All too often, people who struggle with addiction must overcome a range of issues if they’re to achieve lasting sobriety. One of the most common challenges for those in recovery is dealing with uncontrolled anger. This is because rage and substance abuse are two sides of the same sinister coin. One feeds on the other and vice-versa, entangling the person in a web of relapse that can go on for years. There is good news, however. Studies show that exercise can defuse a volatile temper while breaking the bonds of addiction. Here’s how this process works:

  • Anger is a normal reaction to the setbacks and injustices we and others experience. While the emotion itself is unpleasant, it can motivate us to tackle problems we might otherwise ignore. However, some people become addicted to the neurochemical changes that anger causes in the body, according to Daily News. This drives them to get angry as often as possible, even when they must rationalize their temper tantrums by blowing minor issues out of proportion.
  • Anger impels the person to abuse drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with the resulting negative feelings. But the short-term relief she gains comes only at great personal cost. Studies show a strong correlation between addiction and anger management problems, creating a vicious cycle.
  • Exercise tackles both the anger and substance abuse issues by countering the causes of each problem. Exercise provides an outlet for the stress that causes anger while increasing the brain’s production of endorphins, the “feel good” neurotransmitters that relieve anxiety and depression. This in turn enhances the person’s self-control and self-esteem, weakening the bonds that hold them in slavery to substance abuse. The result is a “virtuous cycle” that leads the person towards improved mental and physical health.

Now that we’ve explored the relationship between exercise and freedom from anger and addiction, let’s look at how to make healthy physical activity a regular part of your life:

  • Any sound exercise program starts with an honest self-assessment, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some ways to gauge your current fitness level include checking your heart rate after a one mile run, counting how many sit ups you can do in a specified time period, and measuring your body mass index.
  • Once you know where you’re at, create a program to get you where you need to be. Exercise beginners should engage in a variety of activities designed to create an all-around level of fitness before moving on to advanced techniques. For example, you might do 10 pushups followed by 10 situps and wrap up your routine with a brisk 20 minute walk. Make sure you stretch before and after each session.
  • Step up your level of intensity as your abilities permit and reward yourself with self-praise or incentives like a small serving of a favorite dessert. Positive reinforcement is one of the most potent ways to keep a fitness program going over the long term.
  • Invest in equipment or gym memberships only if the advantages justify the costs. Some people find that joining a fitness club gives them the incentive they need to stick with a routine. Others, however, stay away from the gym because they fear being embarrassed or ostracized. By the same token, some people swear by their home treadmill or resistance trainer while others spend large amounts of money on devices they never use. Knowing which outcome is more likely in you case can help you to get the most “bang for your buck” when it comes to your fitness dollar.

Exercise is key to long-term sobriety and improved health. So get started today on the road to a more active life. Good luck and enjoy the journey!

About the Author

Constance Ray started Recovery Well with the goal of creating a safe place for people to share how addiction has affected them, whether they are combating it themselves or watching someone they care about work to overcome it. The goal is to share stories of hope from survivors who know that the fight against addiction is one worth having, because no matter how it affects you, life can get better. 

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