Food And Anxiety

If you suffer from anxiety, you know just how paralyzing it can be. You may be accustomed to treating it with therapy and medications, but did you know that what you eat could have an impact as well?  Managing your diet can help manage your anxiety – what you eat (or choose not to eat) can help reduce symptoms and promote positive effects to help you feel better. Does changing your diet seem daunting? It doesn’t have to be!  Making modifications to your diet is as simple as swapping out foods that spike your anxiety for foods that calm you down. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that influence our mood by either revving us up or calming us down; nutritional deficiencies from an incomplete diet can alter the formulation of these chemicals, thus impacting how we experience anxiety.  Putting thought into what you’re eating is a positive lifestyle change for both your body and your brain and taking care of yourself in this way can inspire you to make even more healthy decisions. Looking at how nutrients affect the brain can help you understand how what you eat changes how you feel. So, what should you eat? Salmon! Salmon may be very beneficial for reducing anxiety, as it contains Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients that are vital for promoting brain health. Omega-3 fatty acids also reduce inflammation and prevent brain cell dysfunction that can lead to anxiety disorders.  Omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts. Complex carbs (think brown rice, whole grain bread and whole grain pasta) promote balanced serotonin levels that keep you calm and happy.  They also supply magnesium, a deficiency in which can contribute to feelings of anxiety. Berries contain antioxidants, vitamins, and phytonutrients that calm your brain and vegetables strengthen your immune system. Be sure to drink water! Water circulates anxiety-reducing hormones throughout your body, keeping it clean and anxiety-free. Other anti-anxiety agents found in food is are digestive probiotics, which are found in things like yogurt, pickles, and cottage cheese. They serve as fodder for the bacteria in your gut that produce serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, neurotransmitters that play a role in mood. Probiotic foods also inhibit the free radicals and neurotoxins that can lead to anxiety. This direct link to the brain means that restoring balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut can directly influence how you feel! You can take a probiotic supplement or eat fermented foods to encourage the growth of good bacteria, which will ultimately help regulate your anxiety. Green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine that has been proven to reduce levels of cortisol (a stress hormone linked to anxiety) and also to decrease heart rate. This hardworking amino acid also increases dopamine and serotonin in the brain, improving your mood and promoting brain health. Got a sweet tooth? Introducing dark chocolate into your diet may also be key in reducing anxiety! It contains stress-reducing antioxidants that improve blood flow to the brain, helping you adapt to stressful situations. Regular consumption of dark chocolate can also increase levels of serotonin. What foods should you watch out for? Avoid simple carbs, which are high in sugar and provide a burst of energy followed by an inevitable crash that produces anxiety. Also steer clear of processed food or fast food, which have a high salt content that makes your body more acidic and prone to anxiety than unprocessed, natural foods. Do you drink a lot of caffeine? It might be time to quit. Caffeine (found in drinks like coffee, tea, and soda) is a stimulant that makes many people jittery, nervous, and irritable. It raises your heartbeat, stimulates your “fight or flight response,” and makes preexisting anxiety even worse.  Some people develop heart palpitations with too much caffeine, leading them to fear an impending heart attack. Tweaking what you eat is an important way for you to fight your anxiety and regain control of your life. Science has demonstrated that there is a direct connection between the brain and the gut; when essential nutrients are not available to your body, there is a direct effect on your brain chemistry, which can increase your anxiety-related symptoms. There is no one diet that will cure your anxiety, but by eating healthily you can help control your symptoms and lower your stress.

