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Committing to recovery is an important first step towards living a healthy life. A balanced diet and exercise is important to improving and maintaining your mental, emotional, and physical health during your recovery journey. A healthy diet and exercise regimen can reinforce your recovery from alcohol or substance addiction.
The Mental Benefits of Exercise
Exercise can boost the body’s levels of natural chemical substances that produce positive feelings. For example, exercise triggers our brain to release endorphins -- the neurotransmitters that help relieve pain and stress, causing what’s sometimes called a “runner’s high,” according to Healthline. Physical activity also stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, brain chemicals that play an important part in regulating mood to help keep anxiety and depression at bay.
What’s more, regular exercise can reduce stress-inducing hormones including cortisol and adrenaline, making you feel more relaxed even if you’re experiencing elevated energy levels or mood. For many, exercise can improve confidence and self-esteem because they start seeing the results of their efforts in their minds before observing them in the mirror.
The Mental Benefits of Eating Right
A growing body of research is making the connection between our meals and our mood. In fact, the vast majority of serotonin is produced not in our brains, but in our digestive tracts. So it’s only logical that what we eat affects how we feel on an emotional level.
In fact, research has shown that people taking probiotics -- supplements containing the good bacteria that line our intestinal tracts -- saw reductions in their anxiety levels and perception of stress compared with study subjects who did not take probiotics.
Supplements aren’t the only way to improve your mood, according to the Harvard Health blog. Other experiments have shown cultural meals, such as the Japanese and Mediterranean diet, may lead to lower levels of depression. Scientists say the mood-boosting benefits could come from the fact these traditional diets consume plenty of vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, fish, and other seafood. They also include plenty of fermented foods, which are natural probiotics.
In comparison, the American diet is high in refined carbohydrates and sugar, which research shows can increase the likelihood of depression. Studies have also shown a link between depression and processed foods -- which often consist of refined carbs, simple sugars, and a dash of trans fats thrown in for bad measure.
The Physical Benefits of Healthy Eating and Exercise
Of course, a healthy diet and regular exercise offers a wealth of physical benefits. For example, exercise and eating right can help boost our energy levels, keep weight in check, and combat health conditions and diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Plus, you’ll likely enjoy a better quality of life, regardless of age. Research has shown that healthy habits can combat the cognitive declines of aging, build stronger bones and muscles, and boost our immune system.
The Social Benefits of Healthy Eating and Exercise
Working out and eating right helps us connect with people who desire to cultivate a healthy lifestyle. Joining a running club or enrolling in a yoga class could be a great way to make new friends. Taking a cooking class at a local community college will not only boost your cooking repertoire, it can connect you with like-minded participants who are also interested in doing right by their bodies.
Working out and following a nutritious diet has a bevy of benefits across the spectrum. So adding healthy eating and regular exercise to your recovery program could make this the year you thrive physically, emotionally, and mentally and set positive habits that will hopefully last a lifetime.