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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Using the Teachings of Buddhism in Addiction Recovery

Many people who come to addiction recovery from secular backgrounds may struggle with the traditional 12-step philosophy. Even though the 12-step program welcomes anyone who would like to participate, regardless of beliefs, several of the steps explicitly mention accepting the existence of a higher power.

A faith-based program or one that has religious overtones might not speak to you if you are among the rising number of Americans with no religious affiliation. Fortunately, there are many alternative options to pursue lifelong sobriety, and one of those is to incorporate the teachings of Buddhism.

What Is Buddhism?

Buddhism is more of a philosophy or way of life than it is a religion – at least, in the traditional Western sense of the word. The practice of Buddhism does not involve praying to any gods or acknowledging the presence of a higher power in your life. Because of the nature of Buddhism, you can be a Christian, an atheist or anything in between and still benefit from the teachings of this ancient practice.

The Buddha taught his followers how to achieve enlightenment by liberating themselves from suffering, and that is the goal people still aim for today. The core of Buddhism, also called the Three Universal Truths, means accepting the following.

  1. Everything changes; nothing in this world is permanent.
  2. Desire causes suffering.
  3. We should be selfless. People shouldn’t try to own things or envy what they haven’t got.

Applying Buddhist Ideas to Your Recovery

Buddhism teaches us that we suffer when we don’t get what we want, which has parallels with the cycle of addiction. Addicted people crave their substances of use when they try to stop using them, which causes them to return to their unhealthy behaviors time and again.

Meditation, which is part of the foundation of practicing Buddhism, teaches practitioners to recognize, accept and let go of their difficult thoughts and feelings. When you establish a regular practice, meditation can help release the attachment you feel towards substances or behaviors, and can ease feelings of stress and anxiety about no longer using.

As many recovering addicts can attest, shame only intensifies the addictive behavior. In a form of meditation called loving-kindness meditation, you focus your attention on someone who loves you and allow those feelings of love to permeate your heart. You can bring your breath into this by inhaling love and exhaling guilt. This type of meditation can help you become more enlightened by learning to forgive yourself.

Find Your Healing Pathway Here

While many people have found the healing they needed through 12-step treatment, it isn’t the right fit for everyone. At Complete Harmony, we offer non-12-step, holistic addiction recovery for adults who are seeking an alternative to the faith-based approach. If you prefer to pursue a more natural, balanced approach to regaining your mental and physical well-being, reach out to us today to speak to one of our recovery advisors about what we offer.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

New Strategies to Improve Your Mindfulness

If you made a New Year’s resolution to increase your awareness of the world around you through practices such as meditation, you might be wondering if there are any proven techniques available for doing so. Many of us go through our daily motions with a vague idea that we could improve our lives, but we don’t create strategies that outline the path for how we’ll get there. Instead of wandering aimlessly through life, set your intentions and become more mindful of how you spend your time each day in 2020. Here’s how.

1. Try a Digital Detox

As helpful as technology like your phone and tablet might be, these devices likely represent a significant source of distraction in your life. Think about how you behave when you’re waiting somewhere like a doctor’s office or hair salon. Do you find it’s easy to sit quietly and take in your surroundings, or is your first instinct to take out your phone and start scrolling through social media? If you’re like most people, your phone is your go-to.

One recent study found the average American checks their phone an astounding 52 times per day. And while you may be using some of your screen time to do productive things such as responding to emails or making a to-do list, you might then “reward” yourself by playing games or looking at your favorite celebrities’ Instagram pages. The technology in your life is a barrier between you and your ability to behave mindfully. Try gradually tapering off your usage, or consider designating specific times of day where you refrain from using your devices.

2. Don’t Try to Multitask

Many people view busyness as a point of pride. They wear their ability to juggle projects simultaneously as a badge of honor. However, while you might think you are being more productive when you try to switch gears between one task and another, multiple studies have shown this mindset is a myth. Shifting attention between projects does not allow you time to fully focus on anything. If your goal is to be more mindful in this new year, promise yourself to work on one thing at a time, being present at each step of the way.

