There is no denying that the path to freedom from porn addiction and compulsive unwanted sexual behavior can be a difficult one. It’s fraught with daily obstacles and challenges. Consequently, any advice or insight you can find to help your journey is often welcomed and even needed.
That said, often the advice people get about their problem is generally predictable and usually focused on either spiritual advice (in the church world) or behavior change.
Here are some of the typical recommendations:
- Install a filter/blocker on your devices.
- Remove all sources of temptation in your home.
- Get a dumbphone.
- Find an accountability partner.
- Get some counseling.
- Avoid your triggers.
- Join a 12-step group.
- Pray, confess, and read your Bible more.
And admittedly, all of these pieces of advice can be helpful if used appropriately. But often we can miss the bigger picture when we focus on checklists and measures without appreciating the underlying reasoning or context.
What are the benefits of a filter other than the obvious one… it helps you not see stuff?
Why is a support group or accountability partner helpful other than it gives me a place to confess my mistakes?
What benefit do spiritual disciplines offer other than keeping me in God’s good graces?
The reality is that for the most part the obvious benefits of doing these things are outweighed by the less obvious benefits, those being the impact these practices can have on your emotions and brain. That said, I would like to share with you 3 unfamiliar tips to help you with your recovery efforts that can have a meaningful impact on your ability to make better decisions and on your mental/emotional health.
Tip 1: Exercise More
Many people I talk to about these issues don’t understand how important the brain-body connection is when it comes to recovery. Recognize that while our mental state directly impacts our physical state, our physical state also directly impacts our mental state.
It’s a two-way street.
As a result, exercise not only benefits your heart and lungs, but also your brain, especially in the area of implicit emotional regulation. Something that is key to one’s integrity and ability to make value-based decisions.
In fact, in a 2019 study conducted by the College of P. E. and Sports they divided sixty participants into one of two parallel groups. One group participated in eight weeks of mind-body exercise intervention. The other did not. Both groups were asked to complete an emotion regulation task to assess implicit emotion regulation ability before and after the intervention.
The study revealed that only participants in the intervention group displayed significant improvements in implicit emotion regulation ability.1
Bottom line: Exercise has a direct impact on implicit emotion regulation and therefore the ability to make better decisions when faced with stressful situations.
Tip 2: Take More Nature Walks
Walking is beneficial in and of itself. But, when you take time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, you will also see improvements in the areas of mood, memory function, motivation, and emotional regulation.
In fact, in a study of 120 people, they found that people who looked at a picture of natural settings had lower stress scores, higher heart rate and pulse counts, and better stress recovery rates than those who viewed a picture of an urban setting, indicating that nature can play a big role in improving one’s mental health.2
Tip 3: Don’t Skip Meals
This last tip may seem like a really weird one. And it’s understandable since on the surface it would seem strange that diet would have anything to do with one’s recovery. But, it makes sense when you understand the critical role nutrients play in your emotional health and ability to critically think.
Recognize that the logic center of our brain is found in the prefrontal cortex. This part of the mind is what orchestrates our ideas and actions around our values and internal goals and requires a sufficient amount of glucose to function properly.
Consequently, when we skip meals we may lower the supply of glucose delivered to our prefrontal cortex which can wreak havoc on our sobriety efforts. Here’s how, according to the Academy for Addiction & Mental Health Nutrition.
“[When we experience a reduction in our glucose supply, we reduce] willpower, and the ability to say ‘NO’. [Additionally, reduced blood sugar] results in a surge of adrenaline and other stress hormones which impair effective signaling in the prefrontal cortex.
Executive functioning is thereby impaired, leading to a lack of use of recovery and relapse prevention skills in response to a relapse trigger. A hypoglycemia-induced stress response may also stimulate a conditioned response towards the use of addictive substances and behaviors.” 3
And while sobriety is not the ultimate goal, it is essential to long-term recovery and freedom. Therefore, it’s important you don’t make simple mistakes (like missing a meal) when those mistakes can have an impact on your efforts.
In the end, realize that like any other “recovery” tip you get, none of these three in and of themselves are going to be a magic bullet. But, all three of these recommendations will have a positive effect on your mental wellness, emotional resilience, and brain function.
1 Zhang, Y., Fu, R., Sun, L., Gong, Y., & Tang, D. (2019). How Does Exercise Improve Implicit Emotion Regulation Ability: Preliminary Evidence of Mind-Body Exercise Intervention Combined With Aerobic Jogging and Mindfulness-Based Yoga. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 1888. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01888
2 Ulrich, R. S., