Treating Body, Mind, and Spirit in Recovery
The Importance of Connection between the Body, Mind, and Spirit
Every living thing is the sum of the mind, body, and spirit; three systems working in tandem to improve and maintain health, mood, and quality of life. The medical focus must be given to each of these systems, their interactions, and their health. The mind, body, and spirit affect a client’s overall well-being and receptiveness to treatment. For example, the mental illness of depression can lead to liver disease, a physical ailment, which in turn reduces the quality of life and results in hopelessness, a spiritual issue.1
A failure among medical professionals of past generations is treating the symptom and not the cause. The renewed interest and increasingly mainstream applications of holistic healing for the mind, body, and spirit bode well for future medicine.
What Defines Each Component?
- Body: The body is defined by internal and external organs like the kidney or skin. Bodily failures result in physical pain, reduced mobility, and in some cases, deformity. Treatments designed to primarily help the body include physical therapy, massage, and exercise.
- Mind: The mind controls thought, mood, intelligence, and memory. Mental dysfunction results in mental illnesses, decreased learning ability, poor memory, and sleep problems.
- Spirit: The spirit is characterized by skills of introspection, attitude, creativity, and fortitude. Spiritual issues can cause the feeling of being lost, without purpose or meaning. Spiritual failures can result in an existential depression or anxiety not readily treated by pharmaceuticals. Treatments for spiritual issues can include talk therapy, behavioral therapy, and exercise.
The mind, body, and spirit are, by nature, incredibly complex. As such, the definitions above serve as an overview as opposed to complex analysis.
How Addiction Harms the Body, Mind, and Spirit
Addiction impacts all aspects of the mind and in multiple, increasingly severe ways. Here’s how addiction can impact the body, mind, and spirit.
Addiction and the Body
Addiction can wreak havoc on the body through ways such as:
- Poor Exercise Habits: Addiction significantly reduces motivation not related to substance and alcohol abuse. This habit can result in a lack of an established exercise routine and less likelihood of committing to regular exercise.
- Lack of Nutrition: Typically, clients with alcohol and substance use issues have poor diets. They often lack essential amino acids, healthy vitamin intake, and overall eat food with low nutritional value. Invariably, poor nutrition leads to low energy levels, aggravates mental health, and leads to bone and muscle health issues.
- Lack of Hydration: Dehydration is a common side effect of alcohol and substance use. The value of hydration as it applies to bodily functions cannot be understated. Brain plasticity, organ function, and energy levels are tied to hydration.
Addiction and the Mind
Addiction disrupts several brain functions as well, such as causing:
- Low Self-Esteem: Low self-esteem increases the likelihood of substance use, thereby creating a roundabout pattern as substance use also lowers self-esteem and self-image.
- Guilt and Shame: Guilt and shame can play major roles in addiction, such as the guilt of missing family and work responsibilities, the shame of substance use, etc. All of these feelings can lead to continued drug use.
- Depression and Anxiety: Substance use leads to increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, burning out the brain’s supply of happy chemicals. Additionally, substance use can intensify symptoms of underlying mental illness. Like guilt and low self-esteem, depression and anxiety can lead to further substance abuse.
Addiction and the Spirit
- Lack of Care for Self-Development: For clients in advanced stages of addiction, any task not related to substance use has little value. Self-development quickly falls to the wayside, including work promotions, relations, physical fitness, and general ambitions.
- Lack of Care for Personal Well-Being: Within any living organism is the will to live and enjoy life. Self-care allows a client time to nurture their body, mind, and soul. However, drug use erodes logic, rewires the reward center, and causes a high prioritization of drugs. The result is less concern for general well-being.
Do You Need Spirituality to Heal?
Spirituality is an important factor in healing. Spirituality does not always infer religion but rather a willing introspection of self and personal shortcomings, wants, and events. Spirituality allows a person to understand not only who they are but what they need to be happy. In terms of recovery, spirituality assists in hopefulness, life outlook, and to some degree, a lower emphasis on ego resulting in an understanding of how personal actions affect those around us.2
What is Holistic Healing
Holistic healing, a method of healing that views the client as one system, combines mind, body, and spirit to individualize treatment. Some individuals may need more spiritual help than mental or more physical than spiritual. Only by focusing on each faucet of individual recovery can providers discover the most efficient treatment for their clients. 3
Holistic Healing Techniques
- Yoga: Yoga increases blood flow, helps a client become in tune with their body, and allows room for endurance and strength training. Not only can yoga improve self-esteem and body image, but it can assist in the practices of meditation and mindfulness.
- Meditation: Meditation calms the mind, body, and spirit while also giving the client a productive hobby. Meditation, much like many forms of exercise, encourages introspection and can assist a person dealing with mental illnesses.
- Mindfulness: Mindfulness, the practice of being actively aware of emotions and thought, can serve as a coping mechanism and introspective thought.
- Positive Thinking Techniques: Addiction leads to negative ideation which positive thinking hopes to correct. Positive thinking includes being actively aware of negative thoughts and attempting to redirect them or understanding their source.
- Massage Therapy: Massage therapy can soothe aching joints, sore muscle tissue, and assist in blood flow and relieving physical pain. In a recovery space, massages aid in releasing endorphins and reversing some of the physical side effects of substance use.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture, much like massage therapy, can help ease physical ailments and release positive neurochemicals.
- Nutritional Therapy: Nutritional therapy replenishes the essential amino acids and vitamins needed for healthy bone and muscle growth.
- Spirituality: Spirituality can boost life outlook and increase commitment to a treatment program. In addition, it can strengthen coping mechanisms and lower the chance of relapse.
Combining Holistic Medicine with Traditional Medicine
Holistic therapy and traditional medicine serve as two sides of the same coin. Where one has shortcomings, the other has benefits. For example, holistic medicine excels in uncovering the root cause of addiction but does little to help with the harsher symptoms of drug use, such as withdrawal or advanced symptoms.
In comparison, traditional methods can soothe side effects, increase healing rate, and some cases, nullify mild symptoms. However, traditional medicine has less of a focus on the disease or illness as a whole and instead centers around treating symptoms, not the causes of addiction. Proper treatment will often be a combination of the two. 4