Category Archives: Lifestyle Balance

How to Manage Your Emotions

Posted on July 26, 2016

Building Resilience Part II: How to Manage Your Emotions

Originally posted here, for the Center for Motivation & Change

resilience_1Being resilient means being able to face adversity and cope well enough that you recover relatively quickly. In Part 1 of our resilience discussion in the March newsletter, we reviewed the ways that your perspective can actually mitigate some negative effects of stress. Now in Part 2, we’ll discuss the research that tells us about how to decrease the stress you experience through prevention by managing your emotions with skill and being mindful of the positive things in life. In Part 3 next month, we will talk about the value of getting enough sleep, exercise, oxygen, and healthy food.

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Self-Expression and Creativity: Managing Feelings

Posted on June 7, 2016

Self-Expression & CreativitySome feelings are hard to verbalize. Some thoughts we don’t want to say out loud. So what do we do with them? My thoughts and feelings used to drive me to get high. I had learned that drugs could change how I felt, whether it was dampening my anger or invigorating my boredom. But, that change was always only temporary.

Now that I’m living a life in recovery, I still deal with impulsive thoughts and overwhelming feelings, but I find a way to manage them by expressing them. Self-expression sounded like a lot of “Dear Diary” nonsense to me, but  the creative arts are an amazing outlet for our recovery.

We can write our thoughts down privately into journals, stories and poems. But, we can go beyond words and express through paintings, drawings, doodles, and photographs. We can express through music, dance, and song. Self-expression involves any activity where we can transfer the energy from our thoughts and feelings into another form. And, usually, this makes us feel better.

Self-Expression

When we express our feelings honestly, we are better equipped to deal with them because we actually know what we are feeling instead of denying it. A UCLA neuroscientist, Alex Korb, has even conducted experiments that show how the brain can benefit when we express ourselves.  In an fMRI study, participants viewed pictures of people with emotional facial expressions. Then, their amygdala—the part of the brain that plays a primary role in our emotional reactions—activated to the emotions in the picture. Yet, when a participant named the emotion, it reduced the amygdala’s reactivity and lessened the impact of the emotion. The study even found that when we try to suppress our negative emotions, our inward stress and anxiety can get more intense!

By virtue of being human, we are full of thoughts and ideas that inhabit us with energy. And if the creative energy in our mind sits untouched, it can turn on itself and we feel all sorts of anxiety and restlessness. To maintain our emotional well-being, we need to exercise our creativity.

Flow

The therapeutic benefits of artistic activities come in many forms: hands-on tasks can soothe our minds, they offer a healthy form of escape, and such tasks can free up our unconscious minds. Coloring books geared towards adults have gained popularity recently, and they are marketed as therapeutic tools.  When we get into a state of creative “flow,” our minds enter an optimal state of consciousness where we feel and perform our best. Our concentration is so focused that everything else falls away, and we lose our sense of time and self.

Normally, our brain is in a fast-moving state of beta waves. In flow, our brainwaves slow to an alpha state, the same as our day-dreaming and meditation mode, where we slip from thought to thought easily. Our prefrontal cortex is also temporarily deactivated, which allows us to simply create without self-consciousness or judgment. Making time to use your brain creatively can bring your brain and body the same kind of benefits as meditation: practicing mindfulness and decreasing anxiety.

Arts and Healing

Art and health have been a subject of human interest throughout our history as a species, using pictures, stories, dances, and chants as healing rituals. In a hospital setting, studies have found that clinical outcomes improve more in patients who participate in art therapy than in those who do not. Creative expression may be a catalyst in our emotional healing process.

Expressive writing has been particularly successful in long-term improvements of mood and health. Writing about our emotional states can bring us more self-awareness, but studies have also shown that it helps us manage those emotions and cope with them.

When the intent behind our art is self-expression, the value in the art becomes the emotional benefits. The process we go through to create our art, to transform a mental image into something physical, is a reflection of our thought processes. How many times in a day do you stop to consider what or how you are feeling? Much like paying attention to how we feel physically, the creative arts allow us to check in with our mental well-being and emotional state.

The Power of Creativity

Expressive arts bridge the gap between the conscious and unconscious mind. When we put our mental process into a physical form, we feel more in control of our thoughts and feelings, and we understand them more clearly. We can’t always explain an emotion using logic. Creative activities allow us to externalize our thought process and observe it from a distance, and then we don’t have to act on our feelings impulsively.

The creative and artistic processes allow us to merge our emotional and our logical parts into one identity. This is a key step in our healing—to learn that what we think logically may not match how we feel, and that’s okay. It is a part of our process. Having a creative outlet where we can express ourselves means we can better manage those thoughts and feelings.

