The nutrition you put into your body can have an enormous effect on your ability to manage your recovery from addiction. For example, sugar is known to release excess amounts of dopamine in your brain which is not dissimilar to the way certain drugs behave. Eating sugar will create spikes in your moods that can assimilate those same highs and lows you will have experienced when using. Protein however can encourage a healthy build up of dopamine in your brain so you should try to eat a protein rich diet. Eating protein in the morning is especially beneficial as it can stimulate the release of tryptophan which is the amino acid precursor to serotonin, also know as the brain’s “happy chemical”. Encouraging serotonin with protein intake in the morning will boost your mood for the day. Similarly, the omega-3 fatty acid found in seafood, (ideally fresh, and organic), can also contribute to mood stabilisation.
You have probably heard that there is an intrinsic link between the gut and the brain. The two are connected by something called the vagus nerve. When the vagus nerve is functioning optimally, it supports both your gut health and mental wellbeing, however it also explains why problems within the gut can be the cause of depression anxiety and much more. As a recovering addict, you will have caused much stress to various organs within your body through your using, the gut is no different. In fact, it may not only be substance abuse that has caused you to have gut problems. A stressful lifestyle due to work commitments, late nights, poor nutrition can all contribute to gut disorders. Because of the link to our brains through the vagus nerve, problems within our gut can have a severe affect on the way we feel and our moods. Unfortunately there is no easy or quick solution to fixing issues within your gut. It is recommended that in order to maintain a stable recovery, you work with a Functional Medicine practitioner, or Nutritionist to resolve any gut imbalances.
A highly stressed lifestyle is known to decrease dopamine levels. Today many of us continuously put ourselves under an awful amount of stress, running from meeting to meeting, travelling extensively for work and trying to juggle a work/home balance. De-stressing doesn’t necessarily mean having to give up anything, or work less hours as many of us aren’t able to do that. But it does mean finding the time to fit certain activities such as yoga, meditation or even just simple breathing exercises into your daily routine. Just ten minutes a day of any of these activities can help increase your serotonin levels and help you balance chronic stress.
As simple as it may sound, giving yourself five minutes in the morning as you commute to work or are in the shower, to reflect on all the positive things in your life can have a massive affect on your mood over time. Try it daily for a month to see if you notice any difference in your mood and thinking.
Mood disorders and other imbalances in your biological system are affected by your ability to produce serotonin and not sleeping well can have disastrous effects on your serotonin levels. You should be aiming to have around 7 hours of good quality and undisturbed sleep a night. It is also good practise to stop using electronic devices at least an hour before you get into bed. It may seem unachievable sometimes when you have mounting work pressures and deadlines, but if you work in your ten minutes of meditation or deep breathing exercises into this hour, along with your normal nightly routine you will reap the benefits.
The stress from a high pressured, powerful job and demanding family life can often make you feel like you don’t have time to exercise. However it is well known that regular exercise boosts your serotonin levels so try to be creative in the way you weave exercise into your routine if you don’t think you have the time. Arrange networking events to involve a sporting activity. Spend the time you’ve got with your kids on the weekends running around playing in the garden, or going for a walk. Get a fitness instructor to teach you HIIT exercises that can be done in twenty minutes in the hour before you go to sleep when you aren’t able to use your electronic devices. Remember that not all exercises work for everyone, so find something that does work for you and that you enjoy as you are more likely to stick to it that way.