Fighting Addiction With Exercise

While recovery from addiction takes many different forms and can be accomplished with many different treatment methods …

Guest Post by: Constance Ray from Recoverywell.org

Photo from: Pixabay

While recovery from addiction takes many different forms and can be accomplished with many different treatment methods, physical fitness is one aspect of the process that benefits just about everyone. You are attempting to help your body recover from a form of abuse, so it only makes sense to get your body in the best shape possible. 

Here are a few tips on how to build and maintain a healthy fitness routine during recovery from addiction, courtesy of Stacy Reuille-Dupont, PhD.

What Your Body Needs

As your body is adjusting to life without drugs or alcohol, it is undergoing some intense changes. While the end result is positive, the symptoms of withdrawal can include shakiness, increased heart rate, sweating, high blood pressure anxiety and more. Exercise can be a great way to fight these symptoms to make the withdrawal bearable; it can also be a healthy routine to continue even after your treatment is complete.

Types of Exercise

There is no one particular type of exercise that works for everyone who is in addiction recovery. Experience Life notes the key is to find a few kinds of physical activity that you enjoy and that helps you get closer to reaching your goals. For some people, this will be lifting weights, for others it will be cardio, for others it will be a sport. Many people find it helpful to mix hard training with activities that are more fun, such as rock climbing, kayaking or water skiing. If you enjoy the exercise, you’re much more likely to stick with it long-term.

Other alternative coping methods such as meditation, yoga and swimming can also relieve stress and anxiety and help you avoid relapse as you continue your fight against addiction. 

Whatever activities you choose, you might find it helpful to apply some tech to your program. A fitness watch, for instance, can help you monitor your progress and help you set goals. There are also numerous apps available to help. Some are dedicated to single exercise types — like Strong for weightlifting — and some are lifestyle apps — like MyFitnessPal or Whoop, which coaches your diet and exercise program as a whole. 

Along those lines, incorporating a holistic approach to your recovery is wise. Addressing your diet and adding meditation, time in nature, and time for socializing with supportive family and friends to the mix is wise. By remembering all your mental, emotional and physical self-care needs, you can raise your defenses that much more, and minimize your exposure to triggers.

Benefits of Exercise in Addiction Recovery

As the Chicago Tribune asserts, staying active can benefit you in several ways as you fight substance abuse. It can reduce your stress, improve your amount and quality of sleep, increase your energy levels, protect you against disease and reduce your drive to smoke and seek drugs. It will also keep you busy as you try to find ways to fill your time so you’re not dwelling on old, destructive desires.

In addition, focusing on exercise and physical fitness can improve your mental and psychological health. Studies indicate that exercise can reduce depression, ease anxiety, improve your self-esteem and lift your general mood, which are all important in the fight against addiction. It’s an avenue to release stress from your body and leave you feeling calm and refreshed. 

Keep a Healthy Routine

Once you have found an exercise program or activity that works for you, do your best to get into a regular daily and weekly rhythm so exercise is just part of your recovery program. You want to get to the point where you don’t have to decide whether or not to exercise – the decision has already been made by the way you have set up your life. This routine will not cure your addiction on its own, but it will play a vital role.

No matter what type of addiction you are facing, recovery is a long road. One way to make the trip smoother is to include a regular exercise routine in your daily life. You’ll find the physical and mental benefits invaluable as you fight to return to normal life without substance abuse.

Connect with Stacy Reuille-Dupont for more ideas to encourage your health and well-being.  Get a free WHOOP strap and your first month free when you join with Stacy’s link

What is Love? Understanding what is physically happening when we feel love.

Love is the most sung about emotion, it is the theme of our childhood movies, and our spiritual teachings. But what does it really mean to love? To love well? To find true love?

Love is something many of us spend time searching for, questing over, and trying to find. What is it?

Photo Credit: Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash 

What is love?

