How to Integrate Mindfulness and Recovery

It is easy to start moving through life on auto-pilot when we are engrossed in our daily routines. Technology offers a world of distraction at our fingertips, so there’s a tendency to miss out on the richness of day-to-day experiences, even in our quiet moments. 

There’s a reason why substance abuse started as a coping mechanism for dealing with life’s stressors for many of us. Addiction consistently obscures the present moment. 

Mindfulness refers to a set of meditation practices that focus on being present in the moment. In addition to its spiritual and mental health benefits, mindfulness provides an effective alternative to more toxic, addictive coping strategies.

Mindfulness: A Perfect Complement to Recovery

Mindfulness trains our brains to focus on the moment in ways that are complementary to the recovery mindset. People sometimes stumble in their recovery journeys when their minds wander and begin to obsess with the future or past, bringing on cravings and cyclical addictive thinking. The practice of mindfulness combats this thinking in a variety of ways:

  • The Moment - A lot of addictive thinking occurs when the mind strays and obsesses over the past or the future. Mindfulness is a practice of paying attention to the present moment - which is exactly where recovery happens best.  
  • Reflection - Reflection is a huge part of addiction recovery each day. Mindfulness meditation provides a gentle avenue for checking in with yourself and your healing journey on a day-to-day basis. Self-awareness also helps people in recovery be honest with themselves about where and why challenges to sobriety are happening. With this knowledge, it becomes easier to stay in safe situations and avoid difficult ones. 
  • Recognition - Mindfulness practice doesn’t forbid thinking during meditation, but it does encourage you to recognize that your thoughts are just thoughts. It is easier to avoid cycles of thoughts about relapse, self-doubt, or negative labeling when you internalize the practice of acknowledging the thought then letting it go.

How to Start

Getting started with mindfulness is simple. A few small lifestyle changes can help you start down the path to a very rewarding lifelong practice. Here are our tips to help you begin:

1. Get Present

For many of us, mindfulness means putting in a bit of effort to pull our awareness back into the present. When you feel yourself reaching for a phone or a distraction in moments of lower stimulation, refocus. Even during routine tasks like chores around the home, try to notice the physical sensations, textures, scents, and natural melodies that are easy to tune out when we’re going through the motions. You can also look inwards to check in with your feelings and stressors at that moment and take stock. This practice helps us perceive reality with more clarity and helps us to cope with its challenges more readily. 

2. Breathe with Intention

Just breathe may seem like a tired adage; however, focusing on our breath truly helps restore a sense of reality and control when feeling overwhelmed. It’s a good idea to look into some simple breathing exercises to implement throughout the day. For example, when you get a quiet moment, take a few seconds to inhale at a normal rate through the nose before exhaling at a measured slow pace through your mouth. Do this with intention a few times a day, noting how it feels, and you’ve already stepped into mindful practice.

3. Pause

Don’t be afraid to slow down and be still. It is too simple to get caught up in day to day activity and forget that our to-do list is not the best measure of our worth. We matter just as much when we are taking the time to be still, listen, and feel, as we do when we’re checking off our responsibilities and appointments in professional and personal spheres. Get comfortable with a sense of inner stillness, and let your support come from within.  

Get Help with Enlightened Solutions

At Enlightened Solutions, we offer a range of alternative modalities to complement our mainstream therapy offerings, including meditation, yoga, art and music therapy, and reiki. Our focus is on healing the whole person rather than merely treating the addiction. If you are struggling with addiction and want to enroll in an addiction treatment program with a holistic approach, please reach out at (833) 801-5483.


Getting the Most Out of Your Recovery With Yoga

Yoga is a practice that uses physical poses to connect the mind, body and breath. The benefits of yoga include stress relief, pain management, and a general improvement in overall well-being. It also helps you gain self-awareness and explore your spirituality. 

Yoga is a powerful tool for holistic healing and recovery from addiction. Substance abuse treatment programs use yoga to help prevent relapse, ease withdrawal symptoms, and provide a healthy way to cope with stress and other negative emotions. It can be an integral part of your daily routine at a treatment center and for the rest of your recovery journey.

How Can Yoga Help You Cope With Stress and Anxiety?

Almost half of the people with a substance use disorder also suffer from an underlying mental health condition. Feelings of anxiety, stress, or depression can cause people to turn to drug abuse - drugs and alcohol may produce temporary calming effects or provide an escape from reality.

Part of the addiction recovery process is learning to reduce anxiety and stress and deal with these feelings in healthier ways. Feelings of anxiety stem from the central nervous system - it is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. Yoga can help regulate your nervous systems, making you feel calmer and more relaxed, which in turn reduces the urge to seek a substance.

Yoga can affect your nervous system by impacting GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) levels in the brain. GABA is a chemical that inhibits brain activity and calms your central nervous system. Research has found that yoga increases GABA levels, improving mood and reducing anxiety.

Yoga may also affect the ‘vagus nerve’, a powerful nerve that delivers messages from the brain to the digestive, respiratory, and nervous systems. The vagus nerve causes a calming response in your nervous system, reducing feelings of anxiety and stress. Yoga involves breathing exercises and other practices that can activate this nerve, helping you manage stress and experience feelings of oneness.

How Does Yoga Help to Manage Pain?

Many people start using prescription drugs like opioids to relieve chronic physical pain and later become addicted. People in recovery may search for another way to ease their pain and yoga can help. 

