Staying sober can feel like an uphill battle. A craving can be triggered by anything from a negative emotion to a certain street, and it is difficult to ignore those cravings when they do come. One of the best ways to reduce triggers and stay sober is to implement new healthy habits into your life.
Not only can healthy habits help you avoid the emotions and environments that trigger you, but they can also make it easier for you to deal with each craving.
Every person with an addiction has a certain set of triggers. These are places, things, people, or emotions that remind them of their drug use, and through potent association, make them crave it. As a general rule, triggers are divided into two categories: internal and external.
Internal triggers are related to feelings, thoughts, and memories. They can also be linked to other mental illnesses, which according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, share a high rate of comorbidity with substance abuse disorders. Some common internal triggers include stress and the acronym HALT: hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness.
External triggers are related to your environment. They can be a certain group of friends, a place, or a used needle, or an empty can on the ground.
To some extent, internal triggers are within your control. You can avoid them by creating a healthy lifestyle that allows you to cope with and suppress cravings. External triggers are more difficult to control, so you can use healthy habits to avoid them instead.
In order to reduce certain triggers and cravings, you should develop habits that either reduce the impact of internal triggers or allow you to avoid external ones. The best habits combine some of both:
- Eating a healthy diet gives your body and brain the nutrients they need not just to ward off cravings, but also help you recover physically and emotionally from using drugs or alcohol. Try adding whole foods in favor of processed fare to your diet. As a bonus, some food choices, like whole grains and dark leafy greens, can ease symptoms of depression.
- Exercising can help you feel less stressed, and it can improve your self-esteem. It also gives you something to do, helping you avoid triggering environments, people, and situations.
- Keeping a clean and tidy home will help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. Establish a cleaning schedule that involves removing dirt, dust, and grime for your spaces as well as clutter. You may also want to consider adding some other mood-boosting home practices to your stay-clean routine, such as smudging, which purifies the energy in your home by clearing out negativity.
- Going outdoors gives you a good dose of vitamin D, reduces fatigue and depression, and provides cleaner air than the air you breathe indoors. It can even improve your eyesight and sleep patterns.
- Getting a hobby can help distract you and take your mind off drugs. Hobbies also improve self-esteem, allow you to form healthier connections, and keep you away from external triggers.
Habits with multiple benefits, like the ones above, are easier to plan a routine around. This is because your routine needs to strike a balance between keeping you busy and keeping you stress-free.
Stress is one of the biggest internal triggers and one of the most common causes of relapse. While regular exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress, there are also smaller healthy habits you can pick up. These include getting at least seven hours of sleep and learning to say “no” to others in both your personal and professional life.
You can also practice meditation and mindfulness, or even just deep intentional breathing, to learn to relax. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your new healthy routine, try focusing on stress before anything else.
The healthiest habits to incorporate into your life post-addiction are the ones that make you feel good and, at the same time, keep you distracted. Habits that are good for your body, such as exercise and eating well, will make you less susceptible to internal emotional triggers.
Learn habits that help you keep busy and keep away from external environmental triggers. By combining these and incorporating them into your lifestyle, you create a routine that leaves little room in your mind and schedule for relapse.
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