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Avoid relapse by improving recovery wellness.

How’s life in recovery? Well, if you’re past the early days and life is anything but perfect (so this is for basically everyone…) take stock of what areas of life need a tune-up and get some ideas for self-improvement, because the more wellness you enjoy, the stronger your recovery becomes.

Read on for an 8 item wellness checklist. Evaluate your current situation across these 8 domains and if you see an area that needs work, get started on self-improvement by following one of the suggestions listed below.

Research shows that improving wellness increases life satisfaction and physical health, decreases your risks of early death and helps you avoid relapse – so though improving wellness takes a bit of effort, it earns you enormous rewards.

What Is Wellness?

Wellness = Feeling happiness, life-satisfaction and well-being, enjoying good physical health, addressing past trauma, enjoying social relationships, having purpose and engaging in work and play, avoiding excessive stress and living in a positive environment.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, wellness has 8 primary dimensions:

  1. Social
  2. Environmental
  3. Physical
  4. Emotional
  5. Occupational
  6. Intellectual
  7. Financial
  8. Spiritual

These 8 dimensions give you a framework to evaluate your current situation and to make small changes over time to improve your wellness across all areas of life.

Why bother working for wellness?

  • Because life should be joyous and satisfying - after all, you don’t go through all the hard work of quitting and early recovery to have a less satisfying life – life after addiction should improve enormously.
  • Because research shows that people with serious mental illness and substance use disorders suffer greater health complaints and have a higher risk of early death (working for wellness helps you offset this risk.)
  • Because beyond general happiness, wellness and life satisfaction protects your emotional and mental health – and your recovery.

Your Wellness Recipe…Only 8 Ingredients!

Want to improve your life but not sure how to get started? Well:

  1. Take a look at the 8 dimensions listed below.
  2. Choose one you’re weak in.
  3. Choose one of the easy improvement suggestions.
  4. Take a small step to greater wellness right now.

Remember, baby steps of progress still take you forward. You don’t have to change everything right away. Simply make one or two manageable changes at a time, and if you keep at it you’ll achieve something great.

1. Physical Wellness

You can achieve good physical wellness by getting enough exercise, sleeping well, eating healthy nutritious food, maintaining a diet that keeps you at a healthy weight, avoiding injury and seeing your doctor regularly to prevent disease.

Ideas for improvement:

  • If you haven’t been to the doctor in a while, make an appointment for a complete physical – likewise, stay on top of oral health with regular dental visits. If you haven’t been in a while, schedule a cleaning and check-up today.
  • Know your health numbers: your blood pressure, you blood glucose, your BMI and your blood lipids. Elevated numbers can indicate increased disease risk.1
  • If overweight, take steps to lose weight – reduce your consumption of processed foods and sugary drinks and replace these with home-cooked foods, vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes. To help with this, buy the bulk of your groceries from the outsides of the grocery store – where the fresh produce, meats and dairy are typically sold. Limit purchases in the interior sections, which hold processed and frozen/prepared foods. 
  • Get at least 2.5 hours of moderate physical exercise per week (more is even better) – all it takes is a 20 to 30 minute brisk walk each morning or evening. Or – try for 10 000 steps a day (use a fitness tracker for this) or join a recreational sports team.2
  • Take the stairs rather than the elevator – or park at the far end of the lot, rather than searching for the closest spot.
  • Make getting enough sleep a priority. If you can’t sleep, learn to improve your sleeping skills by improving your sleep hygiene.
  • If you smoke – quit!
  • Wear your seat belt.
  • Practice safe sex.

2. Social Wellness

You can’t be totally well all on your own - for social wellness and belonging make sure to build a social support network, engage regularly with others and work to make sure you feel comfortable with others in everyday social interactions.

Ideas to try:

  • Make a list of people that you care about and if there’s anyone on that list you haven’t talked to in a while, give them a call today.
  • Pledge to make at least one connection with another person each day – through phone calls, emails or direct contact.
  • Get involved with peer recovery support. Helping others in recovery helps you just as much as it does them.
  • Join a club or social group.
  • Volunteer.

And the good news is that you don’t have to become a social butterfly to see some beneficial results - researchers in Australia found that just belonging to a book club or other community social group led to improved physical and mental health.3

3. Financial Wellness

It’s hard to stay positive when money’s a constant worry – you achieve financial wellness when you avoid excessive financial stress and become satisfied with your present and future financial situation.

Ideas to try:

  • Become a conscious spender – if you overspend, set a budget and stick with it.
  • If you have debt or credit problems, work with an expert to develop a plan that satisfies your creditors and takes the pressure off your day to day life.
  • If you worry about your future finances, make a plan and start putting money aside now. Even small amounts saved today can grow into something substantial - and by taking action, you may relieve some anxiety.

Learn how to beat impulse spending.

4. Emotional Wellness

Improving your ability to handle life’s curves and your own difficult emotions, express your feelings, build and maintain meaningful relationships and sustain a generally positive outlook.

Ideas to try:

5. Occupational Wellness

You likely spend a great deal of your life ‘at work’ so your job has an influence on your overall wellness. If you can, try to build a work or school situation that brings you a sense of purpose and satisfaction.

Ideas to try:

  • If you don’t get any satisfaction, enrichment or purpose out of you current job, is there any way you could change your current job to improve it? If not, are you in a position to get a new job elsewhere that would be a better fit to you?
  • If you feel under-challenged, volunteer for extra duties or responsibilities that allow for growth and development.
  • Improve your skills with professional development or specific training courses.
  • Make sure to communicate openly with your supervisor and ask for support if you need it.

6. Intellectual Wellness

Use it or lose it! It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, but you don’t have to be an academic type to benefit from life-long learning – staying intellectually active can improve your cognitive abilities, protect you from age related declines, increase your self confidence and provide you with new knowledge and skills.

Ideas to try:

  • Take a class.
  • Pay attention to local politics and attend political events. Express your opinions.
  • Try a new hobby.
  • Go to the museum or art gallery.
  • Read.
  • Join a book club or other discussion group.

7. Spiritual Wellness

We are all spiritual beings seeking meaning from our existence, and there is something very satisfying in connecting with something larger than yourself. Spirituality doesn’t have to mean religion – though it can, but it should be personally significant.

Ideas to try:

  • If already have working beliefs, strive to bring your spiritual practice into your everyday life.
  • If you don’t yet have a well defined sense of spirituality, try exploring different religious traditions – you may find an existing practice that fits perfectly.

8. Environmental Wellness

Your environment has a significant effect on your mental and physical health, so you can improve wellness simply by spending more time each day in pleasant, stimulating or nurturing surroundings.

Ideas to try:

  • De-clutter - if you live with clutter, tidy and clean your surroundings. Research demonstrates that neat and orderly surroundings help your mood.
  • Spend more time each day outside – in the natural world if possible.
  • If you spend a lot of time each day stuck in your car – in traffic, consider alternate means of commuting, such as bike commuting.
  • Avoid spending time in toxic environments, such as rooms filled with second hand smoke.
  • Add plants to your environment.
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Page last updated Oct 06, 2014

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