Love is often associated with terms like commitment, intimacy, attachment, passion, and jealousy, grief, heart-broken. 

Love is a feeling, it is a construct we use to identify somatic sensations we have and label as emotions. It is the word we use to describe what we like, want, appreciate. It is a word we use to differentiate where we will put our attention. We know love when we feel it and pine for it when we can’t find it. Most people describe love as a feeling of warmth, openness, and a sense of connection. Here’s what is physically happening when we feel love. 

The physicality of love.

The body communicates with many chemicals. Oxytocin is the “love” hormone. This chemical is responsible for our bonding. It is important when we give birth as it bonds us to the new baby. It is important and part of why we see such connection at rallies, group events, working toward a common passion, and helps our bodies regulate a variety of other hormones and processes to keep our physical system healthy and happy. 

The chemistry changes of vasopressin are also important in the love cocktail. Vasopressin is connected to our sense of protection and protecting those we love. It helps us get through and manage stressful events, and together these experiences help us bond with other mammals. 

We often symbolize love with images of our heart. From a basic anatomy, the heart, our symbol of love, is a unique organ. It is the only place we find cardiac muscle. This muscle contains its own electrical signal and communicates in its own system. The muscle sends electrical signals to its parts to beat and remain in rhythm. 

The heart is like our battery in our car. It keeps us going and sparks other systems. The heart is critical to our survival. It connects to every other part of our body through its role as the pump of our circulatory system and assisting our lymph system to rid our body of toxins. As the blood comes in and out of the heart it nourishes every other organ. It bathes our whole body in chemicals needed to facilitate a cascade of physical changes throughout our day. Carter and Porges (2013) state, “the protective effects of positive sociality seem to rely on the same cocktail of hormones that carry a biological message of ‘love’ throughout the body”, (pg 16), which the heart is responsible for trucking. Oxytocin plays a role in development of our fetal heart and protects our heart by converting stem cells into caridomyocytes (Carter & Porges, 2013). 

Take Care of your Heart with this wearable. It not only tracks your heart rate, but also your heart rate variability. Learn more about HRV.

Get a free WHOOP strap and your first month free when you join with my link. Click the image above. Image from shop.whoop.com

Love = Bonding, stress, and aggression.

Emotions are felt on the somatic level (physical sensations) and are also complex physiological reactions with motor responses. In our brains love helps facilitate goal directed behavioral activities that help us connect to another person. This ensures survival of the species. Feeling love helps us cognitively too. Bianchi-Demicheli, Grafton, and Ortigue (2006) found that being in love led to faster response times on a lexicon experiment when the participants were “primed” with an associated message about the person they were in love with. 

Carter and Porges (2013) state “The same molecules that allow us to give and receive love, also link our need for others with health and wellbeing” through the benefits that oxytocin has on our physical systems and due to its role in bonding us to others. When we have more social support we are more resilient in the face of stressors and our oxytocin – vasopressin experiences are supportive to our wellbeing. This could be due to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties oxytocin has. 

However when you have too much vasopressin without balancing oxytocin we have more aggressive behaviors. Infants with increased chronic exposure to vasopressin may over-react or be more defensive throughout their lives. Increased exposure may come from highly stressed or traumatized parents (Carter & Porges, 2013). 

Due to vasopressin’s link with androgen hormones (testosterone) males appear to be more sensitive to the effects of vasopressin. Following stressful experiences male prairie voles quickly form bonds with females, but females showed preference for other females following a stressful exercise (Carter, 1998). It appears males and females experience love and bonding differently due to differing pathways and experiences of these endogenous chemicals. 

Stressful experiences help us bond to others. This could be why we experience a sense of community following difficult events like storms, tests, rallies, assaults, and training exercises even when tragedy has occurred. 

Why love is helpful to your physical system and fear is not.

Love is Addicting. 

