Engaging in a hobby has several benefits for people recovering from substance use disorder (SUD). First, they provide a necessary distraction that helps prevent early relapse. Second, they help the brain create new connections that may help bypass the defective ones formed by substance misuse. Third and last, most hobbies are a great way to meet new friends who could help you stay on the path to recovery.
Below are some hobbies that have been shown to help people in recovery from SUD and other mental health conditions commonly associated with it. If you’re in New England, Boston Drug Treatment Centers can help you find rehab programs that offer these and other evidence-based recovery activities.
1. Learning a musical instrument
Learning a musical instrument can be an enjoyable way to stimulate the growth of new brain connections, which can help a variety of mental health issues, including SUD. These new connections may help not just the one’s ability to play, but they may also help bypass the “bad connections” created by drug or alcohol use.
There are other benefits as well. Developing proficiency on some instruments like drums, brasswinds, woodwinds, and accordion can also be fairly physically demanding, which makes them a good way to stay fit on top of regular exercise. Playing an instrument can also open up new opportunities for socialization at any age.
Empathy and other social skills can often be severely impaired by substance misuse. Volunteering at animal shelters or community groups can provide a safe space for recovering individuals to hone the social skills they may have forgotten.
These groups can also be a good way to expand one’s circle of contacts beyond the ones that may have contributed to substance misuse. To add to this, a promising study in the UK even suggests that volunteering can be a more effective way to prevent relapse compared to medication.
Yoga combines exercise with mindfulness and meditation techniques, both of which have been shown to help with long-term recovery from drug and alcohol use disorders. Practicing yoga has been shown in multiple studies to help with anxiety, depression, and trauma — conditions that are extremely common among people recovering from drug use.
Many other exercises do offer similar benefits to yoga. However, yoga has some key advantages over other popular exercises, including its low cost and the fact that it could be done virtually anywhere.
The integration of mindfulness techniques also makes yoga a great tool for encouraging clear thinking, which makes the practice a good supplement to cognitive-behavioral therapy and other mainstream substance recovery approaches.
4. Creative arts
If we are not able to express our emotions, we’ll often have problems dealing with them. Being able to express emotions is a critical part of recovery, not just for substance use disorders, but for other serious mental and emotional issues as well.
Unfortunately, not everyone is especially gifted with words. In any case, not every emotion has words sufficient enough to describe them.
However, words shared with our therapists and recovery groups are not the only way we could express what we feel and experience. It could also be done through song, poetry, drawing, painting, photography, dance, and other expressive art forms.
Apart from the basic advantages that having hobbies has for recovery, hashing out your emotions through art can function as a healthy form of release, which can help keep you mentally and physically healthy.
Trips to the beach, the mountains, or through forest and desert trails can be a great way to get exercise in a quiet environment that’s conducive to introspection. There is strong evidence that being present in natural spaces can lift our mood and help our brains heal from trauma. Virtually all the activities described here can be done outdoors and doing so when the weather permits can give your mental health a welcome boost.
Journaling isn’t just a welcome distraction or a form of release. It can help recovering individuals better contextualize their recovery. It’s much easier to see one’s recovery progress when it’s written down compared to simply relying on one’s memory. Seeing one’s progress can help an individual see past temporary setbacks and strengthen their resolve to see the recovery process through.
Exercise is perhaps the oldest known effective means of dealing with substance use disorders. Regular moderate exercise has been shown to improve anxiety and depression symptoms and is about as effective as sleeping pills at inducing sleep. Even more compelling, it also gives recovering individuals a natural, healthy high to replace the ones they got from misusing substances. This makes exercise a sustainable way to avoid relapse during early recovery.
Recovery from drug and alcohol use disorder also tends to bring one’s interest back to food, so cooking is one of the most popular hobbies for people in recovery to get into.
Cooking is an incredibly fulfilling hobby that could be practiced daily, shared socially, and enjoyed by oneself. It can be learned at virtually any age and it could be done at one’s pace. Getting into cooking can also be a great way to learn more about health and nutrition, which are also vital to a sustainable recovery.
These are just some of the hobbies that can help recovering individuals avoid an early relapse and stay committed to recovery. While they are not a substitute for seeing a therapist regularly, having a set of healthy hobbies can dramatically improve one’s quality of life and directly improve SUD recovery outcomes. If nothing else, they give recovering individuals a new purpose in life, which can be critical to the healing process.
Good luck, and stay well!