An enormous body of research shows that poor mental health is a major trigger for addiction relapse, and engaging in activities to improve mental health in recovery is crucial for long-term success. Mental illness and drug abuse statistics show that around a third of people with any type of mental illness and around half of those with a serious mental illness also have a substance use disorder. Additionally, around a third of people who abuse alcohol and half of those who abuse drugs also have a mental illness. 

Co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse require dual diagnosis treatment for the best possible outcome. That’s because just treating an addiction but not a mental illness, or vice versa, is largely ineffective for ending an addiction. Both disorders–the addiction and the mental illness–need to be treated at the same time, each in the context of the other.

Once you’re in recovery, taking care of your mental health is one of the most important things you can do. Here, then, are four surefire activities to improve mental health in recovery.

1. Reduce your stress.

Stress is a major relapse trigger, and it compromises your mental health. Stress can lead to depression, irritability, and feelings of anger, and these can further increase your risk of relapse as well as reduce your overall health and immunity. Reducing the stressors in your life is important in recovery.

Identify the stressors in your life, such as financial stress, relationship stress, and job-related stress. Do what you can to reduce these stressors, such as create a budget, engage in family therapy, and streamline your processes at work.

2. Breathe.

Although reducing your stressors can go a long way toward improving your mental health, there will always be stress, whether it’s related to running late or simply having a busy schedule. Coping with stress that you can’t control is essential for successful recovery.

Deep breathing exercises reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your blood, and they send more oxygen to your brain for greater clarity and calmness. When you feel particularly stressed, try this 4-7-8 breathing exercise:

Exhale through your mouth with a whoosing sound. Close your mouth, and breathe in through your nose as you count to four. Hold the breath for a count of seven. Exhale through your mouth slowly, for a count of eight, making the whooshing sound again. Repeat several times.

3. Exercise.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America stresses that exercise has numerous benefits for your mental health. Daily exercise is one of the most effective activities to improve mental health. It reduces stress hormone levels and increases the production of the brain’s feel-good chemicals. It helps reduce insomnia and improves the quality of your sleep. Regular exercise, according to Harvard Medical School, has been shown through research to be as effective as antidepressants for reducing depression, and it can help prevent depression from recurring.

4. Meditate.

For those with a co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse disorder, meditation can go a long way toward better mental health and relapse prevention. Meditation effectively reduces stress for the long-term and even changes the way your brain and body respond to stress in the future. Meditation also improves your self-awareness, which can help you better evaluate your moods, thoughts, and attitudes and recognize early signs of relapse.

Treatment Can Help

An important focus in treatment is on helping you reduce stress and improve your mental health. Mental illness and drug abuse statistics show that treatment works for most people who engage with it, and the skills and strategies learned in treatment go a long way toward improving your mental health. White Sands Treatment can help you develop a toolkit of skills and activities to improve mental health that will serve you well in recovery and beyond.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.