One of the things I constantly stress on this blog is the importance of using personal growth as a tool to enable long term recovery. Realizing achievement and striving to hit personal goals is a positive feedback loop that can reinforce sobriety, much in the same way volatile relationships, emotional instability and depression reinforce substance abuse.
I strongly believe that another fundamental aspect of maintaining long-term sobriety is seeking out natural, healthy “highs”. Sometimes these highs come as a by-product of natural personal achievement, but sometimes we have to actively seek them out.
The goal is to naturally increase your body’s levels of endorphins – one of the key “reward” drugs of the human body. When your endorphin levels are elevated, you feel happy, relaxed, and euphoric. More importantly, natural endorphin highs are good for your long-term mental health.
Here are some healthy ways to get a natural high that may work for you:
1. Go on a long run
If you’ve heard the term “runner’s high”, then you knew that running was going to be on the list. Going for long, taxing runs is not only a form of meditation, but the body releases a flood of endorphins that produce feelings of relaxation and euphoria. And of course, you’ll be in better shape than ever.
2. Lift heavy weights
(Greg Westfall | Flickr)
Lifting heavy weights in the gym not only triggers endorphins, but it also triggers testosterone production. Lifting heavy weights – especially in the morning – will make you feel more energetic and confident. In the long term, it’ll also make you stronger and healthier. If you’re not sure where to start, joining a program like crossfit
can be a great way to get going with supervision and support from experienced lifters.
Lifting heavy weights isn’t just for men either, women can benefit tremendously from implementing a heavy weight lifting routine into their exercise regiment.
3. Do yoga
(Go Interactive Wellness | Flickr)
Yoga not only gives you a great workout, but it has been shown to relieve stress and trigger endorphin release, much the same way that long running does. The flexibility and joint strength built through Yoga can also help prevent injuries and chronic pain.
4. Laugh until your sides hurt
(Martin Playing With Pixels & Words | Flickr)
You probably don’t need much convincing to tell you that laughter is good for you, but heavy, belly busting laughter has been shown to releases endorphins – the body’s “feel good” drug.
Clinical research has also shown that laughing can actually keep depression at bay. In a study at Utah University, Dr. Jason Goodson found that watching stand up comedy had a significantly positive effect on depression patients in the long term.
(Andrei Zmievski | Flickr)
Sex is one of the most basic human needs, it’s also one of the most pleasurable. A good, rigorous session in bed is arguably the best natural high available.
The drawback of course is that you need a partner, and there is the temptation of engaging in risky sexual practices in order to chase that sexual high. But if done with proper protection and with the right partner, there’s nothing wrong with having lots of sex.
It should also go without saying that if you have a problem with sex addiction, you shouldn’t be chasing constant sex as a way to get naturally high.
6. Sky Dive
Perhaps its not something you want/can do on a regular basis, but there’s no doubt you ‘ll get a natural high if you go sky diving. Bungee jumping, skiing, rockclimbing or hang gliding are also acceptable alternatives.
7. Join a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gym
(MartialArtsNomad.com | Flickr)
You might not be comfortable rolling around with a bunch of sweaty people, but once you can get past that, brazilian jiu jitsu is a fantastic way to get a natural high. There’s something nothing like the struggle to choke or get choked that melts away the stress of daily life and forces you to focus on the moment. The constant quest for improvement and technique refinement can be extremely fulfilling as well.
8. Get Acupuncture
Acupuncture is an ancient Asian technique that originated in China over 2,500 years ago. It involves using needles to relax the nervous system and trigger endorphin release. Though its usually promoted as a way to promote pain-relief, its also great for relaxation.
It doesn’t work for everyone, but many people who try it out swear by it. In a study at Washington University in St. Louis, researchers found that 68-86% of patients experienced clinically significant improvements.
9. Get a massage
If acupuncture sounds a bit too exotic for you, a classic massage can do just as well. While massages can be pricey, you can sometimes get them covered by your medical insurance, especially if you have any type of chronic pain and you have a doctor’s referral. Just ask your doctor about it.
10. Listen to inspirational music
(eldeeem | Flickr)
What kind of music gets your blood flowing? Do you need something loud and aggressive, or smooth and mellow? Does it depend on your mood? Find the music that really moves you, and have it ready to go when you’re getting ready to exercise or getting work done around the house.
11. Do something nice for someone in need
(Jeffrey Pott | Flickr)
It’s always good to help others in need out of altruism, but helping other people can also help you. Research has shown that being generous and helpful without expecting anything in return triggers endorphin release. You might recognize it as that “warm fuzzy feeling” you get when you do something unexpectedly selfless.
Now you have a selfish reason to do something selfless!
12. Take on a difficult challenge
(Avery Watts | Flickr)
When you complete a challenging task – anything challenging – you get an intense feeling of accomplishment and pride. Not only does this give you a temporary boost of euphoria and happiness, but it has long term effects on your self-esteem and emotional well-being. Completing difficult challenges
can help build momentum and give you motivation to take on additional challenges as well. All successful people use this “completion high” to propel themselves towards greater and loftier achievement.
In other words, get off that couch, put away that bag of potato chips, and start living your life!
Find What Works For You
Remember, what works for some may not work for others. Maybe being a great parent and a loving spouse is enough of a natural high for you, or maybe you need to jump out of an airplane to get the rush you need. As long as you can satisfy your need for highs through healthy, natural channels – feel free to go for it.