5 Brain Benefits Of Exercise

There are many amazing benefits to regular exercise.  Weight loss, cardiovascular health, a reduction in the risk of developing diabetes to name but a few.  Recent research indicates that perhaps the greatest health benefits of exercise may actually take place inside our minds.  Regardless of age or fitness level the impact of exercise on the brain can be profound. Raising one’s heart rate for as little as twenty minutes three times a week can produce amazing results.  Keep reading to discover five immediate and profound cognitive rewards of regular exercise.

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  1. Get Rid of Stress and Anxiety:
    In the modern connected world where we are bombarded by 24 hour news, constant alerts from our mobile leashes (ahem…phones), and the rigors of career and family it is easy to feel overwhelmed, overworked, and overloaded.  Exercise has been shown to have immediate effects in reducing the phenomenal experience of mental and physical stress and anxiety. It does this through several mechanisms. One of the primary ways it does so is by regulating our body’s stress hormones such as adrenaline.  
  2. Sleep Better:
    Studies have shown that up to 40% of the US adult population reports problems falling asleep.  Lack of sleep impacts our ability to process and retain information, affects mood, and diminishes one’s quality of life.  If you’ve ever been staring at your alarm clock at 2:30 in the morning knowing you have to be up early for a important meeting or other responsibility, I don’t need to tell you.  In a recent national study of sleep patterns researchers found that as little as 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week enabled participants to fall asleep faster and sleep better throughout the night.  
  3. Improve Cognition and Memory:  
    Regular exercise over a period as short as six months has been shown to increase the volume of both the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex.  Other research has indicated that regular exercise increases the production of cells in the hippocampus (a process called neurogenesis). These are all areas of the brain associated with memory and cognition.  When we exercise we actually make our brains bigger!
  4. Prevent Cognitive Decline:
    Perhaps the most exciting new research emerging concerning exercise and the brain is centered on exercise’s ability to reduce the harm associated with Alzheimer’s, dementia,  and other degenerative disorders of the brain. This is a truly amazing finding. These degenerative cognitive disorders are terrible to live with and anything that can help in our fight against them is welcomed.  Research indicates that regular exercise, can have a pronounced effect long term by increasing the chemicals in the brain that ward of degeneration of brain tissue.
  5. Be More Social:
    Many forms of exercise are social in nature.  Whether its a pick up basketball game, aerobics class, or working out in a Crossfit box, you’ll be getting a sweat in with many other people.  Connection and community are two very powerful contributors to a healthy mind and a fulfilling life. We are after all merely highly evolved pack animals.  We have been designed through evolution to create connection and exercise can be a great way to create connection with others in a safe healthy environment.
  6. Help Heal From The Effects of Addiction: (BONUS BENEFIT!)
    As this is a blog for a substance use and gambling treatment facility I would be remiss if I didn’t spend a bit of time talking about how exercise can impact addiction and the treatment of addiction.  As I have written elsewhere on this blog, addiction is a brain disease. One of the ways this can be quantified is by observing the fact that addiction like other brain diseases has predictable empirically verifiable patterns of brain damage associated with it.  In the case of addiction, over the long term, much of this damage occurs within the stress and avoidance centers of the brain. This causes a phenomenal experience for an addict of feeling stress, emotional and psychic pain more acutely than the average person. Exercise works both through direct and indirect mechanisms to offset and ultimately heal this damage.   Regular exercise produces, in the brain, both neuroregeneration and neurogenesis. Additionally, as touched on above exercise causes a flood of hormones to be released into the brain. These hormones are responsible for tissue growth (growth factors IGF1 and IGF2), regulating mood (dopamine, oxytocin, norepinephrine, and others). This release of hormones can reduce the experience of cravings and help to regulate the uptake and production of hormones within the body.  These are just two of the many effects that exercise has that lend themselves to the treatment of addiction. There are many others, I have discussed many aspects of this in other blog posts.

