Exercise Addiction

Can You Exercise Your Way Out of Addiction?

Exercise is now an integral part of many addiction recovery programs. This may include mind-body exercise like yoga or tai chi, more intense physical activity like weightlifting—or outdoor sports, which is somewhere in the middle. In a similar vein, many therapists are now incorporating exercise into their treatment for substance use issues and other mental health issues. It seems like we are always seeing new studies about how exercise can improve your mental health and help you stay sober, so a lot of people get the idea that maybe exercise is all they need. Can you really exercise your way out of addiction?

Exercise supports recovery.

First of all, it’s clear that exercise does support recovery and that addiction treatment programs know what they’re doing when they make physical activity an integral part of treatment. Several animal studies and a few small studies in humans have found that exercise can help reduce the risk of relapse. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20529968] In this case, the animal studies may be more compelling, since rats rarely respond to therapy. There are three primary ways exercise supports recovery.

Improves Physical Health

Addiction can take a terrible toll on your health, leading to a range of problems including malnutrition, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, and infections. Exercise can help offset many of these risks, especially cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Improves Mental Health

While the physical health benefits are certainly nice, the mental health benefits of exercise likely contribute more to a prolonged recovery. Exercise increases levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin, as well as dopamine, endorphins, and BDNF, a hormone that actually grows neurons in certain areas of the brain. Exercise can improve your mood within minutes and regular exercise can actually create structural changes in your brain, such as thickening the prefrontal cortex, which helps improve your self-control and emotional regulation. Exercise also improves your sleep, which has both mental and physical benefits.

Reduces Your Reactivity to Stress

Perhaps the biggest benefit of exercise—and the one responsible for many of the other benefits—is that it makes you less reactive to stress. Chronic stress obviously increases anxiety, but it also disrupts your sleep, increases your levels of hormones such as cortisol that can damage your cardiovascular health, and increases inflammation, which has been linked with depression. Researchers believe that among the benefits noted above, regular exercise affects the brain’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal, or HPA, axis, making you less vulnerable to stress and also less vulnerable to depression and anxiety—two challenges that commonly go along with substance use disorders. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/]

However, exercise alone is not enough.

The benefits outlined above certainly tip the odds in your favor. Since most people cite stress as their biggest trigger of craving, anything that makes you feel less anxious or overwhelmed is certainly going to help you stay sober. The same is true for depression and other mental health challenges. However, there’s much more to recovery than turning down the volume on challenging emotions.

Doesn’t Teach Recovery Skills

While exercise is one lifestyle change that broadly supports sobriety, it’s certainly not a silver bullet. You won’t magically stay sober just by running 30 minutes a day. There are many skills specific to recovery. You have to know your triggers, learn to tolerate discomfort, devise behavioral strategies to avoid temptation and deal with peer pressure, learn to regulate your emotions, learn healthy strategies for managing and coping with stress, and other things that exercise alone won’t teach you.

One way to think of it is if you’re training for a sport—say, boxing. Obviously, a boxer has to be in good physical shape, which means running, push ups, weights, jumping rope, and so on, but no matter how fit they are, they won’t necessarily get better at boxing unless they actually train for boxing. It’s a high-skill activity that requires technique, timing, and knowing how to handle getting punched in the face. Similarly, in addiction recovery, you need both specific skills and lifestyle changes.

Doesn’t Address Mental Health Issues

Most people recovering from addiction will have co-occurring mental health issues, such as an anxiety disorder, major depression, PTSD, ADHD, a personality disorder, or others. As discussed above, exercise can help with these issues, but exercise alone is typically not enough. Some mental health issues require medication and most require some kind of specific therapeutic intervention. No matter how much you run, for example, you’re not likely to process your trauma or overcome your intense fear of social situations. That typically requires therapy. Exercise can improve your mood, but it often doesn’t change your thinking or behavior.

Doesn’t Provide Social Support

Finally, it’s important to remember that social support is one of the keys to a strong recovery. Exercise can certainly be social. In fact, studies have shown that team sports and other forms of group exercise are the best overall for improving mental health, both because they improve consistency through accountability and because they add a socializing aspect to exercise. While this is certainly good, the people you play basketball with every Saturday probably have no idea what it’s like to struggle with addiction. Any social connection with positive, supportive people is a good thing, but for the purposes of recovery, it’s especially important to have a group of friends who know what you’re going through.

Exercise is one lifestyle change that should be part of every recovery program. There are mountains of evidence that it improves mental and physical health and improves recovery outcomes. However, exercise in itself is typically not enough to keep you sober. Addiction is caused by many factors and a comprehensive treatment plan needs to recognize the specific factors relevant to you. At Enlightened Solutions, we know there is no one-size-fits-all in addiction recovery. We incorporate exercise and other activities into our individualized and holistic treatment programs. For more information, call us today at 833-801-LIVE or explore our website.

