This information is available on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website>

    What is Wellness?

    Wellness is being in good physical and mental health. Because mental health and physical health are linked, problems in one area can impact the other. At the same time, improving your physical health can also benefit your mental health, and vice versa. It is important to make healthy choices for both your physical and mental well-being.

    Remember that wellness is not the absence of illness or stress. You can still strive for wellness even if you are experiencing these challenges in your life.

    What Are the Eight Dimensions of Wellness?

    Learning about the Eight Dimensions of Wellness can help you choose how to make wellness a part of your everyday life. Wellness strategies are practical ways to start developing healthy habits that can have a positive impact on your physical and mental health.

    The Eight Dimensions of Wellness are:

    1. Emotional—Coping effectively with life and creating satisfying relationships
    2. Environmental—Good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being
    3. Financial—Satisfaction with current and future financial situations
    4. Intellectual—Recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills
    5. Occupational—Personal satisfaction and enrichment from one’s work
    6. Physical—Recognizing the need for physical activity, healthy foods, and sleep
    7. Social—Developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system
    8. Spiritual—Expanding a sense of purpose and meaning in life

     

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    Nutritional deficiencies are common in people who are addicted to alcohol. A person who drinks heavily is consuming calories— an ounce of alcohol has over 200 calories— but is missing vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and fibers. The person may not feel that he or she needs much food, but, in fact, the body becomes more and more deficient in needed nutrition over time. As nutritional sufficiency declines, so does the person’s health; he or she may feel sick all the time, which may fuel further alcohol consumption.

    Typically, people with alcohol use disorder are deficient in vitamins A, B complex and C; folic acid, magnesium, selenium, zinc, antioxidants and fatty acids. Taking multivitamins to restore these nutrients and making dietary changes can help recovery by increasing overall well-being.

    Foods like bell peppers, broccoli, green leafy vegetables and oranges are high in Vitamin C. Other important nutrients are:

    • Protein (can be found in skinless poultry, fish, beans, lentils, soybeans and egg whites)
    • Magnesium (found in almonds, sesame seeds, wheat germ, and lemons)
    • Zinc (brewer’s yeast, pumpkin seeds, eggs)
    • Omega-3 fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid (found in walnuts and flaxseeds), eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (found in salmon and herring)
    • Fiber, found in whole grain foods (oats, brown rice, whole wheat pasta)

     
    Strive to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet and limit ‘junk’ foods and convenience foods. Talk to your doctor about your diet and ask whether a vitamin supplement or other dietary modifications may be right for you. Limiting sugar and caffeine consumption can help to ease withdrawal symptoms and may help reduce cravings for alcohol. Adequate water intake is necessary to help the body eliminate waste and recover from alcohol-induced dehydration.

    If possible, working with a nutritionist can be helpful. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) website has a “Find a Dietitian” resource that will help you locate a dietitian in your area and includes areas of specialty for each dietitian.

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    Exercise is a natural way to strengthen the body and improve mental well-being. There are many ways to reap the rewards of exercise, from taking a walk to running a marathon, and everything in between.

    Exercise can benefit those in recovery in a number of ways:

    • Creating positive changes in the brain by increasing brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor), and norepinephrine, which may help the brain deal more efficiently with stress.
    • Alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety.
    • Improving sleep. Insomnia is not uncommon in the early stages of recovery. Exercise can help people to sleep better at night.
    • Boredom can be dangerous for those in recovery. Exercise fills time. When done in groups there is the additional benefit of being around other people pursuing healthy lifestyles.
    • Building self-esteem. Exercise can lead to a sense of achievement which can help build self-esteem and improve self-image.
    • Distraction. Exercise can be a great distraction when boredom, loneliness, or depression set in. Having a more positive focus, like exercise, can help prevent relapse.
    • Reducing stress, boosting energy levels and improving circulation.
    • Providing structure. Going to a regular yoga class or taking a walk every day can provide structure in your daily life. People who have filled a lot of their time with drinking can be at a loss with what to do with the new-found time on their hands.
    • Improving overall health. Exercise can help boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, strengthen bones, lower body fat, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
    • Increasing a sense of personal satisfaction and joy.

     
    When beginning an exercise program, it is important to keep your current state of health in mind. If you have not exercised in a while, you should consult your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen. This is especially important for people who have been using alcohol for a long period and for those with any medical conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, as well as for those who are pregnant or are recovering from an injury. It is important to know your limits and to build upon your exercise program as you increase your fitness level in order to avoid injury related to over-exercise.

    There are many, many ways to exercise, and the right one for you will depend upon your interests, budget, and present fitness level. You may wish to work with a personal trainer, join a gym or recreation center, or take classes. You may wish to exercise with a friend or by yourself. You may wish to just go for a daily walk around your neighborhood. Talk to your doctor about what activity level is appropriate for your present state of health and fitness.

    For those seeking organized activities to support their recovery, Phoenix Multisport offers a sober physically active community with chapters in California, Colorado, and Massachusetts.

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    Meditation is a practice which induces a focused, calm, concentrated state of mind. It can be practiced in a group or alone, with or without a teacher. Some modalities have a spiritual component and tradition (as in Buddhist meditation practice), while others are not affiliated with a particular tradition and focus solely on concentration and awareness.

    Mindfulness meditation helps people learn to be ‘present’ in any situation, meaning to be aware of and focused on the thoughts and sensations of the immediate moment. Being fully present allows a person to become aware of emotional and physical feelings so that they can learn to respond, not react, to them. Meditation can help people access subconscious thoughts and feelings, which can help them to better understand their own fears, obstacles and motivations. The calming of the mind necessary for meditation practice helps reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

    Meditation is sometimes combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy to help people with alcohol dependence. This modality is called mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. By increasing mental focus, the meditating person becomes more aware of both mind and body, and develops the ability to ‘stay with’ and think through recurring negative thoughts. Through this process, the negative thoughts are diffused and they lose their power. Many times these negative thoughts are related to a ‘trigger’ (an experience or association that leads to a craving for alcohol), and processing them helps prevent the trigger experience from building to a relapse. The goal of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is to help people observe and accept their emotions, positive or negative, so they can use them for positive change in their lives.

    Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a specific kind of meditation practice involving the use of a mantra or sound. It aims to produce a feeling of harmony and calm in the body. TM is practiced while seated with eyes closed, twice a day for twenty minutes each session. Practitioners report that TM creates a state of restful alertness that decreases anxiety, stress and fatigue. It can also foster a sense of control in situations that trigger anxiety.

    For some, seated, still meditation is not a good fit. Active modalities that achieve similar effects—namely, disciplining and calming the mind and increasing feelings of self-esteem and control—are martial arts such as tai chi, quigong, and karate; and yoga.

    NIH Meditation Overview>

    Transcendental meditation>

    Related: Relapse prevention technique combines mindfulness meditation with CBT>

    Related: PGDF Partners with David Lynch Foundation to Study TM and Alcoholism>

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