Nadia Sheikh is a content writer and web developer for Sober Nation.

Have you tried creative expression, either as a way to manage thoughts or as a “Vital Absorbing Creative Interest?”  If so, have you found it helpful?

Managing Your ‘New Life’

Posted on May 30, 2016

Adjusting to a richer, fuller life experience
~Green-In-MI, SMART Recovery Volunteer

“Getting used to sober life can be a process of adjusting in a number of ways.”

Life in the Fast LaneOne of the things the SMART community talks about is making changes in your life as part of the process for sustained abstinence from your drug of choice or problem behavior. People share experiences like creating new circles of friends or even moving to new places or cities.

SMART specifically talks about finding one or more VACIs (Vitally Absorbing Creative Interests). A number of us spent an awful lot of time planning on using, using, and recovering from using. For many of us, our drug of choice was the focus of day-to-day life. Without it, many find themselves clear-headed but with nothing planned for the evening and wondering what to do. As you continue to build a new life, you re-engage old friends and pick old hobbies back up. You also find new friends and new activities. These are all good signs of progress.

If you’re like me, you might find yourself very busy all of the sudden. At some point you threw yourself into your life, dominated by your drug of choice. Now you’ve thrown yourself into a new life, a life of addiction recovery. There’s family, work, friends, hobbies, and keeping up with the general demands of day-to-day life, Continue reading

Get Involved! Help Us Grow!

Posted on April 10, 2016

Training Scholarships Available

Volunteer Training Scholarships

As we are now into our third decade, more and more people are “discovering the power of choice” and are eager to benefit from SMART’s approach to overcoming addiction.

This is great news!

We currently have an incredible team of hard-working volunteers who are providing over 2,000 face-to-face meetings around the world PLUS a menu of online services including daily meetings, a 24/7 chat room, and message board forums. But as you may already know, the demand for SMART’s services continues to grow at a rapid pace.

We set aside the month of April each year to celebrate  our amazing volunteers and the work they do and to encourage others to help us start even more meetings to meet the growing demand.

Here’s How You Can Help!

Volunteer: Share in the rewarding experience of volunteering by joining our dedicated team of trained volunteers. [ More Information ]

Scholarships for training are available

All SMART facilitators and online volunteers are required to become thoroughly familiar with the SMART 4-Point Program by participating in our Distance Training Program. Volunteer training scholarships are available during April to cover the cost of the training for those who need financial assistance.


Volunteer Training

 

Support the Volunteer Scholarship Program

During the month of April, you can help someone become a trained volunteer by making a gift to the Volunteer Training Scholarship Fund.  Donations of any amount are helpful and welcome — and thanks to a generous matching challenge the firs $2,000 in donations will be doubled!

Support Volunteer Training

Partner with us

The rewards of helping others make a difference in their lives are many and long lasting. We invite you to partner with us to grow SMART, either as a volunteer, a donor, or both. You’ll be glad you did! [ More Information ]

Together, we can make more meetings available to those wishing to make positive changes in their lives, and the lives of their loved ones.

Thank you for your support during Volunteer Month.
YouMaketheDifference-med

Handout for Local Facilitators


Local Facilitators
:

Please provide these flyers (click on the image) to interested parties in your meetings.

Your qualified participants can apply for Volunteer Month Training Scholarships!

 




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Three Things

Posted on April 4, 2016

Part 2: A Change in Lifestyle

By Jim (GJBXVI) Braastad

jogging on beachScientific research shows that people who have recovered successfully (regardless of the method used) all have three things in common, those being: 

  • A commitment to sobriety; 
  • A change in lifestyle; and 
  • They prepare and plan for urges.

In a previous post, I wrote about the first of the “Three Things”, a commitment to sobriety. The second trait shared by those who have successfully recovered is a change in lifestyle. Continue reading

What does it mean to lead a balanced life?

Posted on February 9, 2016

Lifestyle balance is critical in preventing relapses. Individuals whose lives are full of balanceunenjoyable activities are likely to relapse back to addiction (which may provide intense, although temporary, satisfaction). We may not enjoy our daily activities if we are too focused on what we “should” do and not enough on what we “want” to do. For example, a person who places too much money into retirement funds ends up having their daily budget tighten, and risks a “binge” of spending that could threaten their savings.  If they balanced their budget, rather than putting all their funds in retirement, they would find a better balance.

Lifestyle balance can be considered from a number of perspectives. Continue reading