Relapse vs. Slip

Trauma Blocks the Flow of the Present

Trauma is an effect of an experience that overwhelms an individual’s emotional system from processing and releasing the experience itself.  Beyond this, in the healing community there is a vast range of definitions for both trauma itself and what substantiates formal diagnosis of lasting trauma.  The trauma-informed approach is to base this diagnosis on the subjective definitions of the person experiencing trauma.  

Lasting trauma is commonly thought to be the result of severe experiences, such as rape, natural disaster, or combat service, to name only a few.  Yet, many people experience the ongoing effects of trauma from less severe experiences.  For the creation of healthy communities, it is valuable to acknowledge all of these experiences as traumatic.  Any person experiencing untreated self-defined trauma is imprisoned in the past, even if the experience is not externally justified to have lasting effects.

Trauma has the effect dividing a person’s life between the present moment and this past traumatic experience.  The two primary ways that the interference of trauma expresses are triggers and filters. Triggers are cued by present-day experiences, sometimes seemingly unrelated, to relive the originating event.  This time-traveling by the sufferer will split the attention available for the present moment as these traumatic memories, mental, emotional or body, continue running in the background of daily life.  

Filters caused by trauma bring a false theme into a person’s interpretation of life.  For example, a person with untreated trauma resulting from sexual violence may experience most men as potential perpetrators.  Or the person with untreated combat trauma may orient in relationships from a combative position.  These filters alter engagement with life by passing through a falsifying lens, affecting their perception of themselves and all of life that surrounds them. The effects also take form in external life as they influence life with actions stemming from these filters.

Being on a pathway to living our purpose requires that we live fully in the present.  Trauma significantly limits our ability to do this.  It is critical that if someone is suffering from trauma originating from any event, perceived or actual, receives the treatment necessary to fully bring them back into the present.  To do anything less would be a great societal harm as this person’s unique gift in living will not be actualized.   

If you are struggling with addiction, alcoholism, and/or mental health, know that there is hope. There is a solution. Harmoniously fusing together the best elements of clinical care, holistic healing, and 12-step philosophy, Enlightened Solutions has created a program of total transformation for men and women seeking recovery. Call 833-801-5483 today for information on our partial care programs in New Jersey.

Eating Disorders are a Disconnect Between Mind and Body

Eating Disorders are a Disconnect Between Mind and Body

Sadly, so many people in Western culture suffer with imbalances in their relationship to food and their bodies.  These imbalances can manifest in a variety of ways which diagnosed as overeating, anorexia and bulimia to name a few.  While the names and expression of these imbalances may vary, at the core, these people are suffering from a disconnect between the mind and the body.  Food and the way that it nourishes our physical life can be a profoundly mystical experience.  When a disorder has presented, the sufferer has lost the beautiful cycle of food sustaining the physical body so that a life is being lived for its spiritual purpose.  

Often, these imbalances are often paired with dysfunction in the way that people connect commune with others while consuming food.  Our ancestors experienced deeply reliant community in relationship with food whether they were of hunting and gathering or agricultural times.  The food connection was not limited to the consuming of food, but included a necessary shared lifestyle to make food possible for all.  Over the generations, we have lost this communion with others around the life-cycle of our food.  This cultural change is present in eating disorders, whether expressed as co-addiction, the shared addictive consumption of food, binge eating in isolation or eating in community only to purge in secrecy later.  Consider how each of these manifestations may be altered by having a lifestyle of communion around food if secrecy from others related to food was not possible in our lifestyle.

It is in the separation and secrecy from others that our mind is given the space to get trapped in a obsessive-compulsive loop.  In separation from a tribe, the irrationality of our addicted mind can seem rational.  Our desire to escape from powerful feelings overrides our ability to make a healthy choice.  The recovery journey offers the opportunity to reconnect to others by vulnerably sharing where our minds is taking us with food.  This becomes a wonderful bridge to invest in beautifully connected relationships by revealing where the addicted mind wants to go and receiving the support to make different choices to heal the mind and body.  Communion with food and others can be possible today.  

If you are struggling with addiction, alcoholism, and/or mental health, know that there is hope. There is a solution. Harmoniously fusing together the best elements of clinical care, holistic healing, and 12-step philosophy, Enlightened Solutions has created a program of total transformation for men and women seeking recovery. Call 833-801-5483 today for information on our partial care programs in New Jersey.

Signs of a High-Functioning Alcoholic

5 Reasons You Should Learn to Love Your Body

The journey of returning to wholeness from the perspective of mind, body and spirit can be the adventure of a lifetime.  It makes sense that such an adventure would have both glorious celebrations and significant challenges.  The prospect of truly being embodied, fully occupying the body that is yours, and yours alone, can be a daunting call to action if you are healing from body image issues.  In moments of doubt, return to the possibility of what potential your body offers your life.  


It is the only body you have

At the core, the primary reason to love your body is that is is the only one that you have.  While it has mystical capacity to heal itself, it is also finite in its support of your ability to stay on the epic quest of life.


It is your ancestral lineage

Your body descended from a lineage of people, each who found the other and formed a tribe, and created new life.  Your body carries DNA of all of those who came before you and you carry forward the purpose they found in creating the lineage that they did.  