Lower back pain is one of the most common forms of chronic pain and affects millions of people in the United States. Research has shown Iyengar yoga can be used to decrease the intensity of lower back pain of participants and increase their health-related quality of life - that is, improve the aspects of their well-being that their health impacts. In addition, it can help prevent someone from returning to drugs to relieve pain and the feelings of depression that often accompany it.

How Can You Use Yoga Alongside the 12-Step Program?

The 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are a set of guiding principles for overcoming addiction and maintaining sobriety. They focus on self-acceptance, spiritual well-being, and the development of meaningful bonds between one another. Yoga can support addiction recovery and offer a holistic healing experience that is cognitive, spiritual, and somatic - so it works very well alongside the 12-step program.

Practicing yoga is a way to explore these principles from a body-mind approach. It is an opportunity for introspection where you can learn to accept yourself as a whole. Yoga and meditation also further the development of your spirituality. They can help fulfill the sense of longing for connection or deeper experience that many recovering addicts (people in recovery) recognize as an underlying cause of their addiction.

Enlightened Solutions is a licensed co-occurring treatment center that focuses on healing the whole person rather than merely treating the addiction. Our treatment program is rooted in the 12-step philosophy and offers each client an individualized recovery plan.

At Enlightened Solutions, we offer a range of treatment modalities to provide a holistic healing experience. Our treatment plans include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), family constellation therapy, art and music therapy, yoga and meditation, acupuncture and chiropractic work, and equine-assisted therapy. You will find us near the southern shore of New Jersey, where we provide optimal healing and relaxation.

If you seek relief from addiction, or if someone close to you does, please call us at (833) 801-5483 to learn more about our treatment options.


Break Up

Surviving and Moving On After a Breakup

Maybe you saw it coming. You two hadn’t been getting along and the fights had become more frequent. You hadn’t seen each other as much. The calls and texts were becoming fewer and farther between.

Maybe it was sudden. Your partner said it wasn’t working out or you two weren’t right for each other. It doesn’t make sense. All you know is that you are alone and that you are hurting.

Although recovering from a heartache takes time, making sure that you are taking care of yourself will help the process along.

Food to Help Mend a Broken Heart

Grief may cause you to lose your appetite and it may be very hard to make yourself eat. Now is the time for comfort food, food that reminds you of happier times. For many people, that means food from childhood. Your favorite might be macaroni and cheese. If you wanted to boost the nutrition a bit, you could add pureed butternut squash or make it with whole-grain pasta. Cheese, despite being rich in calories, is rich in calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12. Eating cheese causes your brain to produce more dopamine and serotonin. Serotonin helps to regulate sleep and impulse control, and dopamine boosts mood, motivation, and attention and helps to regulate emotional responses. Other foods that boost serotonin levels include eggs, salmon, and nuts.

If you are a chocolate lover, feel free to indulge a bit. Cacao, the main ingredient of chocolate, enhances mood because it contains tryptophan which is used by the brain to produce serotonin. Also, most people associate chocolate with happy times, which helps. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, contains antioxidants, which protect your body from the effects of free radicals.

Cooking for Comfort and Community

The act of cooking can make you feel better too. When you cook, you need to be aware and present. You need to focus on what you are doing in the moment. Cooking requires mindfulness, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. In addition, the act of cooking will take your mind off your heartache and provide you with a creative outlet.

Also, when you have a broken heart, you need the support of your friends. Cooking is a great way to bring people together and can remind you that you are not alone.

Make Time to Work Out

Although you may not feel like it, exercise will help you feel better. Working out is very important for your mental health. An article published in The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry discussed the benefits of exercise and stated that aerobic exercise (like running, walking, swimming, cycling, and dancing) reduces anxiety, depression, and negative mood. Exercise also improves self-esteem and cognitive function. The article recommended that you get thirty minutes of moderate exercise 3 to 5 days a week. The benefit to you is improved sleep, stress relief, increased mental alertness, and an improved mood.

Make Time for Sleep

Grief can make it difficult to sleep, but getting good sleep is important to your mental health. Depression and anxiety can be made worse by lack of sleep. If you don’t already, make sure that you go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day. Doing so will improve the quality of your sleep and keep some structure and routine in your daily life. 

If you are having trouble sleeping, try following the suggestions offered by the Sleep Foundation:

  • Make your bedroom comfortable and distraction-free
  • Have a relaxing bedtime routine
  • Keep naps short and don’t nap in the late afternoon
  • Spend about 30 minutes winding down (read, stretch, meditate, listen to soft music)
  • Dim the lights
  • Put electronic devices away 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime
  • Cut down or eliminate caffeine in the afternoon and evening

What Not to Do

As normal as it is to want to understand why the relationship ended and have closure, you may never know what happened. Resist the impulse to replay the entire relationship in your head. Don’t analyze old text messages looking for clues as to what went wrong and don’t spend all your time discussing the relationship with friends and family members. Don’t neglect your well-being and don’t isolate yourself. Don’t turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to escape from the pain. While it may bring you some relief in the near term, in the long run substance abuse will not help and can damage your physical and mental health.

The best cure for grief after a relationship is time. Although you can’t put time in a bottle, if you take care of yourself by eating well, spending time with family and friends, exercising, and getting restorative sleep, you will begin to feel better.

