Four Healthy Ways to Unwind

Four Healthy Ways to Unwind

Keeping a journal can reduce stress and help a person relax

Discovering healthy ways to unwind is an important element of addiction recovery. Many individuals turn to substance abuse to cope with stress and negative emotions, so finding new ways to relax can help them leave substance abuse behind. Some healthy ways Sacramento residents can unwind include activities such as journaling, meditating, exercising and deep breathing. Deep breathing can also be a form of meditation.


Keeping a journal can reduce stress and help a person relax. Writing also helps individuals process their emotions and experiences and understand people and situations more clearly. According to PsychCentral, writing utilizes the left side of the brain, which is the analytical part of the brain that is used to make decisions based on logic. When the left brain is occupied, the right brain can function more freely, allowing a person to feel her emotions more deeply.

Writing allows people to use their brains at a fuller capacity in order to connect their emotions to the events and situations that caused the emotions in the first place. In short, writing helps individuals better understand themselves. Writing can even help individuals better understand other people and the world around them, too. Simply understanding and processing the cause of one’s distress and dissecting the emotions one is feeling can make a difficult situation seem much more manageable, allowing the person to unwind and either let it go or resolve to do what can be done to solve the problem. For recovering drug users, journaling can serve as both a relaxation technique and a form of personal therapy.

Mindfulness Meditation

Meditation can be a far more effective tool than most people realize. Particularly, a method of mediation known as mindfulness meditation can have remarkable benefits for recovering drug users. According to Psychology Today, mindfulness meditation is capable of affecting the brain in profound ways. By remapping the brain, altering brain functions and changing the way the brain affects the body, mindfulness meditation allows individuals to achieve higher states of concentration, awareness and insight.

Ronald Alexander, Ph.D., describes that the emotional cause of addiction is often what he calls the “wanting mind.” According to Alexander, the wanting mind exists when a person feels that he could only be happy if had something that he does not, whether it be money, a certain job, power or respect. The wanting mind can also exist when a person holds on tightly to negative emotions such as anger or bitterness. Alexander purports that mindfulness mediation can allow a person to see clearly what is anchoring him down and then give him the ability to let go of it, whether it is a desire or harbored negativity.

Not only can mindfulness meditation help an individual unwind and let go of what holds him back, it also has many overall benefits for mental, emotional and physical health. By practicing mindfulness, an individual can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, enhance her immune system, increase her energy, and make her body’s ability to release chemical toxins more efficient.


According to an article by James Fell in the Chicago Tribune, the physical rewards offered by exercising can become a healthy replacement for the reward of getting high when using drugs. In a 2011 study by researchers from Vanderbilt University, heavy marijuana users ran on treadmills ten times for 30 minutes over the course of two weeks. Although these individuals were marijuana dependent and expressed no personal interest in receiving treatment for their condition, the treadmill exercise alone led them to cut their marijuana use in half. Exercise can help individuals lessen their use of many addictive substances, including meth, cocaine, alcohol and nicotine. Exercise releases endorphins and improves physical health and overall wellbeing, thus lowering the desire for the high from drug use.

Deep Breathing

Focusing on breathing can help a person relieve her stress and unwind. Taking deep breaths from the abdomen, with the goal of filling the lungs with as much as air possible, allows a person to take in more oxygen. Breathing in more oxygen can relieve tension and anxiety. According to Help Guide, a person can even practice deep breathing as a form of mediation, known deep breathing meditation. The steps to deep breathing meditation include the following:

  • Sit in a comfortable position but with good posture; the back must be straight. Deep breathing can be performed either sitting up or lying on the floor.
  • With one hand on the chest and one hand on the stomach, take a deep breath through the nose. If done correctly, the breath should cause the hand on the stomach to rise but the hand on the chest should barely move.
  • After breathing in through the nose, breathe out through the mouth. Release as much air as possible. The hand on the stomach should move inward, while once again, the hand on the chest barely moves.
  • Repeat this breathing method while taking in enough air so that the abdomen rises and falls with the pattern of the breaths.

Deep breathing mediation is simple but effective and can be practiced almost anywhere. Breathing deeply can calm a person and allow him or her to relax and think more clearly about a situation.

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