When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, experts and laypeople tend to be divided about whether or not these have value for people undergoing treatment and rehabilitation for substance use disorder (SUD). After all, most New Year’s resolutions fail and people trying to move past SUD should probably be motivated to pick up useful habits, no matter what time of year it is.
However, the fact remains that New Year’s is as good a time as any to commit (or recommit) to a helpful habit that helps with relapse prevention and recovery. If the New Year is what gets you to even get started, then that’s a good thing overall.
Everyone’s recovery journey is different, so a resolution that makes sense for one person may not necessarily make sense for someone else. Additionally, resolution-makers will want to use a strategy that helps improve their odds of success.
Using the classic SMART methodology used in project management and personal development may help recovering individuals improve the odds of their resolutions succeeding. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Under the SMART framework, you shouldn’t set a goal that’s too big or nebulous. Rather, you set a more specific resolution that you’re sure you can succeed in that is related to your recovery effort, and you make an effort to do it within a specific time frame.
For instance, instead of resolving to “quit drinking”, the goal should be making a habit of something that helps you attain that. For example, you can commit to “attending voluntary group sessions every weekend for the rest of the year”. The latter example is likely to be more achievable and likely to get you further in recovery. Additionally, you can avoid the disappointment and anxiety that comes with failure that can so often set back affected individuals.
While you can certainly raise the bar on this goal quite a bit, 20 minutes a day is the bare minimum recommended amount of exercise for most adults, and getting this amount will already put you ahead of most Americans.
Get invested in music, baking, tending an aquarium — whatever keeps your mind active. These hobbies can provide a positive mental challenge that helps heal your brain and keeps your mind off substances.
People should be meeting with a therapist or counselor about as often as they do a dentist, and more often if they have an ongoing mental health issue. While these sessions are not always mandatory after rehab, it’s almost always a great idea to schedule and attend them regularly, as they could help speed up and contextualize your recovery.
Likewise, weekly group sessions might be a good idea, especially if you’re still in early recovery. Attending group sessions often can give you insights into strategies that have worked for others that may work for you. They may also give you a sense of camaraderie that can help reinforce your commitment to getting better.
Actively practicing gratitude by vocalizing things you are grateful for can set your mind up for happiness and rewire your mind to think positively. That’s a huge gain for most people in SUD recovery.
Whether you choose yoga, mindfulness, or some other form of contemplative, focused meditative practice, if you’ve never meditated before, it can be a lot tougher than you expect. However, even meditating 10 minutes a day can bring a lot of benefits for recovering individuals, including creating new connections in their brain, helping speed up SUD recovery as well as reducing anxiety symptoms.
The gains one experiences when recovering from mental health issues tend to be incremental and difficult to track without any tools. Journaling is one of the more effective ways to keep tabs on your progress, helping you get a better overview of your current situation and helping you stay motivated.
Fear of failure dogs many people undergoing recovery, particularly those with anxiety or related conditions. The fact is, you don’t have to do your resolutions or recovery activities perfectly. Learning to accept this is often key to better long-term progress in SUD recovery and mental health, in general.
Keeping physically healthy is key to a more sustainable recovery journey, and having more veggies is a very simple way of helping achieve that. Later you may want to expand your goals to cutting out calorie-rich foods, simple sugars, carbs, excessive fats, and processed foods. To start, though, having more greens is a good, very achievable bet for a New Year’s resolution.
Social and familial isolation is a common cause of SUD relapses. Committing to do better for your family or yourself is not always straightforward, but being able to share quality time with them regularly is a great start.
Boston Drug Treatment Center connects you with the best facilities and programs specializing in SUD and other related mental health issues in New England. Call (857) 577-8193 now to find a selection of evidence or faith-based treatment options.
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