Everyone should have access to addiction treatment facilities, and the ability to get help if they need it. Knowing the signs of addiction and withdrawal is an important part of keeping people safe and helping them develop healthier ways of coping. Once an addiction has been identified and treated, we need to know how to stay sober.
But all of these measures assume that the individual has already fallen victim to addiction. While we are never likely to eliminate addiction entirely, our number one goal should always be to prevent it from happening to as many people as possible. We can improve our chances of accomplishing this by identifying some actions people can take in their everyday lives that will make them less likely to become dependent on drugs or alcohol.
#1 Find natural ways to boost your dopamine
For the most part, people abuse drugs or alcohol because it makes them feel good, albeit for a short period of time. Many substances result in a flood of dopamine and other “feel good” chemicals, and this is what creates that sudden feeling of ecstasy and well-being. As the substance wears off, your dopamine levels rapidly drop. This leads to abrupt mood swings, and you may seek out more drugs in order to regain that feeling of ecstasy. The problem is that you have to take more of the drug to get the same effect, and before you know it, you can end up in a cycle of using, crashing, craving, and using again.
If you are equipped with ways to boost your dopamine levels naturally, you are far less likely to turn to substances to do the job. Some proven ways to do this include:
- Listening to music
- Eating foods rich in protein
- Exercising regularly
- Getting enough sleep
- Spending time in the sun (with proper sun protection)
#2 Spend quality time with the people you love
It is often said that no one is an island, and that is certainly true of the vast majority of us. Humans are social beings; we were not designed to live in isolation. We need to have people around us who we can talk to, not only about the challenging or traumatic elements of life, but about the good things. One brief look at human history provides evidence that we thrive on connection. We gather for every purpose imaginable: to celebrate birthdays and milestones, to mourn the loss of a loved one, to protest social injustice.
Isolating yourself from others carries significant risk of mental illness and addiction. If you lack that social support, there is no one who can help lift you up when things go wrong. On the other hand, if you intentionally nurture your relationships with the people who are close to you, your mental health will be better, you will have better coping mechanisms to see you through times of stress, and you will be less likely to become dependent on substances.
#3 Avoid expanses of empty time
Almost without exception, people thrive on productivity. That’s not to say we need to be hustling to make money 24 hours a day, but we need to spend our waking hours engaged in meaningful pursuits. In addition to working and going to school, this could mean reading, going for a run, spending time with loved ones, or engaging in something creative, like music or art.
We do not do well with boredom, especially if we are going through times of stress, or if we have survived some kind of trauma. Because idle time can be equated with time to think and overthink the things in our lives that are challenging or emotionally difficult. Obviously, those things need attention, but they need intentional care. They should not be left to fester in a mind that is not occupied in a productive way.
If you are not working or studying full-time, you may have long stretches of time available to you, and you can derive tremendous benefit from planning activities that will move you forward in terms of your physical, mental, emotional, social, or financial health.
Several studies have shown that one of the biggest predictors of happiness is philanthropy. If you do good things for other people, you are more likely to feel good yourself. A reaction of gratitude gives us a dopamine boost that makes us want to repeat the good deed and the way it made us feel. And of course, helping those in need creates social bonds and stronger communities. Strong communities are less likely to have members who are going through addiction, and when someone does have an addiction, their community is more likely to support them and make sure they get the help they need.
Volunteering also allows you to be a role model to those who need one: children and youth, and people who have lost their way and are trying to build better lives for themselves.
#5 Get a therapist
Many people believe therapists are only for those with mental illnesses, but there’s no reason this should be the case. The world of physical health is increasingly leaning toward preventative care – why could this not also be true of mental health? Many people see therapists in spite of not having any specific “problems” to work on. They focus on things like setting goals, improving their skills in communication or conflict resolution, and learning how to navigate work and personal stress.
Although the stigma surrounding mental health and therapists has decreased in recent years, there is still work to be done. It is important to understand that there is no negative side to seeing a therapist, whether you have mental health concerns or not. On the contrary, a therapist can be a highly effective tool in strengthening your confidence and self-esteem, coping during difficult times, and avoiding addiction.
Getting Help For An Addiction
If you are going through addiction to drugs or alcohol, help is just a phone call away. Thousand Islands Rehab Centre is a full-service addiction rehab facility that can support you through safe medical detox and an addiction treatment program that is fully customized to your individual needs and circumstances. We provide a safe environment that is conducive to healing, compassionate staff, and a wide array of treatment options to meet your needs. Call us for more information.