Love is so “addicting” is due to the way catecholamines reinforce our repeated behaviors. Catecholamines are chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine. They are well known as the reward and pleasure neurotransmitters. These are the ones we are after when we use stimulants like cocaine. 

As a result of experiencing a pleasurable experience we feel the joy of dopamine. We like it, we want more of whatever it was that gave us that feeling. In substance abuse we often look to dopamine as a reason for someone’s struggle letting go of the drug. 

Catecholamines link our experiences with our desire. Dopamine plays a role in the release of oxytocin and plays a role in pair bonding (Carter, 1998). Think about how much you like sex. This is the dopamine-oxytocin cocktail at work. Orgasm dumps a slew of the “feel good” endogenous chemicals into our system all at the same time. We relax, feel content, experience joy, and feel connected to the person we are laying beside. We may tag this experience as love or just good feelings based on who is next to us. But we go back and do it again and again and again. 

Why We Like to Be Around Others When Feeling Love

Love like any other emotion love is a chemical, electrical, and vibrational shift in our physical body. Love comes with an openness to experiences that “lifts our moods”. It makes us see things more clearly, colors become more vibrant, and we find the sparkle in each experience. This is in part due to the endogenous opiates and dopamine we experience along side oxytocin and vasopressin responses when experiencing a sense of connectedness.

We are vibrational beings. As atoms communicate they shift vibrational states to match other atoms in their vicinity. This is why we can “feel” an energy in different environments. Our bodies register the vibrational quality and signal our brain to label it. When our brains “see” it we label the emotion based on our past experiences. We have cells called mirror neurons that register what others in our environment are doing. They “mirror” what is being expressed in our brains. When our mirror neurons fire we can understand what others are experiencing. We are not always right in our assessment, but we often have an accurate sense when we are paying close attention. We share in that experience with them through mirror neurons and limbic resonance in our brains and it feels good to “know” another.

When we experience love alongside others we have a sense of “being in a bubble” with that person or feeling “like no one else was in the room with us”. These experiences speak to the physical changes happening in our bodies and being matched by another. As noted above, this “matching” is important to our sense of wellbeing, stress management, and overall health. 

Together love shifts our physical structure and changes the way our body communicates with others in our environment. When we are steeped in love and joy others know and we lift them up by sharing these energies. Our bodies are made to communicate beyond our physical systems.

Our nervous systems and mirror neurons communicate our internal state to other mammals. When we are feeling more content, open, and expansive others benefit from our emotional experiences. It is why we like to be in contact with other people who are experiencing positive emotional states too. It is why we like to gather with those who have a common goal and share our values around cultivating happiness and love. 

When we connect with others experiencing these similar emotions we synergistically raise the experience for us all. We are greater than the sum of our two parts by sharing our love. 

Here a few ways we can cultivate and share our sense of love in the world. 

1) In Eastern traditions we look at chakras and the heart line. The heart chakra connects us to humanity. When we feel connected to others we often feel a warmth in our heart space. Try “breathing through your heart”. In this practice breathe in and out with the visual of that air moving through the heart center bathing you and the world in a sense of peace, connectedness, and goodwill. 

2) We talk about “broken hearts” and my “heart hurts” as we explain our struggles with connection. The heart line is a nerve running on the inside of the arm. By applying pressure to this line it helps our nervous system calm, which allows us to feel more safe with others and in the world. 

We can activate this nerve by reaching out to other people – hugs, holding hands, physical touch – can all help us feel more connected. You can also karate chop one hand in the palm of the other to quickly calm yourself. By stimulating this nerve you are slowing the heart rate, which in turn will slow your breath rate. Together they will shift you from a sympathetic stress state to parasympathetic rest state. 

3) Work on truly connecting with others. When you are out use eye contact to convey loving kindness to those you meet along your path. On the street, in stores, with family, friends, and co-workers share a smile that goes all the way to your eyes. Let others see the joy you posses and benefit from your expansiveness by sharing eye contact and a smile. These two gestures help release dopamine and oxytocin in both you and the person you are smiling at. Plus you’ll usually get a smile back and that means you’ll get another dump of dopamine and oxytocin. See above for the addictive effects of love and why this might feel so good. 

