Benefits of Holistic Healing During Recovery

By Jonathan Beazley, Founder, Bodhi Addiction Treatment
Image licensed by Adobe Stock

Holistic addiction treatment is a specialized treatment modality where experiential therapies are integrated into the treatment plan. These are added in order to foster self-awareness and emotional healing, and to promote overall wellbeing and improved mental and physical health. It is believed that by healing the whole person, not just the compulsive behaviors, long-term recovery is much more likely to become a reality.

The Concept Behind Holistic Healing

Rather than viewing addiction treatment as either holistic or traditional, the latest treatment model blends both. When used together, holistic therapies not only compliment the traditional therapies, but they can also enhance the clinical results of psychotherapy. These holistic activities are introduced in treatment, but then can be woven into your recovery strategy once the program is completed.  

Holistic healing honors the interconnectedness within each of us; the mind, body, and spiritual alliance that keeps us in a state of harmony and balance:

  • Mind. The mind component represents the powerful connection between our mood state and our overall wellbeing. When we have an underlying mental health issue it will disrupt wellness by sowing emotional discord. 
  • Body. The body component represents the need for sound nutrition to restore the body to renewed health in recovery. Adding regular exercise into a healthy lifestyle routine further strengthens and tones the body.
  • Spirit. The spiritual component can be different for everyone, depending on the individual’s approach to the spiritual aspect of our lives.  For some, it may mean a closer connection to God, for others it may be an enhanced relationship to the universe or a higher power.  

8 Holistic Therapies to Include in Your Recovery Plan

When you begin your new life in recovery, be sure to sprinkle these holistic activities into your regular routine:

  1. Mindfulness. You can cultivate a more relaxed state of being by practicing mindfulness, a type of meditation that trains you to focus on the present moment. It takes time to learn how to rein in the distracting thoughts that keep you irritated or upset, but once you do you will enjoy the peace that comes from mindfulness. While practicing mindfulness you also focus on your breathing, paying attention to the inhaling and exhaling of oxygen. Soon you will notice that you are in a more relaxed, tranquil state, and are fully present in your sensory experience.
  1. Yoga. Yoga has been found to be immensely restorative in recovery. Yoga uses purposeful postures and movements that can increase levels of GABA, which has a natural sedating effect. Yoga improves physical strength, flexibility, reduces stress, promotes relaxation, and improves sleep quality. There are a variety of yoga practices available, with the most popular methods being Hatha yoga, Kundalini yoga, Ashtanga yoga, and hot yoga.
  1. Art therapy. Art therapy, using a variety of media, allows the individual to convey a wider range of emotions than they might otherwise communicate in a therapy session. Art can act as a bridge, allowing the person to work through difficult emotions such as fear, shame, or trauma as they transition to wellness in recovery. Because art is a nonverbal activity, those who are hesitant to share openly with a therapist or group truly embrace this form of therapy.
  1. Exercise. One of the most effective ways to enhance recovery is through regular physical exercise. Just committing to an exercise routine or making new fitness goals can give someone renewed confidence. The benefits to both body and mind are many, including improved mental health, better sleep quality, increased cognitive ability and concentration, more energy, and reduced cravings. A regular exercise program involves three or four 30-60 minute workouts per week. These activities could be running, cycling/spin class, swimming, walking, dancing, or hiking, to name a few.
  1. Acupuncture. This ancient Eastern medical practice has been found to assist in recovery by reducing stress. Acupuncture is designed to help open up energy pathways, called qi. It is based on the assumption that these blockages in energy flow can cause illness. Auricular acupuncture, or placing the needles in the ear region, is a particular focus point for using acupuncture in addiction recovery, as it has been shown to help reduce cravings and anxiety.
  1. Gratitude Journal. The practice of regularly taking note of the blessings in your life can have immense spiritual benefits. Keep a gratitude journal where you can jot down the things that went right in your day. This practice can help train your mind and attitude to be more positive. Keeping a record of the goodness that still exists in the world is healthy, especially with so much strife in the world. Use the gratitude journal to also write down any prayers or petitions to your higher power. 
  1. Massage therapy. Massage provides assorted benefits for both body and mind. Therapeutic massage offers a compassionate human touch while also releasing muscle tension and toxins from the body. Massage can help lower heart rate and blood pressure, while increasing circulation and activating the lymphatic system. Massage can increase levels of the feel-good hormones, serotonin and dopamine, while reducing the stress hormone, cortisol. A good massage can reduce the symptoms of anxiety and also improve sleep quality. 
  1. Aromatherapy. Essential oils offer an easily accessible source of wellness in recovery. Essential oils are highly concentrated extractions of plant and flower parts, created through the distillation process, and are used to promote health and wellbeing in a wide array of conditions, Aromatherapy uses these essential oils, such as citrus oils, lavender, rose, frankincense, and bergamot, via a diffuser or a diluted topical application to help relieve anxiety, depression, or to reduce cravings. Because these issues are often correlated to relapse, aromatherapy can offer calming benefits as well as be a protective factor against relapse.

Addiction is indeed a complex disease that requires fundamentally a scientific approach to overcome and manage it in the early treatment phase. But adding simple holistic elements to both the treatment and the long-term recovery efforts just makes sense.

About the Author

Jonathan Beazley, in spite of a supportive family and a happy childhood, started at age 15 to walk down the unhealthy path of addiction and to turn his life upside down. He carved out a new path for himself in sobriety, and later began his career in the field of rehabilitation. He has since helped and advised well over 30,000 individuals and families in finding their right path through his center,  Bodhi Addiction Treatment and Wellness. Jonathan is a Registered Addiction Specialist Level 2 and a Certified Addiction Specialist. His vision is to help heal addicts through health and wellness. He carries out his life’s purpose in beautiful Capitola, CA.