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Our research and the research of others show that as little as 150 minutes per week can have a dramatic impact on the brain and its functioning.  Further, we have determined that in order to generate all of the profound impacts of exercise one should aim to get their heart rate in the range of 75%-85% of max heart rate.  Experientially you want to be breathing heavy but not be winded. For a period of 30-45 minutes. When one hits these two markers not only do they enjoy the benefits listed above but the individual’s brain will actually be functioning at a higher frequency (as measured by Electroencephalogram).  Your brain will be operating at a higher wavelength, literally!  

Exercise has many physical, emotional, and mental benefits.  It really doesn’t take much effort to begin to enjoy them. In conclusion, as Nike has been telling us for years
“Just do it”.

Until next time
Your friend in service,

Rob Campbell  


Source: Loprinzi and Cardinal, “Association between objectively-measured physical activity and sleep.”  Mental Health and Physical Activity. 2011 Vol.4 Issue 2, pg. 65-69.


Please reach out out to us to get help with substance use disorder. Call today at 1-844-878-3221

   

Transforming Your Life With Exercise

In as little as three to four thirty minute sessions of aerobic exercise per week Dr. Suzuki’s research indicates that an individual can significantly alter their brain at three levels. 

1. Exercise Increases Your Mood

“Exercise is the most transformative thing you can do for your brain today.”

This is how Dr. Wendy Suzuki begins her talk on the power of exercise as a prophylactic to all manner of brain disease and disorder. Dr. Suzuki, who had been a neuroscientist focused on memory changed the entire course of her research when she inadvertently began doing exercise research on herself. She is now a foremost expert on the transformative impact on the brain of exercise.

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In as little as three to four thirty minute sessions of aerobic exercise per week Dr. Suzuki’s research indicates that an individual can significantly alter their brain at three levels. First, there are the immediate impacts on mood. A single workout will signal the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin which not only boosts an individual’s mood but will also increase their ability to shift and focus their attention. These immediate impacts will last for at least two hours. Secondly, if an individual makes fitness a part of their daily life this decision will actually alter the anatomy of their brain and the way that it functions on a long term basis. That is to say that, regular exercise creates neuroregeneration in measurable amounts. Third, regular exercise has been shown to have protective effects on the brain. Exercise protects an individual’s brain from the impact of neurodegeneration and the effects of aging.

2. Exercise Can Help Make Changes In Your Brain

At Granite Mountain BHC we employ our Recover Strong therapeutic model in an effort to take advantage of these effects. Several times each week we begin our day in the gym. We exercise for forty-five to sixty minutes as a community. We move from this right into more traditional therapy. We do this to take advantage of the effects noted by Dr. Suzuki. When brain chemistry is at a peak in terms of being conducive to neuroregeneration and the processing of new information, we engage in therapy and learning. We do this day after day, in order that our clients may engage in a process of self discovery and heal their own brains. Substance use disorder is more than the chronic overuse of a mood altering chemical. At the very least what we can say about it is that it is a disorder of the brain. Traditional therapies, especially those that focus on the processing of emotional states are beneficial. Undertaking them within a framework that maximizes brain growth and repair from a biological level is what we have found to be most effective. At Granite Mountain we are always evolving. As our own research and the research of neuroscience continues to evolve our programing will evolve in lock step. Our purpose is to bring to bear the most recent revolutionary ideas in the treatment of substance use disorder and other behavioral health concerns.

I hope that the reader will find the above linked video as inspiring as I have. For all of us the beneficial effects of exercise are too numerous and too profound to ignore. Once again, in the words of Dr. Suzuki, “exercise is the most transformative thing you can do for your brain today.”

 

Until next time
Your friend in service,
Rob Campbell
VP of Communications & Market Development


If you or somebody you love is in need of help for substance use disorder, give us a call today at 1.844.878.3221

Changing the Stigma of Addiction

In the above video clip Michael Botticelli makes a compelling argument for the necessity of changing the stigma attached to addiction. In it He makes an impassioned plea from personal experience. At one point in the clip he makes the statement that he feels more comfortable coming out as a gay man than being transparent about his history of addiction. This he feels after more than twenty years in recovery. Those of us who have addiction in our lives either actively or in our past don’t need to be told this. We know first hand about the stigma of addiction.

