Anxiety and depression are the bad buddies of addiction. In recovery, we look for healthy ways to reduce anxiety and build resilience, without turning to false solutions like alcohol and drugs. Getting sober and living well in recovery means finding true solutions and making good choices every day.
Take it from the Experts
We recently came across a little TedTalk gem by Jolene Park. She observes how people drink to relax, or
to have fun when with others, or when depressed. People in recovery know this all too well. Drinking or
using is a harmful and false solution. In recovery, we make different choices that build health and
Park encourages us to “nourish our nervous system” to build our resiliency against anxiety, depression,
and the urge to drink or use again. The goal is to boost three critical neurotransmitters. The first is the
“anti-anxiety neurotransmitter,” Gaba. The second is the “anti-depressant neurotransmitter,” serotonin.
The third is the “focus and motivation neurotransmitter,” dopamine.
Amazingly, we can actually boost these positive neurotransmitters simply by what we do, where we go,
and what we eat.
Park offers a handy acronym to remember these choices we can make: NOURISH.
N – Notice nature. Research shows that even just 20 minutes in nature boosts levels of Gaba, serotonin,
and dopamine. Have you ever felt your shoulders relax as you watch and hear the waves pounding on
the beach? The effect is quite real. Find the beach, the mountains, a meadow, a lake, a stream, a stand
of trees, a patch of flowers, watch the clouds, visit a park, sit in the grass. For more information on this,
The Nature Fix by Florence Williams uncovers the science behind nature’s restorative impact on the
human brain. “Blue space” of water is considered to be particularly restorative according to wakeupyourmind.net.
O – Observe your breath. Deep, regulated breathing with more exhalation than inhalation reduces
anxiety and boosts all three neurotransmitters. A related article from Psychology Today suggest the 4/8
breathing pattern when faced with stress and provides more detail behind this phenomenon.
U – Unite with others. Social bonds and physical touch boost neurotransmitters. Hold hands, get or
give a massage, pet the dog and cat, have lunch with a friend, volunteer at an event – all these things
nourish your nervous system.
R – Replenish with good foods. Proteins create amino acids which boost neurotransmitters.
Carbohydrates such as those found in vegetables, especially leafy green ones, produce B vitamins, which
are precursors to serotonin. Nutrient rich foods – think colourful, whole foods (not processed) – will
boost your neurotransmitters.
I – Initiate movement. A Boston University study showed that participants who did yoga for 60 minutes
experienced a Gaba increase of 27% to 80% while participants in a control group who read a book for 60
minutes had no increase of Gaba levels. So, move! Walk, run, bike, canoe, ski, dance, skate, play a
sport, or practice yoga. Some activities, like yoga, incorporate several of these choices (e.g. movement,
regulated breathing, stillness/meditation) – a multi dose of neurotransmitter boosting elements.
S – Sit in stillness. Especially following movement, enjoy the silence, meditate, invoke a sacred prayer.
H – Harness your creativity. Getting your creative flow going increases dopamine levels. There are so
many ways to channel creativity. Find yours, whether it is writing, painting, fishing, gardening, or any
number of positive hobbies.
NOURISH: Notice nature, observe your breath, unite with others, replenish with good foods, initiate movement, sit in stillness, and harness your creativity. ~ Jolene Park
Holistic Programs at Top of The World
All of these are elements of residential addiction treatment programming at Top of the World Ranch.
Our 600 acres of forests, mountains, and lakes are a unique asset in treatment, and we take full
advantage while facilitating all of the aspects of NOURISH for clients here. These principles are also
fantastic better-life principles for everyone! Make it a goal to nourish yourself with each element every
By June Sobocinski
Top of the World Ranch Treatment Centre