The end of a romantic relationship can be devastating. Although healing takes time, you can help the process by eating well, exercising, and getting restorative sleep. What you should not do is neglect your self-care, obsess over the relationship, isolate yourself from family and friends,  or turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. If your grief seems excessive to you or you find yourself abusing drugs or alcohol, you may need professional help. Grief is one of the mental health issues that Enlightened Solutions can help with. We are a drug and alcohol treatment center and we are licensed to treat co-occurring disorders. Our focus is on healing the whole person and we individualize a treatment plan for each client. In addition, to talk therapy and group support rooted in the 12-Step philosophy, we offer a number of holistic treatment modalities including yoga, meditation, art and music therapy, acupuncture, family constellation therapy, and equine therapy. If you are tired of struggling with addiction and ready to begin healing, call us at (833) 801-5483.


Kind

Why Kindness Matters

When you head out for your morning walk, you take a bag with you and pick up trash that you find on your route. You leave a post-it note on the mirror in the restroom of a local restaurant that reads “You are amazing.” You donate books you’ve finished reading to your community library. All of these acts are examples of kindness and could make someone’s day a little bit brighter.

In 2021, Random Acts of Kindness Day is on February 17 and the week beginning February 14 has been designated Random Acts of Kindness Week. This day--and week-- is sponsored by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, a nonprofit organization started in 1995 and sustained by financial contributions from an anonymous donor.

The “Helper’s High”

According to the Random Acts of Kindness website, being kind to others is good for your health. Seeing or performing a kind act increases the production of serotonin, the “love hormone.” This boosts self-esteem and optimism, lowers blood pressure, and improves cardiovascular health. Kindness also results in higher serotonin levels, which improves sleep, lessens anxiety and depression, and contributes to bone density. In addition, those of us who volunteer or make a point of being kind to others have reported that they have more energy and are happier. Researchers at Emory University found that when you do something for someone else, the brain’s reward and pleasure centers activate. This occurrence is called the “helper’s high.” In addition, performing acts of kindness could even cause you to live longer.

Performing acts of kindness reduce physical pain, stress, anxiety, depression, and blood pressure, according to the Random Acts of Kindness website. Pain is lessened because acts of kindness stimulate the production of endorphins, which are considered “the brain’s natural painkillers.” Those of us who volunteer in our communities or make it a point to be kind to others have a 23% lower level of cortisol (the stress hormone), resulting in less perceived stress. In a study conducted at the University of British Columbia, individuals diagnosed with social anxiety disorder performed a minimum of six acts of kindness per week. After one month, this group had a more positive mood, indicated more satisfaction with their personal relationships, and showed less social avoidance. A professor at Case Western Reserve says that doing good for others decreases depression and improves feelings of overall well-being. And finally, being kind to others lowers our blood pressure because of increased serotonin levels.

Turning Your Focus Outward Can Aid Recovery

Performing acts of kindness for others can also help us in our recovery from substance use disorder. When we were drinking, using drugs, or engaging in other harmful addictive behaviors (gambling, for example), we were thinking almost exclusively about ourselves and our addiction. Our focus was on our next drink, wondering where we would get the money for more meth, hoping someone at the party had ecstasy, or whatever our craving was. Our focus was inward. When we perform an act of kindness or service, our focus turns outward to other people and their needs.

Doing good deeds can also help us form connections with other people and with our communities. If we are volunteering as part of an organization, we can bond with others who choose to support the same cause, be it holding a clothing drive to aid people who are returning to the workforce after being homeless, cleaning cages at an animal shelter, or spending a week building a home for a family through Habitat for Humanity.

If you are fairly new to your recovery, you may find yourself feeling bored and with time on your hands. Boredom can lead to relapse, so it is important to have activities to fill the time that you used to spend drinking or doing drugs. Doing a good deed, be it for an individual or a group, will give you something else to think about and to do while helping someone else at the same time. Volunteering with an organization whose mission you believe in can give your life structure and an additional sense of purpose, which will aid your recovery.

Kindness and Service in Recovery Groups

If you are in recovery from an addiction, you are probably in a support group. The most common are the 12-Step programs (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, to name a few) and SMART Recovery. Both organizations provide free support to people struggling with or in recovery from substance use disorders on an international level and rely on volunteers. In both groups, volunteers facilitate meetings, both in-person and online. If you are volunteering with your support group, whether you are running the meeting, making coffee, or setting up chairs, it’s a great way to perform an act of kindness and connect with other people. Serving in this way also means that you have made a commitment beyond going to meetings, and this can get you to a meeting when you don’t feel like going, and that can support your recovery.

Performing an act of kindness for someone else, no matter how large or how small, benefits the giver as much or more than it does the recipient.

Random Acts of Kindness Day--and Week--celebrates acts of kindness large and small. As it turns out, doing good deeds is good for your physical and mental health and being of service to others is part of the 12-Step tradition. At Enlightened Solutions, a drug and alcohol treatment center licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, service opportunities are built into some of the healing modalities that we offer. For example, in the horticultural therapy modality, patients participate in the work of the organic farm that supplies the produce for the center. We are located on New Jersey’s southern shore and our focus is on healing the whole person, not just treating the addiction. We will individualize treatment for you based on your own unique needs. The treatment we offer includes talk therapy and support groups as well as a range of holistic treatment modalities including yoga, meditation, art and music therapy, family constellation therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and equine therapy. If you have been trapped in a life controlled by drugs and alcohol and are ready to break free, call us at (833) 801-5483.


Navigating Your First Year of Sobriety

You did it. You recognized that you had a problem with drugs or alcohol, you sought out treatment, and now you are ready to embrace your new, substance-free lifestyle.

Being newly sober is wonderful and exhilarating, and you may feel like your life is beginning all over again. The first year can also be challenging as well, says the staff at Enlightened Solutions, a treatment center for drug and alcohol addiction that is also licensed to treat the mental health issues that frequently accompany substance use disorders. The first year of sobriety can be a fragile time in a person’s life, and relapses do occur. So what can you do to make your first year successful?