How To Help A Loved One Who Drinks Too Much

Alcoholism is more than just drinking too much on occasion. It’s drinking so much that the body becomes dependent, physically and psychologically, on alcohol until it becomes the most important thing in life. Watching a loved one battle with alcohol use disorder can be difficult. You’re probably feeling helpless and hopeless, unsure of what steps you can take to support them. What should you do? How can you help? Does your loved one even want your help? It’s a tricky situation to navigate, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible! Set aside a private time to talk. Pick a moment to sit down and state your concerns in a calm, gentle manner. Make sure they’re not intoxicated for the conversation – they may not remember it or may even become hostile! Prepare what you want to say. Try not to come across as angry, as that may make your loved one defensive. Make sure you express affection for them (I care a lot about you), describe what behavior you’re witnessing (you’ve been drinking excessively), and state your desired outcome (I want you to get help). Use “I” statements that are positive and supportive; this will reduce any sense of accusation and help your loved one realize you are on their side. Make sure they know you’re committed to helping them and aren’t going to abandon them. Together, you can then develop a plan of action for how to address the illness that is alcoholism. Acknowledge your own limitations and encourage them to seek help from a professional. Be careful not to come across as telling your loved one what to do. This may encourage them to do the opposite, a tendency known as psychological reactance. Remember that you can’t make them do what you want – you’re going to need their cooperation. Avoid using the terms “alcoholic” or an “addict,” in your discussions with them as these carry negative connotations and may cause them to feel shame. Alcoholism is a complex issue that often goes hand-in-hand with other mental problems, like depression, so be careful of negative talk that may alienate them. Focusing on how much you care for your loved one will get you farther than highlighting their failures. Communicate your concerns. State why you are worried and how their behavior is having a negative impact on your relationship. Don’t take it personally if your loved one reacts angrily to your efforts – they may be in denial about the severity of their alcohol use. If your loved one decides to seek help, there are many options available. Take time to research what level of care they might need, be it detox, residential treatment, outpatient, or sober living, and discuss it with them. Include them in all decision-making as this empowers them in their own recovery. Remember, this is not an intervention. An intervention is a last-ditch effort for an alcoholic in denial. If your loved one is resistant, you may want to consider hiring an interventionist to help you. During this process, you, friends, and family will get together to confront your loved one and urge them into treatment. Remember that their recovery is not on you. While you can encourage your loved one to get help, you cannot save them. Know what boundaries you have to set to protect yourself and your own mental health. Set clear consequences for their behavior and stick to them – this may even help their motivation to get better! It’s exhausting trying to pull someone out of an addiction and it’s not your responsibility. They have to desire change for it to actually happen. One of the best things you can do is to educate yourself on alcoholism. Consider attending Al-Anon meetings, which are designed to support family and friends who are dealing with a loved one’s alcoholism. And don’t lose sight of your own self-care and well-being.  Take care of yourself, first and foremost.  Helping your loved one recover from alcoholism can be mentally stressful and physically exhausting.  Consider seeking help from a therapist as you navigate trying to help your loved one. Self-care is of the utmost importance! Talking to an addict about their substance abuse is tough. Be prepared for a hard conversation that will bring up a lot of emotion. If your loved one decides to seek treatment, they will need your support throughout the entire process. It will be a difficult road, but with love, motivation, and compassion, you can help them through this challenging time.

