The Mental Health Benefits of Physical Self-Care
Saying the mind and body are connected is nothing new. The Ancient Greeks attempted to understand the mental phenomena of emotions and their complex connections to physiological order. That fascination continued through the Roman era, the Renaissance, and on throughout history — and that’s just Western European culture. Physicians and philosophers all over the globe have explored the mind and body connection since the beginning of time and even recent science backs up the claim that they are intrinsically connected.
If you are not taking care of your physical self, your mental health is likely not where you want it to be. For instance, one of the main symptoms of depression is poor personal hygiene. Addicts are another good illustration of this problem. Addicts turn to self-harm in the form of drug or alcohol abuse as a way to cope with their own mental health issues. While environmental and genetic components also contribute to the disease, the mind/body link plays its part.
Taking the time to take care of the physical self can have a helpful impact on your mental health and addiction recovery. In addition to seeking help and supervision through a physician, try incorporating the following self-care rituals into your routine.
Establish a Solid Sleep Routine
Sleep is awesome, so why do so many of us get so little of it? According to the American Sleep Association, 50 to 70 million American adults have some sort of sleep disorder, insomnia being the most common one. Sleep problems are common in addicts, as well. Drug and alcohol abuse disrupt the body’s natural rhythm along with the neurochemicals and hormones that help control rest. After a while, the body forgets how to rest properly.
Thankfully, you can retrain your body by establishing a sleep routine and following it religiously. It’s not just about going to sleep and waking up at the same times every day — although those two things are key. Practicing good sleep hygiene has a lot to do with how you spend the hours before bedtime.
- Limit stimulants including nicotine and caffeine.
- Invest in some soothing herbal teas you can drink leading up to bedtime to help brain and body relax.
- The glow of your television, computer and smartphone screens keep the brain alert. Turn them off and put them away an hour before bed.
- Turn your bedroom into a sanctum of rest. Buy yourself nice linens, keep the room temperature cool, and use a white noise machine or essential oils to create ambience.
- Read a chapter of a book before you fall asleep to help your mind wind down. If you are still not sleepy, read another chapter until you are.
You may think exercise is just something you have to do if you want to lose weight, but it’s essential to the addiction recovery process. Drugs and alcohol trick your body to think it needs them by triggering the brain’s reward system. When you give up those substances, you can help beat cravings with exercise. Physical activity also stimulates that part of the brain while also releasing neurochemicals like dopamine and endorphins, which relieve pain and promote a positive mindset. You don’t have to train for a marathon to get these benefits, either. Just walking an extra half hour a day provides significant benefits.
Explore Healthy Stress Release
Finding some way to release stress and anxiety in a healthy manner is essential for addiction recovery. Meditation, yoga and hobbies like knitting help people tune out those thoughts and criticisms without having to use drugs or alcohol. Think of them like exercise for your brain. During these mindful exercises, you will experience negative thoughts. However, by recognizing those thoughts, dismissing them and returning your attention to your activity, you are training your brain to dismiss them on its own. The more you practice, the easier it becomes and your brain learns to automatically pass over self-criticisms in your day-to-day life so you can stay focused.
Since the mind and body are connected, your physical health has a significant impact on your mental health and vice-versa. When you struggle with a mental health issue like addiction, incorporating a solid sleep routine, exercise, and healthy coping mechanisms for stress all contribute to recovery. Incorporate daily physical self-care routines in your efforts to heal yourself holistically.
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