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How Running Can Help with Addiction Recovery

How Running Can Help with Addiction Recovery

Opinion by EHN Staff

Written by Mike Quarress MA CCAC CSAT-S (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist), Edgewood Treatment Centre.

Summer solstice is just around the corner and EHN Edgewood’s Annual Twilight Run for Recovery is coming up this Friday, June 21. As an avid runner, it is one of my favourite Edgewood events. It brings together a diverse group of people, including alumni, family, and other supporters in the community—they all come together to celebrate addiction recovery.

Improve Emotional Stability

One aspect of Run for Recovery that is discussed less often is that the activity of running can be very helpful for the addiction recovery process. I have been running for years and have experienced tremendous benefits for my mental, spiritual, and physical well-being. These benefits help reinforce my emotional stability, which is essential for the work I do helping patients recover from addiction.

Increase Your Mental Clarity

As a clinician in the field, I have always been a strong advocate for including physical activity in post-treatment aftercare plans. At the root of addiction processes are dysfunctional reasoning and beliefs, which produce compulsive or ritualized behaviours. Running can help increase mental clarity and improve reasoning.

Help Heal Your Brain

Research has shown that addiction can cause long-lasting changes in the brain. However, human brains have some ability to reverse changes caused by addiction and evidence suggests that running can help reverse brain damage that resulted from substance use.

Improve Your Mood

Dr. John Ratey, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has been preaching the lace-’em-up cure for years. He says that even a little bit of running can make a big difference. “What happens immediately when you begin to run, is you get a boost in dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin—just as if you were taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin,” he says. This is similar to the chemical release in the brain when a person uses a psychoactive substance—but running gives you that boost in a healthy way. Thus, people recovering from addiction can use running as a healthy way of improving their moods, which will help their recovery process.

Reduce Your Cravings

Running has also been shown to reduce cravings experienced by people who are in the early stages of recovery. Going out for a run helps regulate mood, and many people report increased positive feelings.

Boost Your Confidence

Many people with addiction have concurrent depression and running can reduce the severity of depression symptoms. Many people find that running improves their self-esteem and confidence, and gives them a sense of achievement and optimism.

Relieve Your Stress

In my years as a runner, I have never heard anyone in the running community say that they felt worse after an invigorating run and a spiritually cleansing dip in the lake—I have only heard the opposite. Many people run to relieve the stress of a long, arduous day or as a form of self-care, to do something for nurturing for themselves.

Be Part of a Community

Another benefit of running is that running groups provide a supportive community. Running groups often have weekly meetups and provide opportunities to connect with other people who have a shared, healthy interest—much like the benefits of a 12 Step fellowship.

Running Is for Everyone

As we’re getting ready for this year’s Run for Recovery, let’s think about practicing self care, connecting with others, being in nature, and having some fun. Whether you’re working towards recovery, in recovery, or you just want to improve your wellbeing, running can help you be healthier and give you a sense of accomplishment, connection, and camaraderie. I hope to see all of you there on Friday the 21st. On your marks, get set, go!

Register Now for Run For Recovery!

The Run for Recovery is on Friday, June 21st, at Westwood Lake Park in Nanaimo, BC. Sign in starts at 5:30 pm and the run starts at 6:30 pm, sharp. You can register to run or walk, as an individual, family, or team, on the Running Room website. For more information, you can read our Run for Recovery blog post or contact Bonnie Bartlett at [email protected].

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If you would like to learn more about the treatment programs provided by EHN Canada, enrol yourself in one of our programs, or refer someone else, please call us at one of the numbers below. Our phone lines are open 24/7—so you can call us anytime.

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