Warning Signs of Relapse

Recovery is a long road. Whether you’ve beaten your addiction or it’s still a work in progress, it’s important to recognize the possibility of relapse. Relapse is a process, not a singular event. It can start weeks before a physical relapse occurs and can be traced through changes in your emotional and mental state. Emotional relapse is the first stage of relapse in which you experience consistent negative feelings of anger, guilt, or shame. Increased feelings of depression may also pave the way towards relapse. Often, people turn to drugs or alcohol to relieve symptoms of depression, so it may be tempting to return to old patterns. Look out for low energy, appetite fluctuations, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, change in sleeping patterns, and lack of interest in activities. Stress can also trigger a relapse. Returning to the “real world” means exposing yourself to old triggers, responsibilities, and situations. Monitor yourself closely for mood swings, increased feelings of anxiety or frustration, and an inability to complete tasks. The unhappier you feel in recovery, the more likely you are to slide backward. Flood your brain with dopamine and serotonin from healthy activities like exercise or connection with friends and family. You may also have begun to have erratic sleeping and/or eating patterns and your self-care may have started to decline. If you’re not attending to your needs – be it sleep, food, or self-care – you’re creating an emotionally draining situation that may make you want to resort back to using. Are you pushing people away or making excuses not to socialize? Isolating yourself from your support means you are withdrawing from accountability and connection. This social breakdown can be a precursor to relapse and may cause you to seek out old, unhealthy relationships. Sober friends, sponsors, friends, and family are key supports that hold you accountable – don’t push them away!  If you’ve started abandoning the routine you established in early sobriety, including set wake-up times, activities, and meal-times, you are setting yourself up for failure. Missing appointments and meetings is a major red flag. Loss of structure means your day is filled with opportunity to slide into old habits. Mental relapse is the second stage and is a time of internal struggle as you battle between desires to remain sober and to return to using. Much of your mental energy is devoted to thoughts about using. You might find yourself idealizing your past, hanging out with old friends, fantasizing about using, or even planning your relapse. Steer clear of triggers that you could use to justify sliding backwards. Avoid unhealthy friends, locations, and physical proximity to the substance and set yourself up for success. The pull of addiction is strong and it’s important to remind yourself of the negative consequences of using – what progress will you lose, who will you let down? Nostalgia for the past can be a slippery slope, as you may be idealizing days of using. Looking back at perceived “good times” can plant the idea of using your mind. If you think you are able to use casually without falling back into addiction, this is a red flag. Using even once can cause cravings to return in full force and make it hard to continue on a path of recovery. Talk about your urges with someone you trust. Share your feelings and watch the urges begin to dissipate – having support will decrease feelings of isolation and diminish the attraction of substance use. Try physically distracting yourself when thoughts about using arise – go to a meeting, exercise, change the scenery, engage in a favorite hobby or pastime. Occupying your mind with another activity stops the thoughts in their tracks and reduces their power over you. Distract yourself for thirty minutes and odds are, the craving will pass. In relapse prevention, a strong offense is needed just as much as a strong defense. Attend meetings, stay in touch with your sponsor, and pursue healthy friendships with others in sobriety. Fill your time with healthy habits. Recognize that maintaining sobriety is a daily struggle. No matter how long you have abstained, relapse can still happen. It’s important for you to be aware of the warning signs of relapse. Relapse can be traumatic, not just for you but for your loved ones as well. Keep in mind the negative consequences of returning to your addiction – your job, your loved ones, relationships, and health will suffer. Remember, take your recovery one day at a time. Don’t let yourself become paralyzed by the thought of abstinence forever. Offer yourself support when you struggle and seek out camaraderie from others. Relapse does happen, and it’s not the end of the world. Reorient yourself on a path of recovery, seek help, and try again.

Caffeine

Is your morning cup of joe a drug? Technically, yes! Caffeine is the most widely-used psychoactive drug in the world. It’s also highly addictive — once you start using it, it’s hard to stop. Because of this, it’s important to look at how caffeine can impact your recovery from an addiction. Detoxification is a necessary stage in which your body learns to adjust to life without substances. It can be challenging, both physically and emotionally, and you may find yourself drawn to other behaviors to cope. Many addicts turn to caffeine as an alternative substance in their recovery process, but because of its addictive qualities, caffeine can be a risky option. The body quickly becomes dependent on lattes and sodas to get through the day. While not an illicit drug, caffeine does take a toll on the body. Caffeine can impact the cardiovascular system and central nervous system, causing rapid heartbeat, irritability, increased blood pressure, confusion, and muscle aches. Caffeine has some similarities to prescription stimulant medications like those used to treat ADHD. Both work by increasing the level of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, the chemicals responsible for positive feelings and mental focus. In addition to impacting the brain and helping you to feel more alert, caffeine affects the rest of your body. Its broad systemic activity leads to the “jitters,” or that shakiness you get after downing too much coffee. In excess amounts, it also causes anxiety, heart palpitations, sleep disorders, and restlessness – which is not what you need during a time of recovery! Be aware that you’re not avoiding addiction by replacing drugs and alcohol with caffeine. If you truly want to gain control over your addiction, you might want to consider removing caffeine from the mix as well. There are many benefits to nixing caffeine. For starters, too much caffeine can increase stress and anxiety. By messing with your brain chemistry, caffeine can induce tiredness, difficulty concentrating, low mood, and difficulty falling asleep. It also increases levels of adrenalin, a stress hormone, which can trigger the fight-or-flight response in your body. Too much stress and you lose the ability to make clear decisions, control impulses, or access newly learned skills, which make you more susceptible to slips in judgement. Former drug users who drink too much caffeine are more likely to relapse than those that don’t. Caffeine also causes hypoglycemia, which is unstable sugar levels that make it hard to control hunger and fight cravings. Hypoglycemia can also cause fatigue, depression, anxiety, and irritability. Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it wakes up your brain and makes it harder to fall asleep. Too much can cause a disruption in sleep patterns, altering the quality and duration of sleep or even inducing insomnia. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you are more susceptible to depression, anxiety, and making poor choices. It’s important for your recovery to get adequate sleep each night as your body needs rest to heal! Caffeine changes your brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and acetylcholine get activated in ways similar to when you were using drugs. Because caffeine doesn’t provide the same “high” that illicit drugs do, you’ll be left wanting, which means you may open the door to more intense cravings for drugs that will derail your recovery. If you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety or depression separate from your addiction, it may make sense to quit caffeine altogether, as it has been proven to exacerbate symptoms. Caffeine reduces the ability of your body to absorb important vitamins. The absorption of iron, vitamin D, potassium, zinc, and calcium are inhibited by too much caffeine, and this lack of basic nutrients can trigger hunger, which in turn produces stress hormones and drug cravings. If you decide to quit caffeine, be prepared for symptoms of withdrawal. While not as intense as detoxification from illicit drugs, caffeine withdrawal may cause headaches, nausea, depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, or irritability. Here are some tips to help you quit for good!
  • To wean yourself off of caffeine, try replacing your highly-caffeinated drinks with less-powerful ones. Try grinding your own coffee from whole beans, and use 50% caffeinated beans and 50% decaffeinated beans. Same great taste, less caffeine! Or, try tea instead of coffee!
  • If visiting the coffee shop was part of your routine that you looked forward to, keep it alive! Just change what you order. Or if drinking out of your favorite mug brought you joy, make adjustments to what you drink. See if your barista can concoct a half-caf cup of coffee for you, or try diluting your beverage with water.
  • Get active. Exercise boosts your body’s production of feel-good chemicals that can help you withstand withdrawals. You may find that you feel good enough from physical activity that you don’t need caffeine in the first place!
  • Eat right. Caffeine withdrawal can be hard and it’s important to continue to take care of your body. Get plenty of rest, too.
Dependency on caffeine can open the door to new problems in your recovery. Consider nixing it from your diet and see how the quality of your mental and physical health improves. It could be the step needed to keep you on track with your sobriety!

Getting Your Life Back on Track After Relapse: How to Move Forward

Relapse is an unfortunate occurrence that many people face on their path to recovery. It may be triggered by overwhelming cravings, a bad day, or a lack of coping mechanisms to deal with emotional situations. Whatever the reason for relapse, a sense of regret and guilt tends to follow. As a result, this makes it even more difficult to turn things around. When you tackle recovery this time, you’ll have to put in some extra effort to maintain sobriety.

Go Easy on Yourself

The first step to overcoming your relapse is to forgive yourself. You must acknowledge that relapse is not a reflection of your character or strength. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapse is simply part of the recovery process due to the chronic nature of addiction. In fact, relapse rates are similar to those for chronic medical conditions, including high blood pressure and asthma. Try to make peace with your setback and reduce feelings of shame or guilt. For example, acknowledging your mistake and learning from it is a better way to approach relapse than being self-critical. Try to quiet any negative thoughts about yourself with self-compassionate and rational responses. Imagine you’re talking to someone else and take your own advice.

Develop a Plan for Handling Job Stress

Part of adjusting your strategy for maintaining sobriety involves coming up with healthy coping mechanisms for negative emotions. Unfortunately, there is a strong link between work stress and substance abuse. As you return to your normal work routine, you must have a plan in place to avoid relapse due to job stress. Some coping methods that others find effective include exercise, meditation, finding hobbies (arts and crafts, playing instruments, etc.) that help ease your mind and manage anxiety, and saying “no” when you’re overcommitted at work. Schedule time to get together with friends or family and try to find a fun hobby you can be passionate about. Creative hobbies like cooking, painting, and gardening are great for calming the mind after work and providing a sense of accomplishment that is unrelated to your job.

Sit Down with Friends and Family

Many people are too ashamed to tell their friends and family about their relapse, leaving them without this critical support network. So, it’s important to sit down and have a discussion with those close to you. Tell them that you relapsed and that you would appreciate their support. Let them know in what ways they can be helpful to you. Many family members don’t know how to help, so they end up becoming distant, angry, or pretend that nothing is wrong.