It is your eco-system

Through this body, you are part of the larger eco-system.  You have some tribe, chosen or family, and the way that you are part of this interconnection is primarily through your body.  The spirit and the emotion stem from the body as foundation and without it, they lose the channel for distribution.


It is your pathway to unconditional love with all beings

By being fully embodied in your present self and discovering unconditional love of your physical home, you learn the ways of unconditional love.  As you learn to be in this relationship with your body, you can extend this love to your inner self, emotional and spiritual.  This leads to the mastery necessary to love others unconditionally.  


It is the vehicle for your purpose

Every life exists for a reason, to offer a unique gift to the collective human experience.  You are no different.  Your body makes this possible for your spirit.  Care for it and honor it as your precious vehicle for your precious life.  


If you are struggling with addiction, alcoholism, and/or mental health, know that there is hope. There is a solution. Harmoniously fusing together the best elements of clinical care, holistic healing, and 12-step philosophy, Enlightened Solutions has created a program of total transformation for men and women seeking recovery. Call 833-801-5483 today for information on our partial care programs in New Jersey.

8 Ways Addiction Hurts The Body

8 Ways Addiction Hurts The Body

Addiction is known to be a complex medical issue which causes suffering on the physical, emotional and spiritual planes.  There are many different types of addiction and they all have an impact on all three of these aspects of the human life.  It is valuable to recognize that while the forms of addiction may have different consequences on the body, they all require that the physical healing occur before the internal resources become available for the depth recovery that is necessary on the emotional and spiritual planes.  

The following are some possible harms that the body may experience as an outcome of addictive behaviors.  There is some variance according to substance but these impacts are generally present in the early stages of recovery.  .  

  1. Brain: there are many impacts by addiction, including memory, the natural chemical balances and communications of the brain with the rest of the body, and the brain's role in motivating the person to healthy self-preservation activities.  
  2. Central Nervous system: the addictive ingestion of toxins causes a continuous state of fight-or-flight, causing the rest of the body to operate as if it is in a continuous state of danger.
  3. Weight fluctuations: fluctuations may be up or down, but both changes can have serious long-term effects on the quality of health and life expectancy.  
  4. Liver: the role of this organ is to filter and metabolize toxins.  When an excessive amount of toxins are present, it becomes over-used and susceptible to disease. It also plays a role with digestion and impacts to its optimal function also impact nutrient intake.
  5. Kidneys: play a critical role in removing toxins from the body and the cleansing of blood.  These functions are impacted by addictive substances.
  6. Mental health issues: sometimes people are using addiction as a coping for existing mental health issues and other times, the use of substances actives mental health issues that they were predisposed to.
  7. Accelerated aging: in many cases, addiction of all kinds simply accelerates the aging process by speeding up the process of cell death.  This process is a natural process yet, our addiction will speed up the timeline and take our vitality sooner than would naturally occur.   
  8. Digestion issues: addictions impact the ability of this system to uptake nutrients and can result in malnutrition.   


Enlightened Recovery Solutions offers a harmonious approach to holistic treatment, bringing together the best of evidence-based, alternative, and 12-step therapies. Call us today for information on our transformation programs of treatment for addiction and alcoholism: 833-801-5483.

Peace, Balance, Body Positivity

Recovery from drugs addiction and alcoholism is often accompanied by secondary issues like body image. Both men and women suffer from poor senses of self-esteem and self-worth stemming from how they relate to and honor their physical selves. Learning to live without drugs and alcohol requires new ways of thinking, being, and doing. Food, physical activity, and self regard are parts of that formula. So many turn to drug and alcohol as a way of feeling better, or worse, about themselves.

Learn from Your Body

Every day we are burdened with other people’s opinions of how we should look, what we should eat, and how ‘healthy’ is defined. Attempting to abide by these vast generalizations is more harmful than helpful. We live in a world where customization is luxury. Why settle for what everyone else says you need? Learn what your body needs, wants, and likes the most. Explore the foods that are good for your particular body type, blood type, or suit your hormonal needs. Accept the limitations of your physical capacities and work within them. You can spend your life working against your body to satisfy someone else or work with your body to satisfy: you.

Work with Your Body

Running is a great exercise. It burns a ton of calories, is the perfect cardio, and builds endurance. Running is not for everyone. Hard, consistent, repeated impact can damage a person’s ankles, knees, and back. Focusing on physical activity that is damaging instead of fun does not help body image or body positivity. Instead, it exhausts any attempts to be in balance. Pushing your body to its most extremes results in extreme compensation on your body’s behalf. You might find you simply can’t do the things other people can do, which causes you to struggle with maintaining inner peace. Staying in such a state of internal and external conflict is hardly peaceful. This body is the home for your soul. It is unique in it’s needs just like you are.

Recovery through treatment is the time to return to love and heal the wounds of addiction. Enlightened Solutions offers an answer to the unending question of “how did I get here?” There is hope and way out of the struggle which is addiction. Our program offers holistic healing supplemented by 12 step philosophy, treating mind, body, and spirit. Begin your new life here.

Call 833-801-5483 for more information.