Being intentional about a specific plan for self-care is an important step on the path to lifetime recovery. New Year’s Day provides an opportunity for each one of us to look at our personal wellness in a more holistic way.
Declaring in advance that 2016 is our year to stay clean and sober is critical. In addition to being free from drug and alcohol addiction, what would reclaiming our health look like on all levels: mental, spiritual, and physical?
Reclaiming Your Mental Health
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) describes a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis as something that happens when a person has both an alcohol/drug misuse and a mental health disorder. With the proper support and treatment, it is possible to overcome mental health challenges; identifying root causes is critical.
Leaving either the mental health symptoms or the alcohol/drug dependency untreated will limit your ability to return to full health and wellness. Since drugs and alcohol are often used to self-medicate symptoms of anxiety, depression and bipolar disorders, getting clean and sober often brings previously ignored mental disorders into the forefront. Such disorders may be the result of past trauma, genetics or the individual’s living environment.
No matter the cause, ignoring these symptoms will eventually get in the way of interpersonal relationships and the ability to handle daily challenges. An individual may avoid getting help because of the negative stigmas – such as weakness or instability — often associated with mental illness.
Ignoring mental health symptoms will not make them go away, however. Without integrated treatment of the associated co-occurring conditions, a return to misusing drugs and alcohol may result.
Reclaiming Your Spiritual Health
Thomas Moore, author of the best selling book, Care of the Soul, recalls the moment he realized that he could get sick in his soul and his spirit. He writes, “I discovered that I had a body that was not just physical but one that manifested emotional pain and symptoms associated with meaning.”
Moore describes actions that indicate spiritual health:
- Having your own vision of how life works, what you’re here on earth to do, and ways in which you can appreciate and support others who have their own, very different visions
- Giving your life to the ideals of the Gospel while also being grateful for the teachings of Laotzu and the Buddha
- Living simply and declining any compulsive need to possess wealth
- Enjoying the things of nature and human-made things — being both a spiritual seeker and a sensualist
- Having elaborate thoughts about the afterlife but knowing that you know nothing directly about it.
- Prizing everything you’ve learned—and professing your profound ignorance about it all
- Probing the deepest mysteries with absolute seriousness but also laughing at human foibles and your own mistakes
Spiritual wellness takes hard work just as keeping our bodies in shape takes dedication and discipline. Reclaiming your spiritual health in 2016 may mean evaluating and abandoning some views you have held sacred for years.
“Above all, to be spiritually healthy you need to live on a diet of good ideas and excellent ideals. You shouldn’t eat junk food, and you shouldn’t think junk thoughts,” suggests Moore.
Reclaiming Your Physical Health
Improving your health in the New Year may be as easy as powering down your smartphone at night. A 2014 study conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital study found that people who read from devices emitting blue light or short-wavelength enriched light before bedtime negatively affected their body’s natural circadian rhythms, the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, and the time spent in the restorative REM phase of sleep, compared with people who read printed books before bedtime.
Examples of blue light devices include smart phones, tablets, and laptops. Participants in the study who read at night on these types of devices took longer to fall asleep, had reduced evening sleepiness and reduced next-morning alertness than those subjects who read printed books.
A good guideline is to stop using any electronic devices for about an hour before sleeping. Moving the phone to a different charging location in the house versus your nightstand can help you resist the habitual need for continual news and information. Technology can be an addiction, too.
Consider delaying checking your electronic devices for about an hour after you awaken. Give yourself time to set a personal intention for the day, rather than fall victim to everyone else’s agendas and demands.
Avoid logging into social media or turning on the news first thing. Instead, embrace the quiet time for meditating or journaling with a cup of coffee or tea. Take your pet for a walk if it’s light outside. If not, try a few minutes of exercise to get your blood pumping like pushups, sit-ups, Pilates or yoga.
“Alcoholism, drug dependence and co-occurring disorders,” National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD), July 24, 2015
“Care of the Soul: Reclaim Your Spiritual Growth,” Spirituality & Health, March– April, 2014
“Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS.org), November 2014
“Can the 50-Minute Phone Rule Change Your Life?” Vogue, September 4, 2015
“Why You Should Put Down That Tablet Or Phone If You Want Better Sleep,” Forbes, December 29, 2014
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