The new year is a time for taking stock of where you are and where you want to go. If you’re recovering from a substance use disorder, the new year might be a good time to renew your commitment to sobriety or challenge yourself to take the next step, whatever that is for you. When making new year’s resolutions, it’s best to make one at a time so you can focus on one important goal and not get distracted by trying to do too much. It’s also helpful to write down what you want to accomplish and when you want to accomplish it. That said, here are some ideas for resolutions that can strengthen your recovery in the coming year.
Relationships are extremely important in addiction recovery. Studies have shown that having a strong sober network is one of the best protections against relapse. Making a resolution to strengthen your relationships will not only strengthen your recovery, but it will also make you happier and more relaxed. There are many ways to approach strengthening your relationships. One way is to pick someone you want a better relationship with and put more effort into it. It might be a friend, a sibling, a parent, or a child. Start by reaching out. Make it a point to regularly touch base, even if it’s only a short text every few days. Regular contact is the most reliable way to get closer to someone. If there’s someone you know from treatment or meetings that you seemed to get along with, ask that person to have lunch or coffee.
Volunteering has many benefits for people in recovery. It connects you to others and it makes you feel good about yourself. It gets you out of your own head by forcing you to consider other people’s needs. Volunteering has also been shown to make you feel happier. It gives you a sense of purpose and belonging. This is why it has always been a part of 12-step programs. Consider volunteering as your next step in recovery. You might choose to volunteer in something related to addiction. If you attend 12-step meetings, helping out there might be a good place to start. You may also consider ways of volunteering as a way of making amends for mistakes you made in active addiction. However, to get the benefits of volunteering, any kind of service will do. The important thing is that you help with a cause you care about or help people you care about. You might set a goal to volunteer an hour a week for three months for a worthy cause.
There are many lifestyle changes that can improve your recovery, but exercise is so important it deserves its own resolution. Exercise improves your mood, your executive function, your planning, your willpower, and your working memory. It boosts serotonin and grows brain cells. It reduces stress and improves sleep. Recent studies have even shown exercise can reduce cocaine cravings. All of these are important for recovery. If you haven’t already started exercising regularly as part of your recovery plan, this might be the best resolution for you. While other factors, such as social connection, are at least as important as regular exercise, you have a lot more control over whether you exercise regularly and it’s much easier to quantify. You don’t have to do anything extreme. Studies have found that just walking 20 minutes daily will give you most of the benefits of exercise, and it’s a goal most people can achieve pretty easily. If you can’t walk for 20 minutes, walk for five or 10 minutes and gradually work your way up. Anything that’s moderately challenging that you will do consistently will have a huge impact on your health and state of mind.
Make other healthy lifestyle changes
While regular exercise is probably the biggest bang for your buck for lifestyle changes, you may already get regular exercise or you may have other priorities. There are several other lifestyle changes that can significantly improve your recovery. One is to commit to getting more quality sleep. Getting seven and a half or eight hours of restful sleep every night reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, improves cognition, and helps your body heal from injuries and fight infections. Improving your diet is another lifestyle change that can help recovery. Recent studies have shown that the “Mediterranean diet,” one rich in vegetables, nuts, beans, legumes, lentils, whole grains, and omega-3 oils, such as those found in olive oil and fish, can significantly reduce your risk of depression, a major cause of relapse. On the other hand, a diet high in sugar and fat can cause inflammation, making you feel more anxious, irritable, and depressed. Setting simple goals to improve your diet, such as eliminating soda or including one green vegetable in every meal is a simple, measurable way to improve your diet quickly.
Attend a new meeting
It’s a good idea to participate in mutual aid meetings such as 12-step programs, SMART Recovery, or Refuge Recovery. These are a good way to build social support and remind you of the lessons you learned in treatment. If you haven’t already started attending meetings, a good resolution might be to find one in your area and go regularly. If you do attend meetings already, you might want to consider branching out. People often plateau after a while and a new meeting might be a good way to renew your commitment to recovery. If you are in a 12-step program, you might consider attending a different meeting for a fresh perspective. You may also consider something entirely different, like seeing what SMART Recovery or Refuge Recovery have to offer. You don’t have to quit your original meeting to see what else is out there.
If you or someone you love in the NYC area is struggling with addiction, please contact one of the local NYC Recovery Centers for information about recovery services and support.