4 Healthy Living Services to Look for in Recovery Centers

Lasting freedom from drugs and alcohol requires healthy habits and practices that support a sober lifestyle. The more researchers discover about the disease of addiction — an affliction that may affect as many as two-thirds of American families — the clearer it is that in order to achieve successful recovery, you need more than a safe and complete detox or withdrawal from one or more addictive substances.

In addition to therapies that address the roots of an addiction, many recovery centers seek to incorporate key components of a healthy lifestyle into their daily program of inpatient treatment. These services help clients learn about exercise, nutrition and other regular disciplines that support a healthy body, mind and spirit. Here are some of the more common health and fitness services that you may be surprised to know many recovery centers offer:

1. In-House Chefs

Research shows there is a relationship between poor nutrition and substance use, and that learning about good nutrition can support lasting recovery from addiction. Therefore, it’s standard for most recovery centers to offer balanced, home-cooked meals from in-house chefs at regularly scheduled times. Many clients who enter rehab have forgotten how to eat well (or just forgotten how to eat), because getting or using a substance has become more important than everything else. Clients therefore need to learn that there’s a direct correlation between what they eat and how they feel — and that three well-balanced meals a day plus healthy snacks are integral to recovery. As you search for the right rehab center for you, look for one that offers healthy meal services and a nutrition program.

[See: 11 Strategies for Staying Sober While Traveling.]

2. State-of-the-Art Gyms

On-campus fitness features, such as gyms and pools, are often part of the landscape of a recovery center. Like healthy nutrition, regular exercise helps to repair both brain and body in the aftermath of addiction.

For people in early recovery from addiction, better brain health may in fact be the most compelling reason to exercise. Research has shown that aerobic exercise acts similar to a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors by boosting the reuptake rates of the “feel good” neurotransmitter serotonin. Additionally, a more recent study at the University of California-Davis found that exercise activated the production of still other feel good neurotransmitters.

[Read: Alcohol and Depression: a Risky Combination.]

3. Yoga Classes

Yoga classes often find their way into rehab offerings because of an abundance of research into this ancient Eastern practice’s therapeutic effects for a variety of painful conditions. One condition, for example, that tends to afflict people with addiction at an unusually high rate is post-traumatic stress syndrome. Many clients who come to rehab have suffered some form of trauma and may have a dual diagnosis of PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD can trigger a drug or alcohol relapse, so it’s imperative that they develop effective tools for coping with these emotional cues to drink or use drugs. Yoga can be one such tool, and from anecdotal experience, it seems to help many people in early recovery.

[Read: How Yoga Helps Survivors of Trauma.]

4. Guided Meditations

Meditation is a relatively common facet of rehab, regardless of the recovery center. In “mindful meditation,” clients reflect on a mantra, image or the rise and fall of their own breath. The goal is to learn how to stay quietly attuned to the present moment, whatever it might be, without judging the thoughts or sensations that might arise. Mindful meditation is often used as a tool for preventing relapse. With regular practice, clients learn they can sit and observe how their cravings come and go, without acting on these impulses. Research confirms some of the same observations. For example, a 2008 study concluded that recovering alcoholics who took part in meditation during a program of treatment achieved better recovery outcomes, including decreased risks of relapse.

Exercise, nutrition, yoga and meditation are not the only healthy living tools that people in early recovery have an opportunity to learn during rehab, but they are among the more common offerings that many recovery centers now make available. They drive home the point that recovery from addiction is as much about learning healthy habits as it is about getting clean.

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