Those of us that have made the decision to break free from using drugs and alcohol look forward to big changes in our lives, but what will that look like? That is one of the things that make most of us nervous about recovery. Thinking about bringing back or developing new hobbies is a great way to remove some of the uncertainty and fear about living a sober lifestyle. As a matter of fact, there are quite a few reasons why having hobbies can make our commitment to recovery more successful and enriching. Let’s consider some of these reasons:
Hobbies Prevent Boredom
Having too much free time in recovery can lead to a common trigger: boredom! During our active addiction, using felt like a normal reaction to take care of the boredom and restlessness. Transitioning back into a lifestyle in which you have to create your own routines and activities can be difficult, and having too much free time is a recipe for falling back into old habits. Taking up new hobbies is a healthy and proactive way to have a solution to boredom that doesn’t involve any of our old habits.
Hobbies Help with Addictive Thinking
The feeling of boredom can go hand in hand with other kinds of addictive thinking that can lead to relapse. Being aware of the kind of thoughts we have is imperative to prevent a relapse. Having a hobby helps in a couple of ways: It helps keep our thoughts and actions directed towards definite objects and positive goals, and it minimizes the amount of time that our minds are left to wander. Without anything to work on, it’s easy to fall into the traps of negative thinking, obsessing about things beyond our control, feelings of frustration or dissatisfaction, and many other kinds of destructive addictive thoughts. Learning new skills, making arts & crafts, or participating in group activities are useful tools for learning to keep your thoughts positive and productive.
Hobbies Keep Your Brain’s Reward System Healthy
Another important aspect of recovery is promoting a healthy reward system. In early recovery, the brain’s reward system is usually still damaged from the effects of addiction. That means that it is difficult to find a feeling of satisfaction in things that are not related to our addiction. However, the reward system can be healed. Actively participating in hobbies while in recovery helps people to reach the goal of rediscovering what it feels like to have a healthy, functioning reward system. It’s also important to understand that you might not see immediate results. Being proactive about practicing a craft or sport can go a long way toward helping your brain begin to provide that feel-good dopamine release that is supposed to accompany fun and productive activities.
Hobbies Help You Make New Connections
Relapse Prevention is largely about avoiding personal triggers that make us want to go back to our addiction. Triggers are usually people, places, things, or situations that are closely connected with our old habits. They’re called “triggers” because they trigger memories, feelings, and thoughts about using an addictive substance. Triggers are not easy to avoid, and “people” can be some of the hardest triggers to change.
There are a lot of hobbies that help people connect to new social groups, community sports leagues, book clubs, volunteering opportunities, or mutual interest groups. Connecting with new people separates our thoughts from our old friends which reduces the chances of isolating or falling back into our addictive behaviors.
Hobbies Help Rebuild Self-Worth
It is common for our self-worth to have hit a bottom during active addiction or in the early stages of looking for help. Addiction is often a continuing series of negative consequences that can have a debilitating effect on our self-esteem and general mental health. Recovering from addiction means not only acknowledging a brain disorder and mistakes made, but it also includes relearning how to have a sense of self-worth.
Being involved in hobbies is an effective way to rebuild this aspect of our lives. Whether we’re finishing reading a book, putting the finishing touches on a project, or participating in a team sport, these kinds of activities can provide a feeling of accomplishment that makes life in recovery satisfying and full.
Some Idea’s for Some New Hobbies
Cooking and Healthy Eating- Taking care of our bodies and repairing the damage done during our active addiction is important. Most of us have spent years neglecting the food that we eat. A good hobby could be as easy as finding a healthy recipe once a week and fixing it for dinner.
Blogging and Social Media- Getting involved in different recovery groups online is a great way to start a new hobby and make new friends. Just remember to find some local groups that are geared towards recovery. Sometimes they may meet-up for activities like volleyball, barbecuing, picnics, hiking, camping, or even more.
Hiking and Camping- Going hiking or camping is a great way to get out in nature and start some nature related hobbies such as fishing, rock climbing, or just watching nature. There are plenty of opportunities which help occupy your mind, enhance your health, and clear your mind.
Continuing Education- Learning is a passion and skill that can never be fully completed. Find a local community college or learning center and sign up for a class. This provides us with structure and keeps our minds occupied on something positive and constructive. These classes should be something that you want to learn, whether it be to learn a new language or further your career.
The bottom line with identifying a new hobby is that it’s your choice. You have the freedom to find what it is that excites you. Follow these suggestions to find a hobby that fits your needs and prevents you from relapsing.
Finding Healthy Hobbies
Because of our addiction, it’s probably been years since we’ve enjoyed a hobby. Addiction robs us of our passion for life, and one of the first things that is lost is the enjoyment that we found in different activities. Here are some suggestions to find healthy and meaningful activities:
- Think about what you used to enjoy before addiction. There is no reason why we can’t return to these hobbies and rekindle our appreciation for them.
- Research hobbies online. Pinterest is a great place to find inspirational motivation for a new project.
- Ask others what they’re interested in, and if you have a similar interest, ask to tag along. Not only will you have a friend to go to the group with, but it’s also a great way to try new activities without committing.
- Look for local classes. Most local places offer different kinds of classes for low cost or free.
- Develop friendships in recovery groups. Ask other members what activities they enjoy doing. When they see that you’re looking for new hobbies, they will likely ask you to join them.
- If you can’t find a hobby to do right now, then volunteer some of your time at a local nonprofit. Their budgets are tight, and they welcome all forms of help.
- Find ways to be needed or help others. A lot of us have relationships to mend with friends and family, so helping family members or others that we have harmed can keep us occupied while also fixing that relationship.
Make a list of different activities that you like and dislike. One of the first things that is said when searching for a new hobby is “I don’t know what to do.” There’s an easy solution for that. Making a list of likes and dislikes will help identify your passions. Having a visual list is extremely helpful, especially if it’s difficult to identify idea’s off the top of your head.
Once you’ve completed your list, find the one that you’re most passionate about. The one that makes you light up with excitement. This should show you a general area to pursue. Next, find a hobby that fits the interest’s that you’ve chosen.
Create a 30-day plan, and change it when needed. Once we’ve decided the hobby that we want to pursue, our next step is to lay out a course of action. Give yourself enough time to experience you choice, and don’t make a spur-of-the-moment decision to quit and try another option. Commit to learning and experiencing your hobby of choice wholeheartedly. After a month, you’ll know whether your chosen hobby meets your needs and personality. If you find that it’s not for you, then review your list and consider other alternatives.