You can also manipulate these structures through quick breathing and physical exercises that help you connect more to yourself and to others. Here are 3 ways to take care of your heart using exercise and breath:

  1. Fast Cardio Blast
  2. A Look at Heart Disease
  3. Good Cardio Exercise

Get a free WHOOP strap and your first month free when you join with my link:

References: 

Bianchi-Demicheli, F., Grafton, S. T., & Ortigue S. (2006). The power of love on the human brain. Social Neuroscience, 1(2), 90-103. DOI:10.1080/17470910600976547   

Carter, C. S., & Porges, S. W. (2013). The biochemistry of love: An oxytocin hypotheses. European Molecular Biology Organization Reports, 14(1). 12-16. DOI:10.1080/17470910600976547  

Carter, C. S. (1998). Neuroendocrine perspectives on social attachment and love. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 23(8), 779-818. 

In this Season of Darkness … Find the Light Inside. Restore.

For centuries this time of year (in the North) was a reminder – maybe forced – to return to self and look internal. Days were shorter, darker, colder. Harvests were done, gardens resting, and fires needed to tending to keep us warm and comfortable. Just because we have more comforts doesn’t mean we should ignore natures very clear lead.

It is time to rest and restore. Nature is very clear when she tells us to rest. Here’s how.

Photo Credit: Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash

Winter is one of my favorite times. I don’t mind the cold, I love the snow, and really like the dark mornings. I like the way the darker days help me feel cozy. They help me remember that a time for rest and restoration is important. I forget that. I enjoy being with people, creating projects, and working on things. If I am not careful I spend all my energy in the external world. To be healthy we must balance the internal and external. Some of us are too internal, some too external. We need the balance of both. 

TAKE REST. RESTORE. GET QUIET. BE. WATCH. ALLOW.  

YouTube Video: 

Taking Complete Rest is As Important as Productive Action

The holiday season frenzy is a lot for most of us. We want a little, but it gets ridiculous quickly. It is important to find your balance. 

Some of want more stimulation – a BIG hello to my ADHD, extroverted and some of you anxiety friends. Others want to hole up and make sure they interact with as few as possible – a Quiet Hello to those feeling depression, some anxiety, introverted, and vigilant trauma friends. (These aren’t inclusive or exclusive of individual preferences. Just possible presentations related to needing more or less stimulation)

Needing big or little stimulation is neither good nor bad – in fact the world needs both. However, it becomes a struggle when we use it as a coping mechanism and hide behind them so we do not have to deal with the true issues under the surface. 

It also becomes and issue when we just get caught in it. Some of us get depleted before we know it. We were having a good time … until we weren’t. 

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As you consider what your personal needs are – and it’s ok if you have both – make sure to honor your own being. If you need to get around more frenzy do it. If you want more quiet do that. The trick is to pay attention to yourself. 

What do you really want? 

In this season of giving, of connection, of being, and of rest. Make sure you are taking time to restore. 

Restoring is not the same as vacation or taking a day off. Restoration looks different for each of us from person to person and individuals from one day to the next. It could be 5 minutes of quiet breathing or a day of movies. It might be creating a delicious meal to share or spending the day pampering yourself at the spa (or a home spa day). Not sure what you can do to restore? Here’s a list of 25 ways you can take a vacation.

Give yourself the gift of being exactly what you need right now. Take a breath, maybe close your eyes, and check in with you. 

What do you want to do right now? 

What is feasible for you to do right now to get as close to that need as possible? 

Sometimes we can go full in and give ourselves exactly what we want, other times we need to moderate how we meet our needs due to our current location, responsibilities, or resources. 

Find the sweet spot of meeting your needs in this moment with the limitations you might have. 