Consider a Sober Living House

After completing a treatment program, you may want to live in a sober living house for a time if that is appropriate for your situation. (If you are married with children, for example, you will probably need and want to go home to be with your family). A sober living house is a facility that provides a structured and supportive living situation for people who have finished treatment programs for drug or alcohol abuse. These facilities provide a transition to mainstream society from the highly structured environment of a treatment program.

Moving into a sober living house can have many benefits, but the most important one is that you will be surrounded by people who are all focused on recovery. In addition, at a sober living house, all the residents have responsibilities related to maintaining the house, but not as many as you may have in your own home. This lightened responsibility leaves you with more time to focus on your recovery.

Create a Routine

One of the most important steps you can take in early recovery is to create a routine for yourself. In treatment, you followed a highly structured and very busy routine. If you aren’t returning to a  job or school, you may find yourself with lots of spare time on your hands. Before treatment, you may have spent a lot of time with your abused substance of choice and if you have time to fill it can be easy to slip back into old, self-destructive habits. Boredom can often lead to relapse.

Recovery is about more than cutting out your substance abuse; recovery is about filling your time with life- and soul-affirming habits. Your routine in recovery should include the healthy habits that you want to incorporate into your life.

One of the habits you will want to develop is that of planning and eating nutritious meals. During the time when you were abusing your substance of choice, eating healthy meals may not have been uppermost in your mind. Part of recovery is healing your body and you need nutritious meals to do that.

Another habit you may need to develop in recovery is making time for regular exercise. Exercise has tremendous benefits, both physical and mental, including reduced stress, lower blood pressure, and improved sleep. In addition, exercising is a terrific way to take up the time that you used to spend drinking or abusing drugs. The most important thing to remember in choosing an exercise is to pick a form of exercise that you enjoy, be it training for a marathon, taking ballet class six days a week, or rock climbing. (Be sure to check with your health care provider before beginning your exercise program.)

You will also want to make time for a spiritual practice. You may want to affiliate with a faith community, attend regular services, and study that tradition’s holy texts. You may want to begin your mornings with meditation and prayer. You may want to start a yoga practice and combine spirituality with physicality. You may find that you are more in touch with the spiritual aspect of yourself when you are in nature and can make it a point to regularly spend time in the natural world. Whatever spiritual practice resonates with you, know that spirituality is an important part of your recovery and should be a part of your regular routine.

Seek Support From Other People

You don’t need to recover from addiction on your own; in fact, you probably shouldn’t. When you are in recovery, especially in your first year of sobriety, the help from other people will be invaluable.

The most obvious place to seek support will be from other people in recovery because they know exactly what you are going through. Attending support group meetings usually begins while you are still in treatment and will be important to you throughout your life. If you went through treatment in the community where you live, you may already be in a support group; if not, you should find one. Many people in recovery choose to go to 12-Step meetings and many treatment centers incorporate the 12-Step tenets into their programs. Twelve-Step meetings are available worldwide and many meetings are substance-specific, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, and Crystal Meth Anonymous. Other people in recovery choose to attend SMART Recovery meetings, another abstinence-oriented program. Many people also find that working with a therapist is very helpful in recovery. In addition, you may find that some of your friends and family members are supportive of your recovery and will help you maintain sobriety.

The first year of recovery is a very exciting time, but it can be challenging as well. To be successful, you will need to establish healthy habits. At Enlightened Solutions, we will teach you the life skills that you need to build a solid foundation for a lasting recovery. Enlightened Solutions is a drug and alcohol treatment center licensed to treat co-occurring disorders. We are located on New Jersey’s southern shore and rooted in the 12-Step tradition. Our focus is on treating the whole person and we develop an individualized treatment plan for each patient. Our treatment program combines traditional talk therapy, both one-on-one and in a group setting, with ancient wellness practices, including meditation and yoga. We offer a number of holistic treatment modalities including Family Constellation Therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), art and music therapy, sound therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, equine therapy, and nutritional education. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse and are ready to break free of a life controlled by drugs and alcohol, call us at (833) 801-5483 to learn more about our programs.


Journaling

Three Ideas for a Spiritual New Year’s Eve

When we think of celebrating New Year’s Eve, for many of us the images that come to mind are the images that are fed to us by the media: you go to a big party. If you are married, you go with your spouse. If you are single, you go with a date or you go hoping to meet someone. Either way, there is dancing and drinking. At midnight you drink a glass of champagne to ring in the New Year. It can be a great time, but maybe this year you want to do something different. Maybe you don’t drink. Maybe you aren’t in the mood for a big party. Maybe you want to spend the time more reflectively. Here are three ideas for how to spend a more contemplative New Year’s Eve.

Declutter Physically and Mentally

Decluttering and organizing has been in the media a lot recently. Decluttering your physical surroundings can help lighten your mental load, which would be a great way to start the new year. Also, if you want to bring new things into your life--new clothes that fit the career you aspire to, a new habit to improve your health, a new spiritual practice--whatever it is, you need to make space for it. Spend some time on New Year’s Eve getting rid of possessions that you no longer want or need. Get them physically out of your home.

