you more energy and strength for whatever comes your way. According to the Fix, focusing on exercise makes your mind feel lighter, so in addition to relieving stress, it helps with practicing mindfulness too. There are countless ways to maximize these results by doing activities that are both active and meditative, like taking a hike in nature.
Additionally, paying close attention to your gut health can help with stress and mood management. Although it might be hard to believe, the health of this microbiome can have a profound effect on your overall well-being. In fact, vitamin B6, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and magnesium are just a few of the nutrients that can act as “mood boosters” when we work them into our regular diets. So, whenever possible, try to incorporate leafy greens, avocados, nuts, eggs, and asparagus into your meals — even if you’re not used to eating these foods.
Are There Risks to Alternative Treatment?
Mindfulness, stress management, and exercise are all part of a holistic way of living that is safe and good for you. Depending on your situation, though, it may not be a good idea to use only these treatments for addiction without also getting the help of a professional substance abuse counselor. If you have underlying mental health issues like depression, a professional counselor can help you determine whether substance abuse is the source of your depression or if depression has played a role in leading to substance abuse. You can use mindfulness and other holistic measures to treat depression, but only a professional can assess what’s really going on to make sure you’re getting the treatment you really need. Joining the Hope Connection International addiction recovery support group can also be integral to your recovery. This support group is led by well-trained therapists and mentors who can support your recovery with compassion and insight.
For most people, combining the professional expertise of a counselor or treatment program with alternative treatments like mindfulness is the best approach to recovery. A professional addiction treatment specialist can make sure you’re getting the right care. Combining that care with holistic ways of managing stress will give you the tools you need for long-term success.
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Author: Jennifer Scott
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