Follow your own path and help yourself restore during this busy time of the year. Get yourself a cup of tea and snuggle up under some blankets as you enjoy the coziness of darker, quieter days during this winter holiday season. Enjoy Restoring You. 

Facing Fears and Dealing with Trauma

We all have trauma. Some experiences are worse than others, some easier to deal with. For many we pretend we aren’t dealing with trauma and thus keep our survival brain operating instead of our socially engaged learning brain. This hurts us all and gets worse with time. Trauma impacts your physical health, relationships, and ability to be successful. Is it time you faced your fears and healed your trauma?

As we move through this season of endings and watch mother nature let go, it’s a good reminder to reconnect with parts of ourselves that have been wounded and shunned. 

During this time of year many spiritual practices focus on reconnecting with the past, honoring those who have come before, and remembering we are connected to a much larger system – nature, family, seasons, history, ancestors, and even traumas. 

I am not affiliated with this movie. I just really like it. I like the concept and spirit of how important it is to honor our ancestors and ourselves at the same time while holding space for all that the family story may contain.

Past trauma keeps us stuck and living as though the bad will happen again. This year what might happen if you faced your fears, looked deeper at your family stories, beliefs, patterns, and trauma to truly heal your body and soul?

In honor of Halloween (Samhain/Día de los Muertos) this month, let’s honor the past and reconnect with our true selves even if it scares us. Many of us avoid things we are fearful of. This makes sense. Usually when we feel fear there is danger near and we need to move away from it to survive. 

The way the brain is set up, the amygdala is wired to help us understand danger, where it comes from, and what to do about it. Its signal inspires for us to get away from things we deem as dangerous. Unfortunately sometimes things we believe are dangerous are just what we believe, they truly aren’t dangerous for us, but caught in belief patterns of fear based on past experiences. What they are doing is hitting the danger, danger, danger button of our brains based on past experiences. It is linking to times when we were afraid or when our ancestors were in danger. But it may not be true today. 

When the amygdala gets going it can be hard to break from the cycle of fear. This is part of what is not working in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As a result of a traumatic experience – physical or mental – our nervous system gets highjacked. This highjacking keeps us “looping” in hyper-vigilant states looking for what is wrong, even after the danger is over. 

In addition to being on edge for what danger is coming at us, we can also go into what is known as a hypo-arousal state. This numbed out feeling, lack of connection, and sense of being apart from our experiences is a survival mechanism to keep us alive. Often we bounce between the two states and feel more and more fearful and confused. 

Our bodies are pretty brilliant when it comes to making sure the species goes on. However if we do not heal traumatic wounding and reset the nervous system back toward health it wreaks havoc on our immune system, cardiovascular system, our relationships, our ability to work, and our concentration and thoughts to name a few items. Research continues to link trauma to a number of chronic conditions, like chronic pain, cardiovascular disease, obesity, sleep disorders, headaches, and digestive issues. To heal it we must work with our dysregulated state and allow ourselves to build capacity to stay present to what is happening in front of us now, not what we have experienced in the past. 

In therapy we often work using pendulum states – moving between an escalated nervous system presentation to safety – while the therapist helps regulate the whole system. We work to build what is called a window of tolerance for sensitivity and stress while adding healthy coping skills back into the system. 

Once the nervous system is reset and the healthy coping skills learned, it’s not like the trauma didn’t happen, but instead of being a gaping wound that hurts to move, it’s a scar that may be sensitive to similar experiences. It’s not hurt anymore, but it reminds us that we had a scary or terrifying experience in our past. It helps us see how strong we are and helps us learn to be more kind to ourselves and others. 

As we turn toward trauma it does not mean we have to repeat all the details of the event(s). Often we don’t know them. The brain is good at managing states so we don’t even remember all the ugly stuff we experienced, however the body knows. The experience is still categorized in experiences and needs to be “filed into the right chapter” of life. We do this in a variety of ways, but telling the story isn’t necessary.