3. Spend More Time in Nature

The world outside our doors is full of beauty in every season. Exposure to nature can help lower your stress levels and blood pressure. Even looking at pictures of a flourishing forest, blooming flowers or a flowing waterfall can have beneficial effects. Next time you feel stressed or anxious, head to a nearby park or hiking trail and do a walking meditation. Your mood will improve almost immediately as you ground yourself in the sights and sounds of nature.

4. Get a Pet

Pets are excellent for your mindfulness because their natural attitude toward life is to live in the moment – the same goal you are trying to achieve with the strategies outlined here. Pets provide a source of unconditional love and acceptance, and they don’t ask for much in return.

The act of gently stroking a dog or cat’s soft fur can be a meditative practice in and of itself, and doing so also helps boost the natural serotonin levels in your brain. Engaging with your pets can help calm you and reduce stress, which is essential if you’re trying to become more mindful.

Start Your Recovery Today

Complete Harmony is a holistic recovery center in sunny Southern California that provides an alternative to the traditional 12-step approach. With a combination of evidence-based treatment methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy and healing methods that include massage, yoga, meditation and acupuncture, we can create a customized wellness plan that helps balance your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. To speak one-on-one with a recovery advisor, reach out today.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Strategies for Navigating Holiday Highs and Lows

For many people, the holiday season conjures mental images of warm family dinners, holiday parties, gift exchanges and crackling fires. However, for others, this time of year can bring sadness, loneliness, tense family dynamics, financial strain and a form of depression called seasonal affective disorder.

If you struggle with emotional ups and downs during the holidays, you are not alone. In one survey of 1,000 people, nearly half of them said they would prefer to skip Christmas altogether to avoid the finance-related stress the holiday creates. That eye-opening number shows how ill-prepared we often are to cope with the unique stressors of this time of year.

Stress is a significant relapse trigger for many people. However, your time in recovery has provided you with all the skills you need to protect your sobriety – you just need to know when and how to use them. Here are our top strategies for making it through this holiday season with your sobriety intact.

1. Remember You Aren’t Alone

Because addiction can have long-lasting effects, going through a recovery program does not “cure” you of your disease. Instead, it teaches you to manage the symptoms. However, learning how to balance your emotions and make good decisions is an ongoing process.

When you were in active addiction, you may have developed a habit of secrecy and isolation, but now that you’re working on your sobriety, you must learn how to come out of your shell and share your feelings with people you trust – especially when you’re feeling down. If you’re struggling, you don’t have to do so in silence. Others can offer valuable advice to help pull you out of a rut.

2. Don't Take Time off From Your Recovery Routine

Though holidays may be special occasions where you get to prepare your favorite foods, spend more time with loved ones and maybe enjoy a few days off work, you still need to engage in your recovery routine just like you would on any other day. Even though the holiday season can feel different, you can’t skip the things you consistently do to stay on track and maintain your emotional well-being, such as journaling, meditating, exercising, sleeping well and going to therapy.

3. Learn to Leave Your Past Behind

The holidays might bring back repressed memories of how you behaved when you were in the grip of your addiction. For example, maybe you drank too much at Christmas dinner one year and started an argument with your grandfather about your opposing political beliefs. Though you can use your past to reflect on the many good reasons you chose to pursue sobriety, it isn’t productive to dwell on embarrassing things you did or said.

Sobriety is an opportunity to make new memories and forge new traditions during the holidays. It’s also a time to recognize that you are working to be a better person, and that your past does not define you. Embrace the holiday season as a present you have given yourself.

The Greatest Gift Is Your Sobriety

This holiday, put yourself and your needs first. You decided to walk the path of sobriety, and while it is not always a smooth or straight one, there are countless rewards along the way. Don’t let stress get the better of you during this emotionally challenging time of year. You know what’s best for you, so now, all you need to do is act on it.

If you’re seeking a holistic route to recovery outside the traditional 12-step approach, Complete Harmony can help show you the way. To discover the benefits of our healing center, contact us today.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Take a Deep Breath: Breathing Exercises to Help You Stay Calm

Breathing is something you do thousands of times a day, usually completely unconsciously. Inhaling brings oxygen into your bloodstream, and you release the waste product of carbon dioxide on each exhale. If you’re like most people, you usually aren’t aware of how you’re breathing, but bringing your attention to your breath can make a world of difference – especially if you’re someone living with anxiety, panic attacks and other emotional disorders.

How Does Your Breath Contribute to Your Emotions?

Though you’re usually not conscious of your breathing patterns, you might be able to think back to times when your breath was rapid and shallow, as opposed to deep and relaxed. When people are experiencing periods of anxiety, they tend to take breaths from their chest, as opposed to their abdominal region.

If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you may recall that it seemed more difficult for you to draw full breaths during those times. Though you might not have been able to bring your full attention to this phenomenon in the moment, shortness of breath is one of the most common symptoms of panic attacks. It can make you feel like you’re suffocating or choking, which can lead to the near-death sensation that often accompanies panic attacks and panic disorder.

In contrast, deep, even breaths are a characteristic of the type of relaxed breathing that comes from your belly. If you’ve ever watched a family pet or a small child sleep, you are probably familiar with how this fully restful breathing pattern looks. It’s likely you do this yourself when you’re in your most restorative sleep stage.

Relaxing Breathing Exercises to Try

Next time you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, experiment with these ideas to help control your emotional levels naturally.

1. The 4-7-8 Technique

The 4-7-8 breathing technique involves breathing in for four seconds, holding it for seven seconds, then exhaling for eight seconds. The idea is that this method requires you to take full, deep breaths in and out.

To begin, sit in a comfortable position and place the tip of your tongue directly below the tissue above the back of your top teeth. Then, do the following steps:
  • Fully empty your lungs of air.
  • Breathe in through your nose for a count of four seconds.
  • Hold it for seven seconds.
  • Exhale forcefully through your mouth, making a huffing noise, for eight seconds.
  • Repeat, as necessary, up to four times per session to get maximum benefits.

2. Equal Breathing

If you need a quick solution to get control of your anxiety, give this method a try. Either in a sitting or lying position, breathe in through your nose for four seconds, then slowly exhale for four counts, also through your nose.

This approach derives from yoga breathing techniques, which require you to focus on your breath by adding the resistance of breathing slowly in and out through your nose. As you get better at this method, try adding a few seconds at a time to each breath – up to six to eight counts at a time.

3. Progressive Relaxation

For times when you need full-body relaxation – for example, if you are too anxious to fall asleep – close your eyes and focus on tensing and relaxing each muscle group for two to three seconds at a time. Start with your feet and toes, then move up to the rest of your body one part at a time – continually maintaining deep, slow breaths.

Discover a Place of Healing

If you’re interested in exploring holistic, non-12-step programming for effective recovery from addiction and related mental health disorders such as anxiety, connect with our advisors at Complete Harmony. We can help you retrain your mind to learn healthy coping skills and regain your overall sense of well-being.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

How to Practice Gratitude This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a holiday where you take stock of your life and be grateful for what you have, but many people lose sight of that purpose amid all the stress of planning, cooking, cleaning and hosting. Being grateful requires a mindful and intentional approach, which is why it can be such a beneficial practice for people in addiction recovery.

Why Can Thankfulness Help You?

Research suggests that developing a habit of gratitude not only makes you feel happier, but can also improve your health. However, many people overlook the need to be grateful every day. Instead, they focus on the negative things that have happened to them that day – the barista got their morning coffee order wrong, their meeting at work ran an hour longer than it was supposed to, their dental checkup revealed a new cavity.