Decide on a Rehab and Detox Plan

Just because you relapsed doesn’t mean your previous treatment plan isn’t effective. Successful substance abuse recovery depends on a plan for long-term stability and aftercare. When looking for a rehab center, Psychology Today recommends considering quality, quantity, and cost. A good rehab center will focus on long-term care and provide assistance during the transition out of rehab as well. Make sure that you can cover the full cost of whatever treatment plan you choose so you can commit to the entire length of the program. When assessing the quality of a rehab center, it’s important not focus entirely on website review. Instead, visit the centers and talk to people to get the best picture of what it’s like. A home detox is also an option, although risky when quitting some substances. For drugs that cause physical dependence, like opioids, you should seek medical care during detoxification. When detoxing, you’ll experience various withdrawal symptoms, ranging from severe anxiety to insomnia. It’s important to support your body’s healing with plenty of rest, healthy food, and lots of water. It’s also recommended to have someone there to supervise you during your detox. Remember, recovery is not achieved through simple abstinence. You must create a new life for yourself in which you can be sober more easily. Whether that means cutting toxic people out of your life or picking up new hobbies to help you cope with stress, you’ll be better equipped to avoid relapse this time around.

Ready To Start Dating?

So you’re nailing recovery: you’ve got your cravings under control, you’re developing healthy habits, and you’re feeling positive about your future. As your days are filled with more joy, you might find yourself wishing you had someone to share this new life with. But whether you’re looking for a relationship or just playing the field, it’s imperative that you question if it’s the right time to introduce dating into your life. Standard advice holds that you should postpone dating for your first year in recovery. This is because new relationships may take the focus off your own work and derail your recovery. Early in your sobriety, you’re just rediscovering yourself and defining your values. It’s a time of self-reflection and renewal, and it’s important to take the time to fully know who you are before seeking a partner. What is important to you? What activities do you enjoy? Who do you want to be? The old adage holds true: you have to learn to love yourself before you can love someone else. Don’t shortchange yourself on building a relationship with the one who truly matters the most: you! Returning to life without your go-to coping skills of drugs and/or alcohol can be scary. If you start dating too soon, you may find yourself falling into old patterns, choosing partners who aren’t healthy for you and your recovery. Be careful of forming unhealthy attachments in an effort to fill the emotional void left by drugs and alcohol. Before you begin dating, you need to trust yourself and your ability to stand on your own two feet. Can you make decisions in your best interest? Can you tell who is good for you and who isn’t? Do you have your own back? Be wary of things that might jeopardize your recovery. Are you strong enough to leave if the relationship ends up being detrimental? And are you strong enough to endure a break-up if things don’t work out? It’s important that you’ve reached a level of emotional maturity that will allow you to seek partners who will complement and support your sobriety. As you grow more confident in your recovery, your self-confidence will improve. The longer you wait and the more work you do on yourself first, the more likely you are to select a partner who is mature, healthy and a positive influence. In early recovery, it’s natural to feel lonely. You’ve given up your social network and your old coping strategies and are working to develop a new approach to life. Learning to feel emotions again is a challenging part of recovery, but rediscovering feelings of love and intimacy can be rewarding and exciting. As your body heals from substance abuse, it may be tempting to replace the high of alcohol and other drugs with the new “high” of romantic love. But be wary of replacing one addicting behavior with another! It’s important to keep working your program even as you begin dating. Take the time to discover who you are and what you can bring to a relationship. You may have to relearn healthy intimacy before you can share your hopes and dreams with another person. Seek help from a therapist as you navigate new relationships, attend group meetings to stay on track with your recovery and talk about new feelings that are arising. And be honest with yourself. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t! Don’t pressure yourself to be in a relationship before you’re ready. Take time to get to know yourself first and to understand what it is you’re looking for. Where can you meet prospective partners? Think beyond the bar! You can find likeminded people at meetings, community events, dating apps, and anywhere you’ve found to have sober fun. Your local meeting may even host a variety of sober functions where you can meet others in sobriety who are also looking for love. Be honest about your recovery – being secretive is a thing of the past! Find someone with whom you can be open about your journey, someone who truly supports you and who you can trust with your truth. As millennials, dating is already hard enough. Mix in sobriety, and it can feel next to impossible! But before you jump into the emotional rollercoaster that is dating, it’s imperative you take a look at how it will impact your recovery. Waiting a year may seem like a long time, but it’s the time necessary to clear years of emotional wreckage to recover your mind, body, and spirit.

