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how exercise is important for early recovery from drugs and alcohol
March 18, 2018

How to Motivate Yourself to Take Care of Your Health in Early Recovery

how exercise is important for early recovery from drugs and alcohol

Taking good care of your health, by exercising, eating well, getting enough sleep and practicing other self-care measures, can help you feel good. It’s also one of the best things you can do for your recovery. But for people in early recovery, low motivation to get into better shape is not uncommon—for various reasons:

  • You may be suffering from “anhedonia,” or a compromised capacity to experience ordinary life pleasures. Anhedonia is a condition that can happen after withdrawal from one or more substances that were creating a false sense of euphoria.
  • In the absence of your “drug of choice,” you may now be having to address symptoms of a co-occurring disorder like anxiety, depression or PTSD—symptoms that you once were able to be in denial about in active addiction.
  • You may be in a place of major life transition where the stress of change can seem enough to deal with.

Whatever your reason for a low level of motivation to take care of your health, here are some ways to motivate yourself—more of which can be found in this great BuzzFeed article:

  • Surround yourself with motivational messages. Get a dry erase marker and write words of affirmation on your bathroom mirror. Post sticky notes on your kitchen refrigerator, bedside table and other easily visible places around your home. This way you’re marinating your subconscious brain with positive messages about the new healthy and sober you.
  • Consider taking up yoga one or two times a week. At the heart of these breathing and stretching exercises are the goal of uncovering a healthier and happier you. You don’t have to join a yoga class—although in some cases this can add to your motivation. And you don’t even have to do more than one or two sessions per week. (Studies have revealed that even two short sessions weekly can have beneficial effects on health and wellbeing.) YouTube yoga videos like “Yoga With Adrienne” offer a low-cost, low-commitment way to get introduced to the practice and bump up your motivation for better health.
  • Be mindful of how you feel when you do something that is good for your health. When you’re eating a nutritious and well-balanced meal, imagine the good nutrients that are nourishing your cells and fueling your body to be its best self. Or, after you eliminate refined sugars from your diet for one week, cut into your energy levels and take note of the improvement. When you take a brisk walk, use it as an opportunity to be mindfully grateful for your body, your surroundings and this present moment.
  • Reward yourself for doing something good for yourself that you didn’t really feel up for. Say that you weren’t feeling up for working out, but you did it anyway—you went for that three-mile run. Find a way to celebrate that display of self-discipline. That may mean getting your favorite drink at Starbucks or catching a movie with a friend.

You can apply the same principle of incentive and reward to a longer-term wellness goal. You might join the 100-mile swim club at your local YMCA. In this case, the reward might be a new T-shirt, new connections with other swimmers, and the pride and self-esteem that you feel when others learn you’re in the club. If you have a competitive streak, consider going for first place in the 100-mile club. The incentive: the really big prize that has your name on it.

How have you motivated yourself to take care of your health in recovery? Share what has worked for you with the rest of us!

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