Long-term substance use affects the function of the brain, which impacts your mood. Moods are also heavily tied to the desire for substances. In recovery, the brain must work to reestablish healthy patterns. Tracking moods is a great way to track triggers and plan for times when drug use is most desired. This article will look at how mood tracking can be used as a tool during recovery.
How Substance Use Affects Brain Function
Substance use can change how your body and mind work, which can consequently lead to addiction. The impact of drugs on the brain and body varies depending on how frequently or intensely substance use occurs. There are both short-term and long-term effects that result from substance use. Additionally, the areas of the brain that are affected by substance use are the same brain areas that are affected by other mental health disorders. This explains why mental health problems and addiction are often co-morbid.
Substance use, even when not chronic, can impact mood. Alcohol, for example, is a depressant. It signals your brain to slow your body down. In the short term, it impacts your coordination, self-control, and behavior. It can also raise blood pressure, induce vomiting, increase your heart rate, and cause other unpleasant side effects that are tied to a lowered sense of well-being. Long-term, alcohol can also worsen pain and cause dependence, creating a vicious cycle of the impulse to use as a result of using.
Inhalants impact the body as well. They can cause dizziness, lack of coordination, and slurred speech in the short term. However, over time, they impact the brain’s ability to form and recall memories. They also damage the liver, kidneys, and bone marrow and can cause hearing loss. Again, their impact on the brain and body, like other substances, contributes to a lowered quality of and lowered moods.
How Mood Tracking Aids in Recovery
There are countless mobile applications for mood tracking because it is a tried and true tool for healing. The ability to review a recorded history of how you felt when you were feeling it — or even a daily recap — can make you aware of trends, such as what time of day you usually feel best or worst and what urges and behaviors are associated with those feelings. From there, you can make a plan to counteract negative impulses with an alternate behavior in order to break bad habits. For example, if you are most likely to smoke after a meal, you can choose that time to busy your mouth with a piece of gum or to go for a walk and focus on the scenery. This helps to replace the habit of smoking with a healthier option.
The same is true for other substances. Substance abuse is often tied to trauma, events that are rooted in negative, unhealthy, and often unhealed emotions. By tracking your moods, you can identify when you are most likely to use substances and set up a safety plan for yourself to make your recovery smoother.
Methods for Mood Tracking
Mobile apps are not the only way to track moods. As ubiquitous as they are, they aren’t necessary unless the method for maintaining sobriety speaks to you. You can easily track your moods by jotting them down in your journal before sleep or keeping a note dedicated to them on your phone. All you need to do is write down what you felt with something as simple as an emoji and any thoughts you noticed associated with that feeling. Eventually, you will become more conscious of your moods, and you will find yourself making internal notes as you go. Becoming more aware of moods means becoming more aware of triggers.
Additional Recovery Methods
Speaking of journals, journaling your thoughts each morning or evening for even five minutes is a great tool to keep in your recovery kit. There are numerous apps that gamify self-care through mood tracking. You could also try your hand at many other mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques, such as meditation, yoga, music, exercise, or other creative pursuits such as crocheting or scrapbooking. Making something with your hands keeps your mind and body busy. The goal here is to replace a negative pattern with a positive one.
If you aren’t certain what will work for you, choose the most reasonable technique and give it a try. Sometimes, it takes a few trial runs to discover what will help you combat the lows that stem from substance use disorder (SUD). However, by finding a new, healthy pattern of behavior to engage in, you are setting yourself up for success in maintaining your recovery.
If you find you need help beyond a new hobby or coping skill, there are programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). West Coast Recovery Centers offers individual and group therapy as well as several of the tools listed above to aid you in your recovery.
Alcohol and drug use have both long and short-term impacts on your body and brain function, which contribute to your mood. Your mood, in turn, contributes to your desire for substance use. The two together create a feedback loop that can result in addiction. If you are experiencing addiction, know that part of recovery is remapping neural pathways in your brain. Remapping requires repeat behavior which, in turn, requires awareness of what behaviors you are trying to impact. Tracking your moods can help you determine when you are most likely to want to use substances and allows you to find new, healthy habits to take the place of substance use. If you are ready to take back control from your addiction, call West Coast Recovery Centers at (760) 492-6509 to learn more about what mood tracking can do for you.