Sober Fun Is Not an Oxymoron

Sobriety is a death sentence of boring, right? Without drugs and alcohol, the world is flat and mundane. But that’s a misconception that can derail recovery, a belief that keeps us willfully blind to all that sober life has to offer. Because believe it or not, “sober fun” is not an oxymoron. There are countless ways to reintroduce joy into your life that don’t require drugs or alcohol, ways that will be infinitely more rewarding because you’ll actually remember them the next day! Don’t believe me? Let’s look at science. Drugs and alcohol artificially and strongly activate the pleasure center of our brains. Over time, the brain becomes accustomed to this degree of stimulation, which means that ordinary stimuli no longer trigger pleasure and enjoyment. Removing drugs and alcohol from the mix makes it possible to enjoy living everyday life, to derive hits of pleasure from simple things like reading a book, riding a bike, going for a drive with friends, or exercising to enjoy the feeling of being in control of your body again. Anything you enjoyed when drunk or high can be equally pleasurable, if not more so, when you’re sober. And this time, it won’t take you days to recover! But in the space between the life you’re leaving and the life you’re building, there’s going to be a lot of time to fill. The question is, how? Get to know yourself. You’re probably a pretty interesting person. Who are you? Who were you before your addiction? What were your interests and passions before alcohol/drugs took over your life? Dust off those old hobbies and give them another shot – chances are, you’ll still get a kick out of them. Pay attention to why you enjoy these activities and how you feel after doing them. Look for things that make you smile, help you feel connected and grounded, and promote a sense of inner peace. Want to get active? Find a sport or hobby that lets you release energy in a healthy way. Exercise keeps you busy and releases dopamine to the brain, giving you a natural high that will serve to replace that toxic high your body used to crave. Sure, getting sober is scary. It’ll be tempting to idealize the events of your previous life experienced in the haze of substance abuse, to associate them with good times and relaxation, but this completely denies the negative consequences of your addiction and minimizes the benefits of quitting. Maybe you fear alienating your former friends and resigning yourself to a life of tedium and loneliness. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Go places! Do things! Travel somewhere new, try foods you’ve never heard of. There is a whole world of opportunity available to you now that you’re sober – and the best part is, you’ll make memories that you won’t forget the next day! Enjoying yourself is a cornerstone of a happy life and a vital component of a lasting recovery. Finding ways to have fun without drugs or alcohol will greatly reduce your risk of relapse and help you to build a life worth living. Sobriety opens you up to new experiences that will help you rediscover a passion for life. Losing yourself in an activity will force your brain to stay present rather than ruminating on your past addiction. So get out and take a yoga class, go to an art museum, or learn how to throw pottery – the point is, you’ll never know what you can achieve until you try. And try it with a friend! Fellowship in fun brings greater connection and satisfaction. Strengthen relationships through shared activities and discover that sober you is infinitely more capable of building and maintaining genuine friendships than old you. Sobriety doesn’t have to be boring. You’ll find yourself even more capable of having fun, and truly appreciate it, than when you were under the influence. Allow yourself to have a life beyond your addiction, to be present in every moment, and to have adventures that feed your soul. You deserve it!

Where to Get Your Mindfulness On in Los Angeles

Need to get away from the hustle and bustle of LA? Looking to have a quiet moment to yourself? Hoping to rediscover your inner calm? Here are ten beautiful spots where you can retreat to get your mindfulness on!

The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens

With 120 acres open to the public, the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens is one of Los Angeles’s most expansive areas of beauty. Home to over 14,000 varieties of plants, the gardens are ideal for quiet meditation and mindfulness.

Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine

A temple, a meditation garden, and a shrine all rolled into one, Lake Shrine offers an oasis from the restless city life of Los Angeles. Located in the hills of the Pacific Palisades, it’s the perfect spot for contemplation: peaceful, silent, and beautiful.

Descanso Gardens

An urban retreat, Descanso Gardens is an internationally renowned botanical haven. With 160 acres of woodlands and gardens, it’s a great place to experience the natural beauty of Southern California. Stroll through the Rose Garden or stop at a koi pond, admire the Camellia Collection or pass through the Ancient Forest – there is an endless amount of tranquility to be found in this oasis.

The Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanical Garden

A unique botanical garden and historical site, the Los Angeles Arboretum aims to be a respite its visitors. Every continent is represented with trees, bushes, and flowers, so come prepared to cross the globe! It’s easy to get lost meandering the trails, take a walk around the lake, or stop and admire the historic buildings scattered across the property. And keep an eye out for peacocks!

The Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Garden

A spiritual oasis, the Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Garden is the perfect place to harness your inner calm. Modeled after the Chartres Cathedral in France, the stone labyrinth is ideal for centering and finding harmony within. The surrounding gardens are filled with lush plants and stone benches, making it an ideal spot a for gathering your thoughts. The beautiful mansion has a unique architectural history and is chock full of California history.

Getty Villa

Come visit the ancient world of Greece and Rome! The Getty Villa is a unique architectural oasis in Malibu replete with gardens and a museum filled with antiquities. With no admission fee, the Villa is a wonderful spot for self-reflection and art appreciation.

Amir’s Garden

Tucked away in Griffith Park, Amir’s Garden is a five-acre ornamental garden designed as a rest stop for hikers. Filled with a variant of trees and shrubs, it’s a shaded oasis that stands out admits the dry Southern California landscape. The area is maintained by volunteers, making it a true labor of love. Stop here as you hike the trails for a moment of respite and calm.

The James Irvine Japanese Garden

A breath of fresh air moments from Little Tokyo, the James Irvine Japanese Garden is sure to provide a moment of zen. Come experience the variety of plants, flowers, and trees that populate this hidden oasis. Though somewhat on the smaller side, this intimate garden has bridges, small rivers, a waterfall, and several spots to sit and relax.

Malibu Hindu Temple

Nestled in the Calabasas Hills, the Malibu Hindu temple is a majestic building built in the traditional style of South India. The white stone is striking against the setting of Malibu, and if you look closely you can see the intricate carvings embedded in its walls. Be prepared to take off your shoes!

Solstice Canyon

Serene and beautiful, Solstice Canyon is a popular hiking destination that allows visitors to enjoy the natural beauty of Southern Californian mountains. Stop along the trail for a serious meditation session and enjoy the unique flora and fauna you’ll find along the way. Solstice Canyon offers serenity in abundance and is the perfect spot to practice some mindfulness.

Mind-Body Detox

When was the last time you breathed — really breathed? I’m talking deep into your diaphragm, expanding the rib cage and filling your lungs with air. If you’re like most people, it’s probably been awhile, and that’s not a good thing. Why? Because in the body’s hierarchy of needs, breath is right there at the top. We can survive days without water, weeks without food, but breath? Kinda important. It controls the mind, body, and emotions and is the essence of yoga, a practice that could help you on your journey towards recovery. What comes to mind when you hear the word, “yoga?” Is it difficult poses, New Age hippies, or fashion leggings? Do you cringe at the thought of a Downward Dog or scoff at the idea of Proud Warrior? There’s much more to it than that! Yoga has been around for thousands of years (so it must be doing something right). The word itself means “union:” union of mind, body, and spirit. In active addiction, we lose connection to our bodies and ourselves. Our substance abuse overrides our systems and subverts that basic drive to survive. Yoga is a practice that redirects the mind and brings us back into contact with our bodies, unifying and uplifting the spirit in the process. Sure, it’s hard to conceptualize how deep breathing and stretching can help you beat addiction. But it’s true! Yoga is a fantastic skill that offers many benefits – physical, emotional, and spiritual – to help you on your journey towards recovery. Poses will strengthen your body, improve circulation and oxygen flow to the brain, and relieve the aches and pains of withdrawal. Breathwork will lower stress, calm your nerves, and reduce cravings. The meditative aspects will bring peace to your mind and allow access to healthier coping mechanisms. You’ll have more energy, more stamina, and an overall improved health. Committing to a practice of yoga gives you self-discipline that will carry into your regular life, allowing you to say “no” to relapse. Remember how crazy your brain was in the throes of addiction? Thoughts, impulses, and emotions were all tangled together into one incoherent mess. Yoga can fix that. It calms fluctuations of the mind and challenges the negative disturbances that seek to derail our everyday lives, reintegrating mind, body, and reality. Need scientific proof? Multiple scientific studies have found that yoga is extremely effective at regulating cortisol and adrenaline, two stress hormones that activate the body in unpleasant ways and are toxic to the central nervous system. Too much stress and an individual may seek reprieve through substance abuse. Less stress, and the individual is able to make smarter decisions to cope. Properly performed, yoga exercises your body, calms your mind, and realigns your spiritual center. It’s nondenominational and completely accessible – you don’t need expensive equipment or a special location, all you need is a floor! And anyone can do it. It may seem difficult and time-consuming, but with practice you’ll ease into poses instead of toppling over in frustration. Addiction takes you out of your body. Yoga puts you back in it. It’s an invaluable tool to combat the anxiety, stress, and depression that come with detox, helping individuals stay grounded and calm. Focusing your attention inward can be daunting. After all, it was our innermost thoughts that we were trying to escape when we turned to drugs or alcohol in the first place! But the self- reflection inherent in the practice of yoga provides space to examine one’s life, a reintroduction to the self, and compassion for the mistakes and choices made. Yoga is an alternative, positive way to change your consciousness that doesn’t require substance abuse. Instead of providing escape, it allows access to a restorative inner state that brings greater awareness to the mind and body. And is there anything more beautiful than starting the day with a Sun Salutation? So go ahead. Detoxify your body and mind. Get into the relaxation zone. Your recovery will thank you! Namaste!

