When you’re recovering from addiction, it’s a great idea to pick up a new interest, hobby, or activity. These do several good things for you. Perhaps most importantly, especially early on, they give you something to do.
Too much boredom and restlessness are not good for recovery, and having a new pursuit gives you something to do. Also, if it’s something you enjoy — which it should be — it gives you something to look forward to every day; a sense of direction or focus. Finally, when you learn new skills and see them improve day by day, it increases your sense of self-efficacy: the feeling that you are in control of your life.
There are many possible challenges to take on in addiction recovery. The important thing is to find something you enjoy and something that connects with your values. You may have to try out a few things to find what you like. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
Learn to play an instrument.
Any kind of expression is good for recovery and music has some attributes that make it especially good for some people. First of all, music therapy is an alternative form of therapy that involves many different ways of engaging with music.
It often helps people who aren’t helped much by more conventional modes of therapy. A number of studies have found that it can be particularly effective for treating trauma and depression. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5500733/]
However, the benefits don’t stop with therapy. Several studies have found that the act of making music in itself can improve your mental health. For example, researchers at Oxford¹ have found that singing in a choir can have many benefits, including increasing your feelings of happiness and wellbeing, reducing pain, and even improving your immune system.
Music is good for you because it is a complex activity that promotes social cohesion. Music requires cooperation between many parts of your brain in both hemispheres. It is one of the best workouts you can give your brain and some studies suggest practicing music can even stave off dementia.
No matter what, a certain level of fitness should be part of your recovery plan. Few things are as good for your physical and mental health as daily exercise and emerging research even suggests that it may help prevent relapse.
However, a basic level of self-care is not the same as making sports or fitness a particular interest in recovery. All you really need to be healthy is to walk about 30 minutes a day, but that won’t provide as much of a challenge or motivation as an activity.
For that, you need something that gives you plenty of room to grow — something that requires strength, skill, and stamina. Team sports are a great place to start, because they not only require skill and keep you active, but they also add a social element that holds you more accountable and helps you feel more socially connected — one of the most powerful aspects of a strong recovery².
Even if you never thought of yourself as a sports person (perhaps especially if you never thought of yourself as a sports person), learning a new sport can be a huge boost for your mood and confidence.
As with music, art is a great recovery activity because it emphasizes self-expression. Much of what you go through in life may be hard to put into words, but you still need some way to express it.
Drawing, like dreaming, can be an expression of your inner world. Most of us were encouraged to draw when we were kids, but creativity is discouraged as we get older.
Making art, whether it’s drawing, painting, sculpting, knitting, collaging, or anything else, is often a great way to get back into contact with the parts of your mind that can’t easily express themselves in words.
Learn a new language.
Most people only learn new languages for the sake of practicality. It takes a special kind of person to do it for fun.
However, if you’re that kind of person, learning a new language can be a great recovery activity. For one, it opens up a whole new world that wasn’t available when you were limited to English.
The change of perspective when you can suddenly read a newspaper from Mexico City or Berlin is startling. Perhaps more importantly, a new language connects you to new people.
Language is fundamentally social and even the process of learning a new language can help you build new relationships. Like music, language learning is also great exercise for your brain.
If you’ve been through an addiction treatment program or worked with a therapist, there’s a good chance you’ve already done quite a bit of writing as part of recovery. However, there’s no reason to stop there. Like art and music, creative writing, such as poetry and fiction, can be a way of exploring thoughts and feelings you can’t quite articulate directly.
What’s more, writing is a great way to process what you’ve been through and find meaning in it. Think of all the people who have been through horrible things and then redeemed those experiences by writing about them — from Victor Frankl and Malcolm X to the many excellent recovery memoirs that have come out in the past 10 years or so.
Writing your story is a way to own what you’ve been through and create a story where you’re the hero rather than the victim.
There’s essentially no limit to possible activities to engage in during recovery. The great thing about recovery is that your future is no longer about drugs and alcohol; it can be about anything you want. The more you challenge yourself, the more you’ll grow. At The Foundry, we know that recovery isn’t just about abstinence; it’s about living better. For more information about our treatment programs, call us today at 1-844-955-1066 or explore our website.
Launay, J. (2015). Choir singing improves health, happiness – and is the perfect icebreaker. The Conversation.
Twark, C. (2018). Can exercise help conquer addiction? Harvard Health Publishing.