8 Habits to Improve Your Mental Health in Recovery
Mental health is vital to success and improved wellbeing in addiction recovery. Many people struggling with addiction also suffer with some form of underlying mental health concern. Nevertheless, it can be hard to know how to build up your mental health, maintain it, bolster it, and keep it working in your favour.
However, there are plenty of things you can do in your daily life to help you to achieve improved long-term mental health. There are some characteristics and habits you can work on that will make your addiction recovery far more fruitful, workable, successful, and which will ultimately lead you to improved physical and mental wellbeing.
How to build mental health in addiction recovery
1. Practice gratitude
You can quickly build up strong mental health and fortitude as you go through addiction recovery by simply taking a step back and taking stock of what you are grateful for. If you’re having a bad time of it, look around, see what you are grateful for in your life, and acknowledge your appreciation of them.
However, you will find greater mental resilience will come through a structured daily practice. Try keeping a gratitude journal. This is simply a daily journal in which you write down what you are grateful for on any given day. You could pick one thing per day or list everything you are grateful for. You can write full diary entries in extended prose or, alternatively, you could use simple bullet point lists.
The things you might want to write can be large or small. Health and happiness can be a thing. So too can grabbing a coffee with a friend or smiling at the person behind the check out. Whatever you’re grateful for, write it down.
2. Look forward to things
Addiction can rob you of your ability to fully experience life. It can be hard to get back into the habit of looking forward to things. However, your mental health will greatly benefit from doing so as you go through your addiction recovery.
Life can be a bit bland and joyless if we just go through the motions. Try to pepper it with things that you can get excited about. This could be as simple as going out for dinner with friends. Or think about holidays, or studying, or simply meeting up with your partner for a coffee.
Whatever you go for, make sure that you frequently plan things to give yourself positive experiences. This can greatly reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
Doing this will also give you plenty to be grateful for, so that gratitude journal should begin to fill up nicely!
3. Try to enjoy simplicity
Enjoyment in life might be a little hard to come by after addiction. You will be used to getting it from your addiction – that dopamine hit that can hook anyone into any behaviour or substance abuse. However, this is of course is unworkable in the long-run.
To really strengthen your mental health during your addiction recovery, you might want to step back from such dramatic forms of enjoyment. Everything doesn’t have to be magnificent. Rather, as above, you should learn to take pleasure in little things like going for coffee with a friend. Learn to love going for walks, watching good films, making sure you have good meals to look forward to.
Try to enjoy the simple things. This doesn’t mean getting rid of the big things. You should definitely treat yourself to holidays and so on if you can. But on a day-to-day basis, it will be little things that keep you going. They will give you the most joy overall.
4. Exercise to actively build mental health in addiction recovery
An active lifestyle is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. It can serve as a great ally in addiction recovery, bolstering both your mental and, importantly, physical well-being.
Regular exercise brings many benefits to anybody looking to overcome addiction.
It requires you to set goals and structure your life, which are vital for mental well-being and recovery success. It can also improve your self-confidence, which is often sorely needed during recovery. Exercise also helps you to clear your head and keep your problems in perspective.
Regular exercise can also decrease symptoms of stress and anxiety. It causes muscle tension to decrease, releases endorphins that keep you calmer and happier, and gives you a great outlet for anxiety and pent-up worry.
In fact, it can reduce the symptoms of depression as effectively as commonly used medications.
Physical activity has been consistently shown to be associated with improved physical health, life satisfaction, cognitive functioning, and psychological well-being.
5. Keep your social circle on board
You should never be afraid to rely on your immediate social network. You should also consider altering your social circle to avoid falling into bad habits. If you are used to socialising around your addiction, your old contacts will likely either remain around that addiction. They may at least be triggering.
Try to associate with people who will have a positive influence. This can be family and friends. However, you may also need to meet and associate with people who have similar lived experiences to you. Try to find local addiction groups and build up a network of people who are going through the same struggles as you, who can relate to you and with whom you can relate.
With this in mind…
6. Build or rebuild your close relationships
Close relationships can suffer during addiction. You may find your relationships with your loved ones, close family, and friends may have either deteriorated or indeed completely broken down. Improving your mental health in addiction recovery may involve building or rebuilding these relationships.
It won’t be easy, of course. You should be prepared for hard work as you build bridges and re-establish workable dynamics. However, you will likely find that having the support of your friends and family will be crucial to your recovery journey. It will give you confidence and safety, lending you a degree of positivity that can make or break you.
It’s well worth the effort involved.
7. Give therapy a go
Addiction is often both the cause and result of poor mental health. You will have to come to terms with this during your addiction recovery. This process will take many forms. These forms will depend on your personal situation, the mental health concerns in question, your own temperament, and so on.
However, some form of therapy will be a good idea. It will help you to uncover the subtleties and complexities of your own mental health journey. You will be able to come up with coping mechanisms whilst also being listened to and heard.
You may want to try one-on-one therapy. Or, instead, group therapy may be a good route, or CBT, or art therapy, or any number of different forms. Talk to your healthcare provider. They will be able to give you plenty of treatment options sympathetic to your circumstances.
8. Always have a focus
Your focus through addiction will have been your addiction itself, in whatever form it has taken. However, if you want to get away from addiction and build up your mental health in addiction recovery, you will need to change this focus, switching it to something far more positive and useful.
There are plenty of things to choose from.
For instance, you might start a new exercise regime. We have already seen how beneficial this can be. Or you might instead focus on a new hobby – this can be a great way to channel energy and focus whilst also enabling you to meet new people.
Meditation is a good direction to take if it’s accessible to you. We have plenty of professionally led guided meditation and Breathwork classes within our Wellness Hub. You will find your mind focussing on the moment, on health and wellbeing, far more ably with regular meditation practice. It is a great way to stay positive, calm, and strong.
Taking this forward: mental health in your own addiction recovery
Your mental health and wellbeing should always be a top priority in your addiction recovery. Try not to let anything get in the way. Try some of the tips above to keep yourself mentally well and robust.
A good recovery programme will have many of these tips built into them. It will help you to explore them in a safe space, ideally surrounded by others going through the same journey. This is key – it will keep you connected with like-minded others on a daily basis to check in with your own wellbeing and mental health.
We have some fantastic resources to draw on here at Recoverlution. The Recoverlution Wellness and Community platform includes activities that can be used on a daily basis to increase well-being, to boost your mental fortitude, and to keep you as happy, strong, and relaxed as possible.
From social connection to nutrition advice and meditation and mindfulness practice, you should be able to find all the tools you need to improve your mental health in your addiction recovery here at Recoverlution.
- Drug addiction: Getting help. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/addiction-support/drug-addiction-getting-help/
- Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators
in the United States:
Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt29393/2019NSDUHFFRPDFWHTML/2019NSDUHFFR1PDFW090120.pdf
- Carek, P. J., Laibstain, S. E., & Carek, S. M. (2011). Exercise for the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety. The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2190/PM.41.1.c