Being aware of, and taking the time to appreciate, the small blessings that make up each new day is an integral part of minimizing stress and helping you build a solid foundation for success in addiction recovery. What are some easy things you can do to bring more gratitude into your daily life?

1. Don’t Try to Be Perfect

We’re all human, and part of being human means you will occasionally slip up. Perhaps, for example, you have a day where you decide to skip your regular recovery group meeting because you had to work late. Instead of berating yourself for things you believe you did “wrong,” think back and focus on all the things that went well. Maybe in staying late at work, you got yourself ahead of the game in preparing for a major presentation. Use this positivity to focus more fully on your recovery plan.

2. Write It Down

If you have trouble accentuating the positive, start a gratitude journal. Buy a dedicated notebook, or go digital and create a new file on your computer. Every day, make time to write down something you’re happy or thankful for, no matter how small. For instance, “Today, my co-worker helped me when I was struggling, and it made a big difference in the rest of my day.”

3. Bring Mindfulness to Every Day

Whether you’re eating a meal, taking your dog for a walk or going to sleep, there are plenty of ways to incorporate forms of mindfulness into your daily activities. Being more mindful can also be a tool to build your gratitude and sense of inner peace.

Benefits of Gratitude in Addiction Recovery

As a recovering addict, you can and should be grateful for your sobriety and the progress you have made. Working toward a positive mindset will help you be more resilient when setbacks occur, so you can meet the obstacles head-on, instead of allowing them to pile up.

The stressors and various family pressures associated with the holiday season can present a unique challenge for people in addiction recovery. However, with the right mindset, you can welcome the opportunity to practice your gratitude – not only on Thanksgiving Day, but year-round. You will be amazed at how quickly the right attitude can change your life for the better.

At Complete Harmony, you can discover the benefits of holistic addiction recovery at our beautiful facility by the sea. Contact us to learn more about starting your journey toward healing.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Ideas for Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder

Now that daylight saving time has ended and the days are getting shorter, you may be struggling to keep an optimistic attitude. If you find yourself dreading those premature sunsets and long nights, you’re not alone – you may have a condition called seasonal affective disorder.

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder, aptly abbreviated SAD, is more common than you might realize. According to the Cleveland Clinic, approximately half a million people in the U.S. live with the so-called “winter blues.”

While experts don’t know the exact reason this condition occurs, it’s not a stretch to see the connection between a lack of sunlight and mood disorders. Having less available sunlight can shift the body’s circadian rhythms and disrupt the transmission of neurotransmitters – brain chemicals such as serotonin and melatonin that play a role in regulating your mood and your sleep cycle.

Recognizing SAD Symptoms

SAD sufferers share many of the common indicators of depression, such as sadness, withdrawal from your social life and an overall lack of interest in activities you normally enjoy. If you have SAD, you may also find yourself having trouble concentrating and feeling extreme fatigue, even if you’ve gotten the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep.

Tips for Treating SAD

If SAD is making you feel lethargic and unmotivated to participate in your normal daily routine, you may be relieved to learn there are some all-natural ways to treat SAD and help get you back on track.

1. Try Light Therapy

At-home light therapy lamps or boxes emit bright light that imitates sunshine. If you have SAD, you can sit in front of this lamp for about half an hour per day, usually when you first get up in the morning. Doing this will help regulate your circadian rhythms and suppress your brain’s release of melatonin, helping you feel more awake and alert.

2. Go to a Doctor

If the world seems grayer and less enjoyable in the fall and winter, a doctor can evaluate your symptoms and ask you questions to determine if you are living with seasonal depression. If your screening indicates you do have SAD, seeing a therapist to talk through your feelings can be constructive.

3. Use Essential Oils

You may already know how beneficial aromatherapy can be as part of your self-care routine. Essential oils can act on the part of your brain that regulates your mood and your body clock. Choose your essential oils wisely. For example, if you’re feeling sluggish and having trouble concentrating, peppermint oil can help perk you up. In contrast, use soothing oils like lavender to help you wind down before bedtime.