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I have not had a drop of alcohol in my body for more than nineteen years and still find myself hesitant to disclose my recovery to people outside the recovery community. I want to be clear, I am in no way ashamed of my past. Perhaps it sounds paradoxical but, the single greatest thing to ever happen to me is that I became an alcoholic. How many people move through their lives feeling not quite right, being sad, isolated, or alone but don’t know why? I felt all these things and more. When alcoholism finally brought me to my knees, and I had nowhere to turn I found my answer. Through treatment and membership in a 12 step fellowship I was able to understand why I felt the way I did. I was also offered a solution. I have accepted that solution and have since been able to enjoy a life beyond my wildest dreams. A life of purpose, meaning, and connection.

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I do not bring this up to be self congratulatory. On the contrary I want to illustrate what is possible for every single person suffering from a substance use disorder if they are able to access treatment and recovery. In his talk Mr. Botticelli makes the point that the stigma attached to addiction is the single greatest hindrance to people who need help getting it. As a community we need to begin to recognize addiction for what it is. A brain disease, a medical condition. If we are to come to grips with our current opioid epidemic we need to begin to treat those afflicted as what they truly are, sick people who need help. There is no doubt this can be hard to do, but it is necessary.

I agree with Mr Botticelli that in order for this to happen those of us who have overcome this disease need to be open about that fact. This may enable those around us to begin to form a different viewpoint about addiction. They may be able to see that as Mr. Botticelli states, “people are more than their disease.” Moving forward I am committed to being open and candid about my own recovery with anyone who asks. I will weather the inevitable questions, the confusions, the awkward attempts at “protecting” me. I will do this not for myself, but as an example that addiction does not define a person, that as with most other diseases we can and do recover.

 

Until next time
Your friend in service,
Rob Campbell
VP of Communications & Market Development


If you or someone you love is in need of help for substance use disorder please give us a call today. We understand and we are here to help.


 

https://www.ted.com/talks/michael_botticelli_addiction_is_a_disease_we_should_treat_it_like_one#t-570345

 

Transitioning Into Recovery, A Family Perspective: Part III

In the first two parts of this series we have examined how to approach the subject of treatment with a loved one suffering from drug or alcohol addiction. Further we looked at how to help that individual make the transition into treatment. In the previous two pieces (which you can find here and here) I tried to make many helpful suggestions and to provide some insight into the potential pitfalls. In this article I would like to make some good general suggestions on how to help a loved one transition back into home life and their native community upon completing a treatment program. Getting sober is one thing, but of course the real goal is having someone stay sober. While we can’t do it for them, as the family of an addict we have a role to play in helping them stay sober. This article should is in no way meant to replace working with a professional. Every individual situation is unique and no one article could possible address every unique iteration of sobriety or family dynamics.

Returning To Your Home Environment

For many addicts returning home from treatment can be a shock to the system. For the past several months they have been sequestered in a supportive community with both staff and peers committed to their recovery. The individual has been receiving as much as six hours of daily therapy, in addition to their engagement in a 12 step fellowship. Upon graduation they return home and without a proper after care program in place can begin to experience a significant degree of loss. This experience of loss can be a major hurdle for one who is newly sober. For this reason it is often recommended to have the individual enter an aftercare program upon graduation from long term treatment. Aftercare programs take many forms. It can be as simple as seeing a therapist or other professional clinician once a week. On the other extreme it could be a five day a week four hour a day outpatient program. Each individual’s therapeutic need will be there own and any meaningful long term program will make aftercare recommendations to the patient and his or her family. In most cases the facility can and will help coordinate with local service providers on behalf of the patient. The important thing is that whatever the specific plan turns out to be the addict feels therapeutically supported and a part of a larger community of recovery.