Spend some time thinking about habits. Maybe you stop for coffee every morning on your way to work. If you really enjoy that part of your morning, then keep it. If not, change it. Maybe you would like to spend 30 more minutes at home reading or meditating. Think about the habits of the mind. Do you speak critically to yourself? That would be a good mental habit to change. Have you been holding onto anger? Your anger may be completely justified, but it is only hurting you. Do you still feel guilty about something that is over and done with? Maybe it’s time to let that go. Just as you removed the physical items you no longer need, you can remove the mental junk as well. Take a piece of paper and write down the habits you want to remove from your life and the old anger, hurt, and guilt that you no longer want to carry with you and then you can burn the paper to symbolically rid your life of that negativity.

Create a Vision for What You Do Want

Now that you’ve cleared out some space--physically and mentally--you have room to bring in the new. A great way to make what you want tangible is to create a vision board. To start, spend a few minutes writing down goals you want to achieve in the coming year, experiences you want to have, and what you want your life to be like. You will need a poster board or foam board, tape or glue, something to write with, old magazines, photos, or images from the internet. You will want to include a picture of yourself somewhere on the board and make a collage. If you want to become more physically active maybe you have a photo of a swimmer. If you want to work towards a promotion at work maybe you find an image of a nice office or some other image that speaks to you. Add words, affirmations, inspirational messages, quotes you enjoy, and anything else you want to your board. When you are finished, take a few minutes and enjoy your work. Put your finished board someplace where you can see it every day and use it to keep what you want uppermost in your mind.

Some people make separate vision boards for different aspects of their lives. For instance, you might make one for work and one for home. If you have set a major goal for yourself, perhaps to run a marathon, you might want to create a board just for that. The key to making a vision board is to create something that speaks to you, and you should have fun while you are doing it.

End and Begin the Year in Meditation

Now you have spent some time getting rid of what no longer serves you, literally and symbolically, and you have spent some time contemplating what you do want. Now it’s time to quiet your mind. Take some time to mentally review the year, focusing on special memories and accomplishments. Shortly before midnight, settle in to meditate. If you are new to meditation, that’s okay. A simple way to meditate is to focus on your breath. Sit with your eyes closed, and notice your breathing. You will begin to feel more peaceful. End the old year, and begin the new year with a feeling of peace.

Part of the recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol involves visualizing what you want your new life to be. Having a vision can help sustain your commitment to sobriety or influence your decision to begin your journey. It isn’t enough to treat your addiction; the underlying issues that led to the addiction need to be addressed, and you need a powerful vision of what your life can be when you are free of addiction. At Enlightened Solutions, we tailor a recovery plan for each client that reflects their needs and goals.  We offer a range of treatment modalities designed to treat the whole person, including individual and group counseling, yoga and meditation, acupuncture and chiropractic care, art and music therapy, family constellation therapy, and equine therapy. We provide our clients with the skills they need to be successful in the new life they are creating.  To take that first step into a life free from addiction, call us at (833) 801-5483.

 


Wellness for Addiction Recovery

The Role of Nutrition in Addiction Recovery

Good nutrition is a vital part of recovery from substance use disorder. Substance abuse frequently leads to poor nutrition because people struggling with an addiction either aren’t taking in enough calories throughout the day or are making poor food choices. 

According to David Wiss, founder of Nutrition in Recovery, many people in the West aren’t eating well, either. Part of the problem is the prevalence of highly processed foods, which, he says, is contributing to metabolic disease and may be causing an increase in depression and anxiety as well. Highly processed foods are frequently low in fiber and high in sugar. When a person who has been eating highly processed food enters treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, their primary source of dopamine (drugs) is gone, and post-detox they can gravitate towards caffeine, sugar, and possibly nicotine. “Old wisdom from the recovery community would suggest that a liberalized approach to sweets, nicotine, and caffeine is favorable to help the individual get past the immediate crisis,” writes Wiss in an article that appeared in Psychology Today. However, “New wisdom suggests that this behavior is a form of cross addiction that should be addressed early in recovery.” If you or someone you know is contemplating entering a facility to recover from addiction to drugs or alcohol, it is important to make sure that the facility pays careful attention to nutrition and teaches about nutrition and wellness

What Should You Eat in Recovery?

In recovery, you are working to heal your body and your brain. Therefore, you want to eat as well as possible. Focus on eating whole foods, defined as “...any fruit, vegetable, grain, protein, or dairy product that has not been artificially processed or modified from its original form.” (US News and World Report, “You’re in Recovery, What Should You Eat,” 2018). Avoid sugary beverages, artificial sweeteners, refined grains, and fried foods. If possible, eat organic food. Organic fruits and vegetables are often fresher and are not grown using synthetic pesticides, which reduces exposure harmful chemicals. Organic farming is also better for the environment in that it reduces pollution, conserves water, reduces soil erosion, and uses less energy. Organically raised animals are not given antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed animal byproducts.

Another alternative is to purchase locally grown food. If you buy locally grown food, typically from a farmers’ market of a food co-op, the produce is typically fresher because it hasn’t had to travel as far to get to market. In addition, if you buy local, you are supporting a local small business.

Foods That Improve Brain Chemistry

According to a recent article in US News and World Report (“You’re in Recovery, What Should You Eat,” 2018), there are specific foods that are especially good to eat in recovery because of the role they play in boosting the brain. For example, the amino acid tyrosine is a precursor to dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with feeling good. Dopamine is typically at a very low level in early recovery, which can lead to low energy and motivation, a depressed mood, and substance cravings. Foods that contain tyrosine include bananas, sunflower seeds, lean beef, pork, lamb, whole grains, and cheese.

