Left Foot, Right Foot: Why Physical Action is Such a Solid Approach to Treatment

How Being Active Supports Long Term Sobriety

Physical action is at the heart of our treatment philosophy. This may surprise some people. It’s completely opposite to many treatment philosophies. Look at 12-step programs, for example. They’re all about introspection, spirituality, service, and making amends. Those are all great aspects of recovery that we encourage, but there’s something  missing. A comprehensive approach to wellness requires paying attention to the body as well as the mind. Here’s why physical action is a strong approach to treatment.

The mind and body aren’t separate.

We think the mind and body are separate, but they’re not. Your thinking affects your body and your body affects your thinking. We’re learning more all the time about how the mind and body are connected. For the purposes of addiction treatment, we know that exercise is a proven way to reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. A large percentage of people with substance use disorders struggle with these conditions. And many people starting out in recovery experience post-acute-withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS, which may include feelings of depression and anxiety. PAWS is a major challenge to people trying to stay sober and vigorous exercise is an excellent way to reduce the feelings associated with PAWS.

Action gives you leverage.

Our minds can be tricky. We don’t always know what motivates us and we don’t always know what we want. People with substance use disorders know perhaps better than anyone else that your mind will play tricks on you. Therapy certainly helps with this problem by digging into why you do things, processing old traumas, and learning new strategies for emotional regulation. Physical action is sometimes a more direct tool we can use to leverage our thinking. For example, it can be hard to think your way out of a depressed mood, but can go for a run. You may not feel great afterwards, but you might feel good enough that you can take a more objective view of your problems. You can do the same thing to distract yourself from cravings. You might not feel like exercising under these circumstances, but most people can find the strength to put one foot in front of the other, even when their thoughts feel completely out of control.

Fitness builds discipline.

Finally, fitness builds discipline. Discipline is a muscle that gets stronger the more you use it. Every time you go to the gym when you would rather stay home and watch TV, you are making your mind stronger. Gradually, you increase your ability to do what’s good for you, even when you don’t’ feel like it.

If you’ve been struggling with drugs or alcohol, we can help you build a better life. At Tree House Recovery in Orange County, California, we’re helping men create the sustainable changes necessary to build a sustainable recovery. Call us today for information: (855) 202-2138

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