Last updated on November 7th, 2017 at 10:34 am
Can exercise replace bad habits? How do I break bad habits? How do I stop a habit?
Those with substance abuse disorders typically suffer from poor physical health and nutrition. That’s why a focus on improving nutrition and exercising more are major components to healing the body when in recovery.
As researchers continue to focus on how exercise helps in the fight against addiction and relapse, we get a better idea of the long-term benefits for those in recovery. Whether it’s running, weightlifting, yoga, or swimming, exercise is crucial in the recovery process. It heals the body and the mind.
Can Exercise Replace Bad Habits?
Substance abuse disorders often start with an attempt to feel good. Unfortunately, as the brain becomes accustomed to synthetic stimulants, the body requires more and more to deliver the same effect.
The need to replace bad habits associated with the disease is a particularly difficult challenge. There is good news, however, as a few simple lifestyle changes can make all the difference in getting on the right path and kicking addiction to the curb once and for all.
Body, brain, and brawn
Exercise has multiple positive effects throughout the human body. Most notably, exercise encourages metabolic and cardiovascular homeostasis. Homeostasis is the process by which the body regulates everything from blood sugar levels to blood pressure and temperature. When these things are balanced, we feel good. When they are off, we crave fast fixes to regain our vibrancy.
These cravings are especially dangerous for addicts and alcoholics, whose brains have been rewired to seek synthetic substances. The Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah does an excellent job of explaining how the brain changes with continued drug use in this article.
Working out, whether through resistance training or cardiovascular exercises, triggers a slight homeostasis disruption, which encourages the body to grow stronger. Exercise additionally stimulates the release of dopamine and other chemicals that affect mood in a positive way.
You might also like: 6 Amazing Benefits of having a Workout Partner
Many drug treatment centers use exercise as a tool to help addicts maintain a straight and narrow path to recovery. Rap superstar Eminem is an outspoken advocate of using physical fitness to deal with dependency issues and says exercise helped him beat his own addictions.
How to Break Bad Habits
How do you break those bad habits? In as much as this article is based on exercising to replace bad habits.
It’s not going to be easy but I suggest you try:
1) Fining Yourself for Each Offense.
2) Understand What Triggers Your Bad Habits.
3) Go Slow and Make Tiny Changes.
4) Spend a Month Thinking About Your Habit Before Taking Action.
5) Remind Your Future Self About Avoiding Bad Habits.
Put an end to anger with exercise
Addiction and anger often go hand in hand. Anger may spur addiction and addiction may incite anger. Once these two issues begin to co-occur, either may get out of control. Exercise offers a dual benefit for addicts as a healthy outlet for anger and rage. It’s important to note that anger as an emotion isn’t the underlying issue.
Swift River, a Massachusetts-based drug addiction treatment center, points out that anger is an emotion and one every human feels at some point. It is when this anger continually re-emerges or escalates to physical violence that it becomes a problem.
Physical activities to alleviate anger and addiction
You don’t have to invest in pricey gym equipment or fitness center memberships in order to reap the mental and physical benefits associated with exercise. (Although joining a gym is a great way to socialize and meet other fitness-minded individuals.) If you’re not used to exerting yourself, start with a simple walk around the neighborhood each evening. Once this is no longer tiring, increase your distance or try jogging instead.
Swimming, hiking, and biking are also excellent activities to get your blood pumping and your brain producing endorphins, a natural secretion with effects similar to morphine. CNN reports that endorphins help bring about feelings of euphoria without reliance on drugs or alcohol and through a productive and positive anger outlet.
In addition to quelling anger, exercise is also an effective treatment for depression and anxiety, both of which often accompany addiction. By using exercise to circumvent negative feelings, an addict can put his or herself in a better position to avoid succumbing to stress in situations that might otherwise lead to relapse.
In the United States, 80% of adults don’t exercise enough, according to CBS news. Another 23 million struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. There is a huge overlap between the two populations. And while exercise alone is not enough to turn things around, it’s a good start. This is especially true for individuals whose feelings of frustration often lead them down the path of least resistance and right back to bad habits.
Sobriety is all about making healthier choices, and exercise is a great place to start. It’s gives you something positive to focus on and keeps your mind occupied when it may otherwise wander longfully to your past life. With time and consistency, it can help your body heal and feel better than it ever has before — but you have to take that first step.
Ultimately, still asking, can exercise replace bad habits? exercising I believe could go a long way in replacing bad habits.
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This is a guest post from Constance Ray. Constance believes life can always get better. That’s why she created her website, Recoverywell.org as a place where those in recovery can inspire others through their stories of hope. You can reach her via e-mail.