Eat foods rich in L-glutamine, an amino acid that boosts the immune system. These foods can help reduce sugar cravings, which is important because sugar consumption is linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and inflammation. These foods include kale, spinach, parsley, beets, carrots, beans, Brussels sprouts, celery, papaya, beef, chicken, fish, dairy products, and eggs.

Foods that contain a lot of antioxidants also boost the immune system and these include berries, leeks, onions, artichokes, and pecans. Make it a point to eat foods that boost levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that leads to feelings of calm and relaxation. Low levels of GABA can lead to anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia. Foods that have been found to increase levels of GABA include kefir, shrimp, and cherry tomatoes.

Lastly, include foods that contain tryptophan in your diet. Tryptophan can boost levels of serotonin, which is associated with feelings of well-being and happiness. Serotonin helps with sleep and digestion. Foods containing tryptophan include cheese, turkey, lamb, pork, tuna, oat bran, beans, and lentils.

What to Look for in a Recovery Program

Because of the important role that nutrition plays in successfully recovering from an addiction, it is vital to select a treatment program that stresses nutrition. A good program will offer nutrition and wellness counseling and/or education. A healthy diet, focused on whole foods, helps the body and brain to heal. In some programs clients will learn or relearn to cook and to garden. A facility that includes a garden or farm provides many benefits to its clients. In addition to learning how to grow food, gardening offers clients exercise and an opportunity to be outside. Programs that have a farm frequently supply produce for the facility, which can lead to increased self-esteem and a sense of purpose. 

In some programs, clients working in groups take turns fixing meals for everyone in the facility. This provides many benefits in addition to learning or relearning how to cook, meal plan, etc. Working in a group builds community and a sense of camaraderie, and knowing that you are responsible for everyone’s meal provides a sense of purpose. The emphasis on nutrition is important as well; as the body becomes healthier, the brain heals. In addition, cooking is therapeutic and can be just plain fun. Because of the importance of nutrition in recovery, eating well becomes an act of self-love and care.

Good nutrition, with an emphasis on whole, organic food, plays an important part in recovering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol. It is part of treating the whole person and is a holistic treatment modality used by treatment facilities to help heal the client’s body and brain. For many, when they are at the point in their addiction of seeking treatment, nutrition has not been an important part of their lives. When people enter treatment, they are frequently malnourished from not consuming enough calories in the course of a day or because the food they have been consuming has not been high in necessary nutrients. At Enlightened Solutions, we recognize that nutrition and wellness are vital for people recovering from the pain and destruction of substance abuse. If you are seeking treatment that focuses on healing the whole person, either for yourself or someone you love, call (833) 801-5483.

 


Hiking for addiction recovery

Exercise Your Way to Mental Health

Participating in an exercise program has many health benefits, both physical and mental. Regular exercise helps with heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, weight management, and many other health issues. Regular exercise is also highly beneficial for mental health. Ask a runner why he or she runs and you will often hear about the “runner’s high”--a feeling of euphoria combined with reduced anxiety and a lessened sensitivity to pain. Endorphins have long been connected with the “runner’s high” and researchers in Germany have found that the brain’s endocannabinoid system may be involved as well. An endocannabinoid called anandamide has been found in people’s blood after they run. This endocannabinoid can travel from the blood to the brain.

Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

According to an article published in The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, aerobic exercise, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, has been proven to reduce anxiety, depression, and negative mood. Exercise improves self-esteem and cognitive function and can also help with social withdrawal. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise three to five days a week is all you need, researchers say. The benefits include improved sleep, stress relief, increased mental alertness, and an overall improved mood. Regular exercise also leads to greater self-confidence, more social interaction, and is a healthy way to cope with stress. 

Mental health professionals usually recommend that people struggling with depression and anxiety exercise regularly, provided that the client doesn’t have a health problem that precludes physical exercise. A young psychiatrist once said that if he could put the mental health benefits of exercise in a bottle, he would become a wealthy man!

Exercise in Addiction Recovery

Because of the mental and physical benefits of exercise, many treatment facilities include fitness in their programs. As one fitness specialist said, he works with clients to help them start an exercise program or get exercise back into their lives. According to a blog on an addiction site, an exercise program provides structure to a person’s day and can be a vital part of recovery. Exercise takes up time and is a healthy way to spend the time that used to be spent drinking or using. A blog on the Harvard Health website said that exercise can be a powerful tool to distract a person in recovery from cravings and can help people to build positive social connections. According to the blog’s author, Claire Twark, M.D., organizations are cropping up to promote physical activity for people in recovery. One of these is The Phoenix, which has locations across the country and also offers classes online. The Phoenix offers CrossFit, yoga, rock climbing, boxing, running, and hiking, and is open to anyone who has been sober for 48 hours, as well as their support groups.

Starting an Exercise Program

While mental health professionals recommend exercise for their clients, for someone suffering from depression, the task may seem overwhelming at first. To start, figure out what type of exercise you want to do. You may like exercising alone or you may prefer the dynamic of a fitness class. You may like to pick a couple of different activities to mix things up a little. You could decide that you will jog three times per week and go to a yoga class on two days. Or you may start out by taking a friendly dog for a walk.

After you have identified an activity or activities that you think you will enjoy, enlist some social support. Maybe you have a work-out buddy or maybe you report on your exercise program to a therapist or life coach. Exercising with a friend may be a motivator on days when you just don’t feel like working out or you might want to have something to report the next time you talk to your therapist.

