Next Step Recovery recently celebrated its 13th birthday as an organization. In the spirit of celebration, we have compiled a list of 13 tools and methods that can be useful in enhancing and sustaining the recovery process.
Gratitude is often the catalyst for cultivating feelings of happiness, serenity, and peace. Gratitude is scientifically proven to benefit psychological and physiological well being. Make a gratitude list, make a gratitude jar. Truly experiencing and feeling gratitude and appreciation for all that we have is incredibly valuable, especially on difficult days during the recovery process.
Find someone who has what you want, follow them, and ask them how they got there. The first and most important relationship in recovery from addiction is that of a sponsor who can help guide you through the recovery process. I have also found it helpful to find mentors to assist me in my academic, social, occupational and spiritual pursuits, who could serve as guides in different disciplines throughout my journey.
Do something for others. It is easy to get lost in our problems and challenges, and succumb to self-pity and woe is me type thinking. Helping others can aide us in getting outside our own heads. Volunteer at the local food bank or homeless shelter, arrive early to a meeting make coffee, and help set up, call an old friend and ask how they are doing, hold the door open for a stranger.
Exercise leads to lower rates of depression, anxiety, and stress, and prolongs life expectancy as well as overall physical health. Keep it interesting to avoid monotony- Take a kickboxing class, go to a rock climbing gym, visit a yoga studio, or an aerial dance club. There are countless ways to exercise, try different methods to find some that spark your interest.
5. Mindfulness & Meditation
Meditation and mindfulness calm the central nervous system, and help us to gain better control of our minds. Many people especially those who have never sat with themselves can be intimidated by or opposed to meditation. But meditation as all things in life is a process, and it takes time, and effort to cultivate a disciplined practice. If you are new start small, with daily 5 or 10 minute increments. If you are unsure how to meditate use an app like headspace or guided meditations on YouTube until you develop your own practice.
6. Nutrition and Diet
Our bodies are like machines, and the fuel and energy sources of what we put into our bodies will affect the quality of functioning of both our brains and bodies. Avoid processed and fast foods. If you cannot pronounce the ingredients on the label it is probably a good indicator it was not meant for human consumption. Eating healthy should be part of a balanced holistic lifestyle which includes exercise, proper nutrition and adequate sleep. If necessary seek consultation from a licensed nutritionist or dietician.
7. Try New Things
Complacency and redundancy can often be dangerous to those in recovery. Keep your life exciting, get outside of your comfort zone and try new things you have never done: Take a pottery class, go to an open mic night and play your guitar, or read some poetry, try food from a new culture, travel to a new city or country.
8. Set Goals
Going through the recovery process without a purpose or sense of direction can be extremely difficult and unfulfilling. Setting goals will help build confidence and positive self-esteem, and will show you that you can continue to achieve more and more. A good acronym for goal setting is SMART- set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-sensitive.
Recovering in a digital age and in a modern world, we are often too consumed by external stimuli, and technology to ever consider picking up a book. Reading something of interest and passion can bring magic and excitement into one’s life. Never stop learning and growing.
10. Get Outside
Next Step Recovery is fortunate enough to be located in the beautiful and mystical Appalachian Mountains where there are countless ways to adventure and explore- Rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, rafting etc… If you do not have these opportunities available to you locally- Start a community garden project, go to your local park and take walks, find a favorite tree to sit and meditate or read under.
11. Routine and Schedule
Punctuality and organization have become staples in my recovery process. Having a regular routine and practicing proper time management skills is necessary to have balance in the many responsibilities we began to acquire in the recovery process.
12. Pay Attention to Media Consumption
The music, movies, and TV shows we watch and listen to can have a direct effect on how we think and feel. Are you watching something that could perpetuate negative thought patterns or even potentially lead to relapse? Or are you engaging in media that inspires you, and helps you grow? Are you binge watching Netflix or Hulu and avoiding responsibilities? Social media use for those in early recovery can also pose many potential hazards- Always comparing yourself to those who appear to be doing well and feeling less than, or seeing old friends continue to use and party on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.
13.) Be Open-Minded
There is no graduation or arrival point in the recovery process. The moment we think we know all there is to know about recovery, we are in trouble. Be open to suggestions, and surround yourself with a diverse group of people with various backgrounds and life experiences who can help you grow into a more complete and well-rounded person.
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