Regular psychotherapy and medication are still the go-to interventions for addiction aftercare. However, many individuals can benefit from supplementing these with a selection of beneficial recovery activities.
While these activities are not a substitute for meeting your therapist, going to regular group meetings, and getting necessary medication, they can speed up recovery and strengthen gains made during rehab. If nothing else, they can provide a necessary diversion that helps prevent early relapses.
Below are some post-rehab activities proven to help individuals recovering from substance use disorder (SUD). If you’re in North Texas and want to find out more about evidence-based SUD rehabilitation, check out this resource on SMART Recovery in Dallas.
1.) Volunteer work
The benefits of volunteer work on different mental health outcomes are well documented. Evidence suggests that volunteerism can be a good way for recovering individuals to keep themselves mentally and physically engaged. Volunteering for a cause one believes in can also do much to supplant drug-seeking behavior and reinforce learnings and techniques made in rehab.
2.) Learning a new musical instrument
Learning a new musical instrument, especially one that you have no prior experience with, can be a difficult but enjoyable process. Engaging your brain in a challenging activity regularly can spur the creation of new neural connections and even brain cells. The good thing about this is, this kind of stimulation affects the brains of recovering individuals in a positive way, allowing a faster bypassing of unhealthy brain connections formed by drug misuse.
3.) Being in nature
The period immediately after rehab is often characterized by bouts of anxiety. Additionally, anxiety disorders are also a common factor in the development of substance use disorders. Either way, going on nature trips regularly can help bring down overall levels of anxiety, which also further improves the overall odds of recovery.
Experiencing new things through travel is one of the easiest ways to spur the creation of new neural connections, which in turn, aids in speeding up recovery from SUD. However, if you find that travel causes you anxiety, you may want to consider only traveling with people who understand your condition.
5.) Being part of a new social group
This is especially important if your closest friends misuse drugs or alcohol regularly. Social bonding is important for everyone. But if your closest friends are negative influences, then it may be time to look for friends who are better able to support you through recovery. The change of pace will also provide the novel experiences necessary for creating new brain connections.
6.) Playing video games
While video games are also considered to be addictive, when played in controlled amounts they are associated with neural growth that may aid recovery from drugs. In a review of studies looking at video games as a form of therapy, trauma, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions that commonly co-occur with SUD all seem to benefit from playing video games.
7.) Taking classes
Taking classes provides a wide variety of benefits for recovering individuals. It can expand their skill sets, which can improve their professional prospects — something incredibly important post-rehab. Learning new things also spurs the brain growth that is so important for recovery. Lastly, it also provides opportunities to meet other people, which can be important for recovering individuals who have dysfunctional relationships.
Exercise is perhaps one of the oldest go-to activities for SUD treatment. While clinicians back then didn’t understand exactly why exercise was so beneficial, today we now know that it releases a flood of natural hormones beneficial for mood regulation and sleep — conditions that commonly afflict people recovering from SUD.
Exercise doesn’t have to be restricted to jogging, cycling, or weights either. Any activity that gets the heart rate up like dancing, swimming, martial arts, tennis, and other similar activities that you enjoy can be good picks.
9.) Visual arts
Some people find it easier to draw, paint, or sculpt their emotions rather than write about them. People with mental health issues like SUD often lack the vocabulary to describe how they feel, and many may even agree that there are few, if any, words to accurately describe the emotions that come with illness and recovery.
Visual arts can provide an accessible, affordable means of self-expression that anyone of any age can get into. The ability to express one’s self through any medium can help provide a contextualization of one’s feelings and also be an enjoyable pastime in its own right.
These are just some of the helpful activities you can use to complement any SUD recovery effort. It’s important to understand that not everyone’s road to recovery is the same, and it may take some time to find supplementary activities that really help your recovery in a meaningful way. Make sure to consult a qualified mental health expert if you’re considering trying any of these activities out regularly. Good luck!