Having an After Care Plan…. And Following Through With It

This thought brings us to our next point which is the importance for the addict of engaging in a 12 step fellowship and the recovery community upon arriving home. The old suggestion of a 90 in 90 (attending 90 12 step meetings in 90 days) is advisable but not mandatory. Almost everywhere in this country these days has a wealth of 12 step meetings on a weekly basis. One can find a meeting directory most often by Googling the name of the 12 step fellowship (i.e. AA, CA, GA, HA, NA, etc) and the name of your town. 12 step fellowships are still the largest support network for alcoholics and addicts available. To this day they are also the most effective. The important aspects are to attend often enough to first create the habit of attending. Secondly, attend regularly enough to become a part of the community of support. There are certain aspects of an addicts life that only other addicts will be able to understand. Membership in a 12 step fellowship not only provides a foundation for recovery, but also friendships, fellowship, purpose, and meaning. It is possible to stay sober without membership in a 12 step fellowship. However what is vital to recovery is community, fellowship, purpose and meaning.

granite mountain behavioral healthcare

One of the most important aspects and perhaps the one addicts are least equipped to address is the necessity of creating a life of meaning and connection. How to do this is a difficult question to answer and in much detail lies outside the scope of this article. That being said, I think, I can provide some helpful suggestions. Engaging with family is a very important part of recovery. Include the addict in family life and events as much as is possible. The greater the connection becomes between the addict their family and community the harder it becomes to go back to the old way of living. Substance use takes away many of the things that once made life meaningful. In order to help your loved one think back to a time before their addiction really took hold. What were their interests and hobbies? What did they like to do with their free time? Encourage your loved one to return to these interests, especially those that were community based activities.

Finding Meaning and Remaining Accountable

One of the biggest helps you can provide to the addict is to help them feel fully responsible for their life and recovery. Try not to allow the addict to impose on you for money, or other material support. Encourage them instead to be self supporting as much as possible. Support them mentally and emotionally instead of financially and materially. For recovery to be long term the addict must take the lead and be fully responsible for their own lives. As loved ones we can be supportive and compassionate but must be careful not to assume the responsibility for them. If we allow this we may be hindering their growth.

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Our last point is to make sure, as much as possible, that the addict is able to have fun. Life is meant to be enjoyed. If our new life is a happy one it will be harder to return to our old way of living. There is no easily definable recipe for fun. However, if you and your loved one work to accomplish the above points and take some time just to enjoy each other and the new life he or she has been given, this should put you on the right track toward a happy, fun, fulfilling life.

Once again this article is not meant to replace working with a professional. Nor is it within the scope to address each individual situation. Rather it is my hope that it has answered some questions, while maybe posing others, and that it has been able to give some comfort to those who are bound to one suffering from substance use disorder by ties of affection.

 

Until next time
Your friend in service,
Rob Campbell
VP of Communications & Market Development


If you or someone you care about is struggling with substance use disorder, give us a call today. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about our program.

“The Opposite of Addiction is Connection”

An Inability To Connect

In his Ted Talk from TEDGlobal London, Johann Hari makes the statement that, “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection.” This powerful statement is at once a message of hope to those suffering from addiction and an indictment of the way our culture has treated addicts for the last 100 years. Mr. Hari spent three years studying addiction by traveling the world speaking to individuals on all sides of the issues. What he was left with was an understanding that behind and underneath addiction of all sorts is an inability to connect, to engage in a life of purpose. While I do not agree with everything Mr Hari says during his talk, I am passionate about this idea of connection. The most common experience for any addict is a feeling of isolation and inability to connect in a meaningful way with others and the world around them.

Overcoming The Mental Challenges

In order to overcome addiction and transform our lives we need to do many things. First we need to be in a community that encourages connection and commitment. Many addicts find this community in treatment. In this safe community we can take the next step which is to address the root causes of the lack of connection. For many this will be some form of trauma they have suffered which causes their lack of connection. For others it is underlying behavioral or mental health disorders. Therapeutic measures can be utilized to great effect in both sets of circumstances. Once an individual has begun this work the next step is to find a life of purpose that they can show up for. There are as many ways to find a life of purpose as their are individuals. The challenge for many who suffer from addiction is they don’t know how to go about it.

Constantly Seek Purpose

At Granite Mountain BHC we first find purpose in the gym, and in the commitment to our peers not to quit. We build from this initial purpose by drawing parallels from our experience in the gym to the rest of our lives, and by creating meaningful connections within our Granite Mountain community. If I can meet and overcome challenges during the Recover Strong group, maybe I can push through when I’m having a bad day at work, or my relationships are difficult. Our clients are able to transform their lives through the three pillars of commitment, connection and community. At Granite Mountain they are able to experience connection with their peers, staff, and themselves. This connection is at the heart of their purpose as they strive to better themselves and the community they are a part of. After their time with us they are then able to take these three pillars back to their community of origin and continue building upon this foundation, a life of meaning and purpose.

