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The thought of a life of sobriety may fill you with horror. If you use substances regularly, you may also believe that life without them may be boring, leaving you lacking contentment and joy.

Running from October 23rd to the 31st, Red Ribbon Week is a week dedicated to raising awareness about drugs in the U.S. With this in mind, now is a great time to begin your journey towards a happy, sober life.[1]

How Substances Affect Your Mood

It is no surprise that drugs and alcohol affect our mood. You may feel confident, happy, or euphoric in the short term and immediately after using substances. You may also feel a decreased sense of stress and anxiety. Combined, these short-term effects make consuming substances so addictive.

However, there is a strong link between substance abuse and mental health issues. As they interfere with the brain’s neurotransmitters and harm the nervous system, abusing drugs and alcohol causes immense damage to our mental health and destabilizes our mood in the long run.

For example, substances such as serotonin and dopamine affect the hormones that make us feel good. When we lack these hormones, we are often left feeling unhappy, depressed, and even suicidal.

What Are the Benefits of Giving Up Using Drugs and alcohol?

The benefits of giving up using drugs and alcohol manifest physically and psychologically. However, many of the positive side effects take a great deal of time to come to light. Though this can be disheartening, the benefits will be worth the effort.

Physical improvements of giving up drugs and alcohol include:

  • Greater general health
  • Improved sleep
  • Healthier skin
  • Reduced risk of long-term health issues such as cancer, liver disease, and stroke
  • Better eating habits
  • Increased energy

Psychological improvements include:

  • Enhanced cognitive function
  • Improved mental health
  • Relief from depression and anxiety
  • Increased confidence
  • Better quality of relationships
  • Improved motivation

Alongside these benefits, sobriety can also help you rediscover the passions you once enjoyed. This is because you will have more time and money to spend on things you enjoy. You’ll also have more time to spend with those important to you, offering you the opportunity to mend relationships hindered by substances.

What Are Some of the Ways To Find Happiness Without the Use of Substances?

Although the pursuit of natural highs may sound cheesy, they are incredibly effective in making you feel good without damaging your health.

A natural high is a feeling of happiness, or a ‘rush’, experienced without drugs or alcohol. These natural highs are often encountered when endorphins, sometimes called ‘feel-good hormones’, are produced upon participating in certain activities, such as physical exercise.

Below we have shared how to find happiness without substances.

Connection

Feeling a sense of connection, whether through becoming part of a sober community, improving relationships with family and friends, or having meaningful conversations, helps foster a sense of belonging. Humans are social creatures; feeling isolated and lonely is incredibly damaging to our sense of well-being.

Creating meaningful bonds with people who support your sobriety will help you feel happy and comfortable while sober.

Physical Exercise

As exercising releases a rush of endorphins, engaging in physical activity is one of the best ways to simultaneously improve physical and mental health. Whether you take up running, weightlifting, or yoga, exercise will enhance your mood, leaving you experiencing a sense of achievement and greater control over your health.

Meditation

Although it may take some practice to reap the rewards that meditation offers, meditation is proven to help many people feel calm, balanced, and in control. Download a meditation app for some free guides, join a class, or simply sit and focus on your breathing for a few minutes.

Helping Others

Volunteering in the community or helping others on their path to sobriety may not have crossed your mind. However, doing so will help you feel a sense of satisfaction and confidence in your recovery journey. Look into volunteering opportunities near you to find charities and organizations that need extra help.

Music and Dance

Music and dance have been an integral part of all cultures throughout history, and for a good reason. Dancing is a creative exercise that helps us relax, have fun, and take advantage of the euphoric sensations that endorphins provide.

Similarly, listening to music reduces levels of stress. In turn, our quality of sleep improves, mental health enhances, and our relationships with others strengthen.

A life without alcohol or drugs may seem scary and unappealing, but the highs you can reach without substances are powerful and exciting. Living a sober life might be hard at first, but it will ultimately help you feel more stable, in control, and optimistic about the future.

[1] Red Ribbon Campaign | Largest drug-use prevention campaign in the U.S.

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