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As we begin to face what fears we have, we slowly become more free. We learn that not everything that was will happen again, not everyone we meet will hurt us, and not every trip outside our home ends badly. We slowly begin to see that life is full of good things and bad things. Things we like and things we don’t. Little by little we come out of our shell and heal. We get stronger. We get braver. We get more connected to all that is around us. 

During this time of letting go, closing down, honoring ancestors, facing goblins, ghosts, and ghouls. Are you willing to face your own demons? Then let’s get started. 


If you are ready to face your own demons … contact us and we can help you determine the next steps on your personal journey. Studio B ~ Create. Your. Self.

Studio B is the culmination of my journey as an exercise scientist turned psychologist. Visit us and see how we can help you Create. Your.Self

Self-Care for Those That Prefer to Stick Close to Home

If you enjoy spending time alone and prefer to work independently, you’re likely an introvert. Unfortunately, popular media would have you believe that the only way to be healthy is to surround yourself with others. From fitness classes to group-based travel, it’s easy to find self-care opportunities based around interaction. These, however, are not always right for introverts. Here are some things you can do to upkeep your health, no crowd required.

Guest PostBy: Melissa Howard at StopSuicide.info

Know What You Are Putting Into Your Body

There is no way to deny that what you eat has a profound impact on your overall health. The good thing is that eating well is something you don’t need a group of people to do. What you do need, however, is an understanding of food and ways to make healthy eating a habit. And there is no better way to do this than to learn how to prepare your meals ahead of time.

Meal prep starts by identifying long-lasting staples, like oatmeal and rice. You can use oatmeal to pack breakfasts for the road — Foodies Today recommends sweet potato and oatmeal muffins and chocolate overnight oatmeal smoothies. Both of these can be made ahead and enjoyed for days. Rice, which comes in a variety of forms, including Jasmine and long grain, is a likewise long-lasting meal base. Rice and oatmeal may help keep you from overeating.

Your pre-planned meals should also include lean proteins and produce. A bed of rice with shredded chicken, sautéed peppers, onions, and fajita seasoning, for example, is a healthy and delicious lunch that will reheat well in the right container.

Exercise Your Body Every Day

Food is only one aspect of your overall self-care routine. As Time asserts, exercise is just as impactful and can change the way you look and feel, as well as have an effect on mental health. Don’t let yourself get comfortable on the couch for too long; give yourself at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. If you do not want to deal with people, lack self-confidence, or just prefer your own space, there are many exercise programs online

Something else to think about is that you can have fun while working on your abs and agility. If you have a Nintendo Switch, games such as Ring Fit Adventure and Fitness Boxing can keep you moving from the comfort of your living room.

Take Up a New Hobby

Hobbies are not only fun but many, such as drawing, also have mental health benefits. Using the drawing example, putting a pencil to a piece of paper can help you gain a new perspective and may help stave off depression and anxiety. Drawing is also shown to help with your memory. The best part is that with nothing more than a piece of paper or sketchbook and pencil, you can get started today. If you don’t care for visual art, you can take that same paper and pencil and start writing, be it a journal or fiction.

Take Care of Your Home

Are things starting to pile up around your home? Do you often struggle to find the things you need, only to find that they’ve buried under other, less important stuff? If so, then you need to take some time to declutter your home. Not only will it help release any “bad energy” that may have built up in your home as a direct result, but it can help create a sense of peace and calm throughout your property. So, take a hard look around your home, identify areas that need attention, and set to work. You may be shocked at the difference it makes.

How you care for yourself is up to you. However, when your self-care plan doesn’t include crowds, you may need to look for alternative ways to do things like exercise and enjoy your free time. But remember, whether you’re an extrovert, introverted, or something in between, one of the most important things you can do for yourself is to prioritize healthy eating. Once you’ve done that, everything else will fall into place.

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