Please take a moment to view this inspiring video, and perhaps re-conceive what you think you know about addiction.

 

Until next time,

Your friend in service,
Rob Campbell

VP of Communications and Market Development


If you or someone you love is in need of help for substance use disorder please give us a call today. We understand and we are here to help.

How to Identify Opioid Abuse and Addiction in Your Household

Identifying The Issue

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One of the most difficult aspects of dealing with any addiction is admitting or identifying when the addictive cycle has gotten a hold of an individual.  This is especially true when the individual is a loved one.  We all want the best for our loved ones, and hate to think of them as having a personal problem especially one they may not be able to solve on their own.  This tendency to want to see the best in those we love is a very natural tendency.  However when dealing with addiction it makes the identification of a potential or actual addiction issue even harder for one to spot. Simply said, we do not want to see what our senses are showing us. At extremes this can become denial of the reality in front of us. This is harmful to ourselves, our ability to function as well as not being helpful for the addict.

Breaking The Stigma Of Addiction

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Added to this is the persistent nature of the cultural stigma associated with addiction. Even today some in our community view addiction as a moral failing on the part of the addict. This is an outmoded view of substance use disorder and has no clinical or medical support. If however we were taught this view of addiction it can be easy to view our loved ones as failing in some respect or as having a moral or constitutional shortcoming.  If you gain no other insight from this article please believe these words, addiction is not a shortcoming it is a disease. Your loved one is suffering. If a loved one had cancer that was ravaging their body we would not look down on them as lacking the moral fiber to overcome the cancer. Rather, we would look upon them with empathy and compassion. While at the same time firmly insisting that they seek every known medical remedy for their disease. I urge every reader who has a loved one suffering from addiction to take this same point of view.  

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Spotting The Signs Of Opioid Addiction

As with cancer, the sooner we can identify a potential substance use disorder as it develops the easier it will be to solve the problem and help the individual to a full and speedy recovery. Unlike with cancer and other bodily diseases wherein the sufferer once diagnosed freely admits they have a problem. Substance use disorder is characterized by the seeming inability of the suffer to admit they have a problem. Due to this challenge I have undertaken in this article to list several early signs of an additive cycle. Please find below a descriptions of many of the early signs and symptoms of addiction. These should prove useful for the loved ones of anyone currently using opioids and other addictive substances.

  1. Unexplained or excessive absences from work or school

  2. Negative consequences at work or school

  3. Hyper emotional behavior

  4. Loss of interest in hobbies, activities that used to be important to the individual

  5. Withdrawal from friend and family relationships

  6. Important engagements are not attended

  7. Important commitments are not fulfilled

  8. The individual continues to use in the face of consequences

  9. Drugs , alcohol, and using behavior is a consistent topic of conversation

  10. Disrupted sleep patterns (Sleeps far more or far less than usual)

  11. Persistent financial problems (never enough money)

  12. Increased levels of secrecy about activities and lifestyle

  13. Minimization of responsibility when questioned about life circumstances

  14. Excessive itchiness of skin

  15. Persistent sniffles or runny nose

  16. Rapid weight loss

  17. Consistent defensiveness

  18. Inability to deal with normal levels of stress

  19. The individual looks paler than usual

  20. Loss of control over the amount of a substance (including alcohol) consumed

The above list is not meant to be inclusive of every possible scenario. It would be impossible to create such a list as the behavior patterns of people vary. Instead it is meant to give a rough picture of the emotional, mental, and behavioral changes that can be an early sign of substance use disorder.  If you are concerned that a loved one may be suffering from addiction seek a consultation with a qualified professional immediately.  The old saying of, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is never more appropriate than when dealing with addiction.  If in reading this article you find yourself wondering if you or someone you love has a problem please reach out to us right away.  We can provide a no obligation no cost substance use disorder evaluation that may save years of heartache for your loved one and your family, and in many cases may save his or her life.  We are here to help.


Your friend in service,
Rob Campbell
VP of Communications & Market Development