Whatever exercise you have selected, it's important to start off slow to prevent physical injury and burn-out. Your ultimate goal may be to run a marathon, but you need to start off slow and gradually increase the distance you run. It's also important to set reasonable goals. If you haven’t exercised in a number of years, deciding that you are going to go to an exercise class six days a week probably isn’t realistic. A more reasonable goal might be to go to class three days a week and after a few weeks add another class to your schedule.

Decide what time of day you will work out. Some people love to start the day with a brisk walk or a swim, while other people prefer to work out later in the day. Whatever you choose, put it on your calendar and make exercise a priority.

A positive mind-set will help you with your exercise regime as well. Try not to think of exercise as a chore or as one more thing to add to your daunting to-do list. Try to think of your exercise sessions as something that you get to do for yourself, something that you look forward to. If you aren’t logging the miles you anticipated or making it to class as often as you had planned, take a little time to figure out what’s holding you back. Also, be prepared for setbacks and obstacles and figure out how to solve them. If you are a runner, there might be days when you run indoors on a treadmill because of the weather, for example. You may have to switch from running to walking to give an injury a chance to heal.

Whether you are struggling with depression, an addiction, or just want to experience the mental and physical benefits of exercise, find a physical activity that you enjoy and move your body. As Nike says: “Just Do It.”

Exercise is a vital part of an addiction recovery program and a huge help to people struggling with depression. Many treatment facilities include fitness among their alternative therapies because of the many physical and mental benefits of regular exercise. An important part of the recovery journey is creating a healthy lifestyle to replace the lifestyle of addiction. Exercise is a healthy way to cope with stress and the painful feelings that have been numbed by drugs or alcohol. In addition to the mental health benefits provided by exercise, exercise offers many physical benefits as well, including weight management, improved cardiovascular health, a lower incidence of diabetes, stimulating the immune system, and lowering the risk of developing some types of cancers. Fitness is one of the holistic treatment modalities that Enlightened Solutions offers to clients. If you or someone close to you is struggling with depression or an addiction, call (833) 801-5483.

 


The Powerful Effect of Touch in Addiction Recovery

The Powerful Effect of Touch in Addiction Recovery

The mind-body connection opens the doorway to a variety of techniques for healing during recovery. Sometimes, to heal from our mental pain and anguish, we must heal our bodies and allow our minds to follow. Physical touch can be a powerful tool in addiction recovery.

The physical touch from a trained professional can reinvigorate the mind by stimulating and awakening our bodily sensations. We may have numbed not only our feelings and our emotions by turning to addictions--we may have also numbed our bodies.

Sometimes, we turn to addictions for reasons that are not bad in and of themselves. For example, we may turn to alcohol or drugs as a way of relaxing. While relaxing is not an issue, alcohol or other substances can create other health concerns or create multiple issues in our lives.

We frequently experience emotional stress in our bodies. Releasing this bodily stress through acupuncture can help to release mental stress through the mind-body connection. Physical touch by massage, acupuncture, or chiropractic work can help restore the vital pathway of the mind-body connection.

Massage: Basic Therapeutic Touch

Massage is one of the most basic forms of therapeutic touch. We can use the technique ourselves by rubbing our faces or kneading the muscles of our necks. We might massage our legs or arms following exercise or physical activity.

Professionals can also do the work for us. Massage therapists are trained to use the power of touch to reduce pain and alleviate stress. In recovery from addiction, we may benefit from the release of bodily tension in order to relax our minds and better cope with stress.

Massage can produce a variety of health benefits and help our healing during the challenges of the recovery process. Therapeutic massage can also help us if we have experienced traumatic relationships by allowing us to experience human contact in a safe environment.

Acupuncture: Unlocking the Body With Needles

Most of us have heard of acupuncture as a way of relaxing or stimulating muscles to relieve pain. Acupuncture, however, can also be used to help heal our emotional and mental states of mind. Acupuncture is a way of releasing tension in the body that is often built up by mental stress.

Acupuncture is an ancient technique where a trained practitioner uses extremely thin needles to stimulate the body’s healing response systems. The needles are inserted into the skin in specific spots to release tension and to activate positive feelings throughout the body.

The needles may seem intimidating, however, they cause little to no discomfort to us during the process. The insertion of needles stimulates blood flow throughout the body and triggers positive feelings throughout the body.

Chiropractic Work: Spine As the Direct Mind-Body Connection

When talking about the mind-body connection, we cannot forget to mention the most direct representation of this connection: the spine. Our spine consists of nerve fibers that connect to every part of the body and then relay sensory information to the brain.

The spine is quite literally the part of our bodies where the mind-body connection exists! Our bodies send information through the spinal column to the brain and our brains send information through the spinal column to the body.

By undergoing sessions with a chiropractor, those of us in recovery can heal and stimulate the mind-body connection. Much of the stress that we experience manifests itself in our backs, creating postural issues and bodily tension.

By addressing the physical issues of the spine and back, our minds can heal as they follow the body’s response to chiropractic work. We can release the emotional stress of our minds that has been held within our bodies by directly stimulating the spine and back.

Chiropractic work can strengthen the communication between the mind and body, helping us to heal from our stress and pain.

The Value of Human Contact and Trust

Another, perhaps overlooked, benefit of massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic work is the therapeutic value of human contact. Some of us in recovery from addiction may have had turbulent relationships with others. We may have come from traumatic backgrounds or abusive relationships.

Sometimes, holistic and mind-body approaches can have the side benefit of teaching us to trust others again. We are also building a relationship with another person during our sessions as we speak to the practitioner about our pain and recovery.

Whether we are learning to trust someone to touch us directly with their hands, putting needles into our skin, or readjusting our spine, we can benefit from the value of trained professionals providing a therapeutic touch.