Companion Animals in Recovery

Who says your support system has to be human? A companion animal, be it a dog, cat, rabbit, bird, or lizard, can provide irreplaceable support as you overcome an addiction. The stress of detox and treatment can be overwhelming at times, and you may at times feel worse than before seeking treatment. But spending time with a pet can help! Animals can ease the physiological and psychological stress of undergoing treatment, provide companionship, and teach lessons on how to be a fully responsible, functioning adult. Their stress-relieving presence is calming, helping to move you from a negative headspace into a positive one, revitalizing your recovery process in a healthy way. Interacting with animals has been proven to increase your brain’s oxytocin levels; oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that reduces stress, relaxes the mind, and increases feelings of connection to others. Playing with a pet helps lower symptoms of depression and anxiety, greatly reducing the risk of relapse. If you’re feeling down, the unconditional positive regard of a companion animal can’t be replaced. Whether it’s curling up on your lap or licking your face, pets never hesitate to show affection, something that can be especially useful when your mood is low. And with their need for attention and walks, animals encourage physical activity. Regular exercise combats the physiological side effects of detox and causes the release of dopamine, which is your brain’s signal for pleasure. On a basic level, caring for an animal enables you to focus on something outside of yourself, to put another being’s needs above your own, which is a complete one-eighty from active addiction. Caring for an animal can help you rediscover self-confidence and self-esteem. By caring for a dog or cat, you prove to yourself and others that you are capable of taking care of yourself. Pets are also an excellent distraction from the challenges of recovery. If you have too much free time on your hands, you might be tempted to dwell on the past or to become overwhelmed by ruminations about the future. Pets require you to stay in the present, which helps you to stay grounded. Accepting the unconditional love of an animal can also help you overcome the feeling of shame for having developed an addiction. Pets know nothing of your past, the mistakes you’ve made or struggles you’ve faced – all they care about is you, right now! Substance abuse impairs not only an individual’s mental health, but physical health as well. From cardiovascular damage to the dulling of motor skills, long-term abuse causes lasting side effects. Studies show that spending time with animals lowers blood pressure and slows the heart rate, which enhances cardiovascular function and produces a sense of calm to counteract feelings of anxiety or stress. Caring for a pet, such as walking a dog or playing with a cat, keeps you active and can improve your motor skills while simultaneously reducing stress. The human-animal interaction not only improves mood, but lowers cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure as well. Pets are not merely your companions. They require effort, commitment, and responsibility – just like your recovery does! Feeding, walking, and caring for your pet’s needs provides structure in your life as well as a sense of purpose. Two of the biggest predictors of relapse, stress and depression, can be alleviated through animal therapy. The accountability, responsibility, and sense of self-worth that you derive from your relationship with your pet will leave you feeling fulfilled, a major element in staying sober. Even on days when you’re tempted to hit snooze on your alarm, waking up to those tail wags, snuggles, and kisses make any sacrifice worthwhile! And with shelter animals, it’s a double benefit: your companion saves you as you save your companion!