Addiction is a major problem in the world today. For many of us, it isn’t some out there horror we’ll never have to deal with – instead it is a very real struggle, whether for us personally or someone we hold dear. And I’m not just talking about the big addictions everyone knows about (drugs, sex, alcohol, smoking, etc.), addiction can take the form of anything that controls your life more than you control it (social media, anyone?). Some addictions cause tangible, physical problems almost immediately (as in the case of substance abuse), while others manifest themselves in more subtle, insidious ways, like when social media keeps you from enjoying a vacation or spending time with your family. By nature, an addiction isn’t usually something you can just get rid of immediately on your own, at least not without a lot of work and pain.
For some people, addiction is an escape – a place to run when life gets tough. Sometimes they have an abusive background or have been through some other awful circumstance that created an emptiness and pain inside of them, and addiction serves as a temporary fix. For others, their personality, habits, and lifestyle predispose them to addictive tendencies. Some people are more “obsessive,” if you will, by nature, so addiction is something they easily fall into. There are a lot of reasons and circumstances that cause a person to fall into addiction, those are just a few.
Disclaimer: I’m not saying any of the above is an excuse for addiction. Living a self-destructive lifestyle is ultimately one’s own choice, and not something I would wish on anyone. There is help available, please talk to your healthcare professional to learn about options if you or a loved one are caught in addiction.
I personally have addictive tendencies and I’m kind of an obsessive person in general. When I find something I like – whether it’s a song, movie, book, hobby, etc. – I’m “stuck on it,” so to speak, for a very long time. Like I will literally play the same song for days on end if the lyrics hit home or if I like how it sounds. I’m grateful that I have found several healthy alternatives to addiction, because I’m sure I could easily get trapped in the self destructive ones if I’m not careful. Music is one of those healthy alternatives, and the other is fitness (big surprise, right?). Fitness has become a huge part of my life because it provides all the stuff that makes unhealthy addictions attractive, but with lasting, beneficial results. Think I’m crazy? Keep reading.
Endorphins – One obvious reason substance abuse is so common is that it gives you a high. It makes you feel good, for a short while anyway. Exercise can provide a similar, healthier alternative to that feeling because it releases the “feel good” hormones in the brain. Cardiovascular exercise is especially good for this, although I can attest that strength training causes an equally addicting feeling. There is nothing like that blissful exhaustion after a heavy lifting workout when your endorphins are being released at an all-time high.
An escape – Never underestimate the power of a good workout to relieve stress and get your mind off your problems. Once fitness becomes a part of your lifestyle and you start seeing results, your workout space (whether at home or the gym) will become that one place you can go to let go of your cares, work out your anger, and calm your nerves.
Results – There is nothing more addicting than smashing your goals. Don’t knock it until you’ve experienced it. Once you start seeing results, there is no going back. Seriously. If there is one thing that can get you hooked on exercise, it’s crushing your lifting pr or running pr or whatever-you-do pr, over and over again. Once you find out that there is really no limit to what your body can accomplish as long as you set your mind to it, you won’t want to quit. You’ll be addicted for life, or you should be.
Exercise can be more than just something you dread doing a few times a week because it’s good for you. It can become a permanent part of your lifestyle that benefits your mind and body. And for those of you who need an outlet, an escape, or an obsession, it can be your healthy addiction.