Feeling good physically and feeling good mentally are interrelated. When you feel healthy and free from physical pain, you generally feel mentally and spiritually healthy as well. The mind-body connection can influence us to try numerous alternative therapies for recovery. Professionals can help us alleviate stress by using massage, acupuncture, or chiropractic work. These therapies can help our bodies release tension and stress, which then helps our minds feel at ease. Other ways to tap into the healing power of the mind-body connection can include things like yoga, physical exercise, breathing exercises, and other alternative therapies. Enlightened Solutions understands the importance of the mind-body connection during the recovery process and uses holistic approaches to treatment. We have trained professionals on staff at our care program to address your healing needs. Call us at (833) 801-5483 to begin your recovery from addictive behaviors today!


8 Tips for Making a Good Apology

8 Tips for Making a Good Apology

If you struggle with substance use issues, you may find yourself having to make more apologies than the average person. Not only do drugs and alcohol impair your judgment, making you more prone to reckless behavior and accidents, but addiction can undermine your personal values and harm your relationships in a thousand different ways. When you do decide to get sober, part of that process will include patching up relationships, making apologies, and making amends. If you have some apologies to make, here are some tips for doing it right.

Apologize for the Right Reason

The right intention can make all the difference in an apology. There is really only one correct reason for apologizing to someone, which is that you feel genuine remorse for hurting them in some way. Don’t apologize because you need money or a place to stay or whatever else. That’s the most transparent sort of fake apology. It’s not even a good idea to ask for a favor after an apology. Even if you do feel genuine remorse, asking a favor right away undermines the sincerity of your apology. If you do apologize from a place of genuine remorse, it will show and your apology will be more effective.

Describe What You’re Apologizing For

What people typically want from an apology is validation and recognition. When you victimize someone, you’re implying that their needs don’t matter. One way you can make up for that is to demonstrate some understanding of why your actions hurt them. Briefly describe what you did and why it hurt them. For example, you might say something like, “I’m sorry I didn’t pick you up at the airport as I had promised. I realize it must have been a huge inconvenience and you may have felt like I forgot about you or that I just didn’t care.” Your description should demonstrate both awareness and empathy. Being able to accurately identify what you did wrong and why makes the other person feel like you might at least be capable of avoiding similar behavior in the future.

Explicitly Apologize

It’s important to actually say the words “I’m sorry” or “I apologize.” We often cave under the pressure of sincere communication. Sometimes the person who deserves an apology and really wants to hear it will even let you off the hook without an explicit apology if you make your intention clear. However, apologies aren’t supposed to be easy so make sure you say the actual words.

Make Amends If Possible

Apologies are good but making amends is better. That’s one reason one of the 12 steps is making amends and not just apologizing. While an apology is the decent thing to do, and sometimes the best thing you can do, it’s still just words. Making amends actually requires some kind of sacrifice on your part in order to make things right. It might be a sacrifice in terms of money, effort, or time.

Not only does this mitigate some of the damage you’ve done, but it also demonstrates your sincerity, and sharing in the consequences indicates that you are less likely to repeat your behavior. If making amends to the person you harmed is not possible or not advisable, think of ways you can make amends more broadly, perhaps by donating time or money to a worthy cause.

Give Assurance It Won’t Happen Again

When it comes to moving forward in a relationship, the other person mainly wants to know if you are going to hurt them again. Trust takes a while to repair. Some of the tips above, like stating exactly what you did and why it was wrong, and making amends go some way toward reassuring the person you won’t repeat your behavior. Promising that it won’t happen again is also nice. You may want to give some more concrete assurances as well, such as telling them you’ve entered addiction treatment, started attending 12-Step meetings, starting seeing a therapist, and so on. Depending on the situation, you might propose specific consequences for repeating your behavior.

Ask Forgiveness

When you’ve apologized and given your assurances, ask forgiveness. Explicitly say, “Will you forgive me?” When you victimize someone, you take away their agency and asking forgiveness is a way of giving a little bit back. You’re letting them know that you need something from them and they can decide to give it to you or not. In other words, you’re allowing yourself to be vulnerable as a way of evening the score.

The catch is that you can’t make them forgive you. You have to live with whatever they decide to do. They may also not be able to forgive you right away. Be patient, they may change their mind if you show genuine signs of change.

Don’t Ruin It With Explanations

It’s hard to admit you were wrong and leave it at that. Whatever it was that you did, you know there were specific circumstances, that you’re not really such a bad person, and so on. You want to defend your actions in such a way that you don’t feel terrible about yourself. However, an apology isn’t about you; it’s about them. We all know that nothing happens in a vacuum and there were extenuating circumstances and everything else but all they care about is that you hurt them. So make your apology and resist the urge to add a “but” or “it’s just that” to the end.

Don’t Force an Apology on Someone

Finally, don’t force an apology on someone who doesn’t want it. An apology is for making the other person feel better, not for making you feel better. If someone doesn’t want to hear from you, respect that.

Apologies are never easy but they’re often the right thing to do. The key is to express genuine remorse while being specific about your offense and how it affected the other person. Taking responsibility for your actions shows a fundamental change in attitude from addictive behavior and making some assurance it won’t happen again sets the groundwork for rebuilding trust.

At Enlightened Solutions, we know that recovery from addiction is about far more than quitting drugs and alcohol; it’s about living a life of connection, integrity, and joy. We treat the whole person, mind, body, and spirit, and we emphasize the importance of community in recovery. To learn more, call us today at 833-801-5483.