Maintaining your sobriety should be simple, right?
Just don’t take drugs or drink alcohol. But staying committed to sobriety requires that you address challenging issues that contributed to your substance use disorder and/or may contribute to relapse. This includes making your mental health a high priority.
While a doctor may prescribe medication for more severe mental health issues, there are many steps you can take to protect and improve your overall mental health that don’t involve pharmaceuticals.
The Importance of Social Connections
Evidence suggests that having strong relationships with family and friends improves overall mental health. While internet-based friendships can be fulfilling, don’t neglect the power of face-to-face interaction. And make sure to focus on connections with people who will actively support your recovery.
You may find that you need to let some friends go and add some new connections to your social circle. Those friendships may even be forged while you are in residential treatment or while you attend a 12-Step program. The advantage here is that these new friends will fully empathize with your situation and will be aiming toward similar goals. The opportunity to support one another can be good for both friends’ mental health.
The Value of Having a Hobby
If you find yourself with lots of time on your hands, you may be tempted to backslide into the comforts of your substance use disorder. Staying busy and engaged in something you enjoy can help prevent this while also giving your mental health a boost. And as long as the hobby is fun and interesting for you, it really doesn’t matter what it is.
Do jigsaw puzzles (alone or with friends). Take up gardening. Collect comic books. Dust off the musical instrument you haven’t played since you were a child. The options are truly endless, and you’re bound to find others who share your passions—which, as we’ve noted, can have a positive impact on your mental health.
A Body in Motion Might Not Be Brooding
We think of exercise as benefiting our physical health, but it turns out that it offers significant benefits for our mental health as well. Physical activity has been shown to lower feelings of anxiety and stress. Exercise also releases endorphins in the brain. These “feel good” chemicals naturally improve our mood.
Much like taking up a new hobby, the important thing here is finding something you enjoy. Lap swimming? Walking around the neighborhood on a regular basis? Joining a yoga class or a dance class or an adult kickball league? Whatever gets and keeps you moving is just fine. Soon enough, you’ll likely have more energy and will find that you are sleeping better, too.
Make a Point to Get Outside
If your new exercise routine involves getting out into the great outdoors, so much the better. Spending time in nature seems to be a natural mood booster and stress reducer. When you’re out in the sun, you get a healthy dose of vitamin D, deficiencies of which may contribute to depression and anxiety.
And Since You’re Headed Outside, Why Not Take a Furry Friend?
Pets are a big responsibility, but they can also provide the kind of unconditional love that can help us overcome loneliness, anxiety, and more. And if you choose a dog as a companion, you’ll find yourself getting outside more and getting more exercise. It’s a three-for-one deal for your mental health!
Maybe bringing a pet into your home isn’t realistic at the moment. If you still want to get that warm fuzzy feeling that fuzzy (and not so fuzzy) creatures can offer, consider volunteering at a shelter.
You Know What They Say About Laughter
Sometimes a good belly laugh really is the best medicine. Laughter reduces stress hormones while boosting our immune system and overall sense of well-being. So watch your favorite sitcom. Or head out to a live comedy performance. Read funny books or blogs. Maybe even learn a few jokes you can tell to make others laugh. Cultivating your sense of humor will help you take yourself less seriously, too, and this shift in self-image can support your sobriety.
Put Your Faith in the Spiritual Side of Life
People in recovery often find faith a great comfort and a source of motivation for staying sober. Your faith journey may or may not involve organized religion. Either way, it is beneficial to remember that the world is much larger than our personal situation. Connecting with this sense of awe—whether that means going to religious services or taking up yoga or simply marveling at the beauty of the natural world—can have a positive effect on mental health.
Balancing the Demands of Work and Life
Maybe your job is a source of stress. Maybe your coworkers like to celebrate the end of the work week with a few drinks. Maybe you’re just bored at work. Any and all of these situations can undermine your sobriety. It’s important to take steps to improve your work situation, whether that means having an honest conversation with your boss or coworkers or looking for a new opportunity. We spend an awful lot of time at work, so it is essential that our jobs don’t contribute to mental health difficulties.
We’re Not Brainteasers—We’ll Support Your Mental Health
At Wooded Glen Recovery Center, we understand the strong connection between mental health and sobriety. We’re ready to help you overcome your substance use disorder as well as any co-occurring disorders. We’ll provide the resources and support you need for lasting sobriety—and mental health.