Enrolling in an outpatient addiction treatment program is an excellent step toward sobriety and substance abuse recovery — but the work doesn’t end there. Overcoming addiction challenges requires consistency and intentionality. You have to participate in the recovery process actively. In addition, you need to start developing habits and skills that help promote addiction recovery.
Habits and Skills That Help The Recovery Process
1. Practicing Self-Care
Recognizing the importance of self-care or looking after yourself is one of the first steps toward a healthy recovery. The World Health Organization defines self-care as “the ability to promote health, prevent disease, and maintain health.” This definition means that self-care can include mental hygiene, nutrition, physical fitness, therapy, yoga, meditation, listening to music, and so forth. In short, self-care is how you manage stressors in your life and take care of your health and well-being.
The more you take care of yourself, the less likely you are to use drugs and alcohol to feel better, relieve pain, and manage stress. Learning to replace urges to use drugs and alcohol with something helpful and healthy can help you maintain long-term sobriety.
Self-care is different for everyone, but some of the most common examples include:
- Going for a walk
- Sitting in nature
- Reading a book
- Calling a loved one or friend
- Asking for help
- Listening to inspiring and motivating music
2. Developing Healthy Relationships
Recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction can feel like a lonely, isolating process. Feeling that way can negatively impact your social and emotional health. That’s why you need to connect with others during outpatient treatment. Developing healthy relationships can help combat feelings of isolation and loneliness. You can improve, rebuild, and enhance your social circle by:
- Reconnecting with supportive friends and family
- Attending family counseling with your loved one
- Forming new relationships at work, school, or extra-curricular activities
- Participating in group counseling sessions and peer support groups
Healthy relationships can:
- Help you decrease stress
- Provide you with emotional support
- Boost your self-esteem
- Lower anxiety
- Combat depression
- Give you a sense of meaning and purpose
- Improve communication skills
- Give you a new perspective on life
- Encourage you to try new things
All of these benefits can help reduce your chances of relapse.
3. Eating A Balanced, Nutritious Diet
You may not think of food as an essential part of your recovery, but eating a balanced and nutritious diet can help boost your mood. A nutritious diet can also help encourage the brain to learn new, healthier habits. Staying upbeat emotionally can help you remain motivated and encouraged throughout the recovery process. Eating brain-healthy foods that promote neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to change can help sustain long-term recovery.
Following a balanced diet can also help:
- Repair damage to your organs and tissues
- Reestablish proper functioning of various systems in the body
- Rebuild the immune system
- Enhance brain functionality
- Improve concentration
- Restore balance in the central nervous system
To experience these benefits sooner rather than later, start developing a balanced diet while you’re in outpatient treatment. Be sure to include:
- Carbohydrates, which allow the brain time and energy to create new neural connections to promote healthier habits. Carbohydrates help the brain produce serotonin, which helps reduce cravings for drugs and alcohol. When eaten in moderation, carbohydrates can also help create a stable mood and promote good quality sleep.
- Amino acids, which help balance the brain’s dopamine levels. In addition to helping you feel good, dopamine motivates the brain to change and plays a vital role in learning new habits. Amino acids help balance the brain’s dopamine levels. Foods high in amino acids include eggs, turkey, fish, legumes, beans, quinoa, edamame, poultry, nuts, red meat, yogurt, and chia seeds.
- Omega-3 fatty acids, which help balance the brain’s neurotransmitters or chemical messengers. Addiction disrupts the brain’s delicate balance of these chemical messengers. Restoring that balance encourages the creation of new, healthier neural connections. Examples of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include mackerel, salmon, herring, oysters, sardines, flax seeds, walnuts, soybeans, spinach, omega-3 enriched eggs, and grass-fed meat.
- Foods that boost your mood. Research shows that certain foods can improve your mood and help combat mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder. These foods include fatty fish, dark chocolate, fermented foods, bananas, oats, berries, nuts, seeds, coffee, beans, and lentils.
Recovering from addiction is a multifaceted process, but having a balanced diet can help encourage neuroplasticity. By changing the brain, you can begin to change your life.
4. Celebrate Your Strengths
A large portion of alcohol and drug recovery involves being honest about past mistakes. That’s important. But as you recover, you also need to take time to celebrate your strengths. Acknowledging and celebrating your strengths can help boost your self-esteem and remind you that addiction is a condition you’re recovering from, not your identity.
Too many individuals in rehabilitation programs only focus on the negative, including their failures and weaknesses. So take time to consider your strengths. Are you:
Make a list. When you focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses, you prove to yourself that you have what it takes to succeed. And remember, you are so much more than addiction.
5. Learn Healthy Stress Management Techniques
Learning how to manage stress is one of the essential skills you need to master during outpatient treatment. In addition to making you feel overwhelmed, stress can trigger cravings that can eventually lead to relapse. Learning how to manage stress can help you maintain long-term recovery. While you’re in outpatient treatment, find a stress-management technique that works for you and incorporate it into your daily routine.
Some of the most common stress management techniques include:
- Deep breathing. Taking a few deep breaths can help relieve stress right away. Although this is a quick activity, deep breathing is highly effective. Just sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Imagine yourself in a relaxing place. Slowly breathe in and out. Continue breathing deeply for 5 to 10 minutes at a time.
- Meditation. Meditation can bring short-term and long-term stress relief. Focusing on the “here and now” stops you from ruminating about something that has already happened or worrying about something that may occur in the future, which reduces stress.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. This technique involves relaxing all the muscles in your body. You can begin this technique by taking a few deep breaths. Afterward, tighten and relax your muscles, starting with your forehead and moving down to your toes. In time, you’ll be able to recognize tension and tightness in your muscles and will be able to relax more easily.
- Positive self-talk. The way you talk to yourself can also help relieve stress. Harsh self-criticism, self-doubt, and catastrophic thinking can increase the amount of stress in your life. Constantly thinking, “I don’t have time for this” or “I can’t do this” can stress you out. Positive self-talk can help you develop an optimistic attitude and compassionate conversation with yourself that can help you manage your emotions, relieve stress, and take positive action.
- Taking a walk. Taking a walk allows you to enjoy a change of scenery which can help you get into a different frame of mind. As a form of exercise, walking can also trigger the brain to release endorphins into the body, which create a general feeling of well-being.
- Making time for hobbies. Set aside time for things you enjoy. Do something every day that makes you feel good. Some common relaxing hobbies include:
- Working on an art project
- Playing a sport
- Watching a movie
- Doing a puzzle
- Playing cards or a board game
Empowering You To Take Charge Of Your Recovery
Here at Meta Addiction Treatment, we work hard to empower our clients to take charge of their recovery. We know that addiction recovery can be a challenging process, but practicing self-care, developing healthy relationships, eating a balanced, nutritious diet, and learning beneficial stress management techniques can help take charge of and maintain your recovery.
Contact us if you or someone you know is grappling with addiction challenges. Our recovery experts are available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to help.