4. Work up a Sweat

Exercise is just as useful for banishing the symptoms of SAD as it is for other forms of depression. Getting your heart pumping can also help combat the weight gain that often accompanies seasonal depression. Outdoor exercise is ideal because it helps you get natural sunlight, but if it’s raining or snowing and you can’t get outside, do your workout inside next to a window.

Re-Balance Your Mood

Mood disorders like SAD are especially risky for people in addiction recovery because feelings like sadness and loneliness are often powerful relapse triggers. Experiment with one or more of these methods to regain your equilibrium, and try to keep a positive outlook – come Dec. 22, the days will gradually start getting longer again.

If you need help turning your life around, contact our team at Complete Harmony. We offer holistic healing as an alternative to traditional 12-step approaches, and we are available to speak with you about your needs 24/7.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

How a Recovery Journal Can Help You Maintain Your Sobriety

If you have kept a journal or diary at any point in your life, you are probably already familiar with how therapeutic it can be to write down your thoughts and feelings. Doing so not only makes you feel calmer and more in control, but in going back and reviewing previous entries, you can put your progress in perspective.

Keeping a journal can benefit your mental health, but it can also be a tremendously useful tool if you’re working through the daily challenges associated with addiction recovery. Let’s explore some of the top advantages of keeping a journal, and you can decide whether to use this writing exercise to strengthen your recovery efforts.

1. Getting to Know Yourself

If you are trying to work on the root causes of your addiction, it can be helpful to spot patterns behind your triggers, cravings and the issues you struggle with most. You might also benefit from being able to identify specific negative thoughts and emotions that can put your recovery efforts at risk. When you can recognize harmful self-talk creeping in, you can take steps to reframe it into more positive language.

It’s both unhealthy and unconstructive to keep difficult emotions pent up inside. Retaining bottled-up feelings can overstress you and threaten your sobriety. Your journal, therefore, can be a quiet, safe place for you to express yourself with no worry about external judgment or criticism.

2. Evaluating Your Progress

If you are still in the early phases of your recovery, you might be relying on your journal as an outlet for your most complex, confusing emotions. Given enough space and time, you’ll see a bigger picture start to emerge as you get a more complete sense of what you need to navigate the waters of recovery. Your journal entries will reflect your growth and development one day at a time.

As you continue to make progress in your recovery, your journal can begin to serve as a series of inspirational messages from your previous selves. When you have a few moments to spare, take a few minutes to review your earliest journal entries and compare them to the more recent ones you’ve written. You will probably be pleasantly surprised by the progress you’ve made, which can enable you to let go of your past and begin starting over.

3. Freeing Your Mind of Burdens

If you struggle with anxiety, you already know the rush of unwanted feelings and intrusive thoughts it can bring on. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed with stress and a near-constant stream of worry, journaling can help you unburden yourself. In many cases, the straightforward act of putting your worries into words will calm your racing mind and enable you to relax and let go of tension.

4. Protecting Your Privacy

One other noticeable benefit of journaling is that it allows you to put your thoughts and feelings on paper, while still keeping them private. Unless you want to, you never have to share your journal with anybody else. That means you can be as honest as you need to be about the challenges you’re having from moment to moment, or even in the long term.

Think of your journal as a conversation between your current self and your past self. There is no “wrong” or “right” way to keep a journal. Just put your fingers on the keyboard – or your pen on your paper – and let the thoughts flow out of your subconscious mind.

A Proud History of Recovery Results At Complete Harmony, we combine traditional, evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy with holistic approaches like massage, meditation, acupuncture and yoga to create a highly effective, non-12-step addiction recovery program. If you’re ready to discover a fresh beginning without relying on the crutch of drugs and alcohol, contact us today.
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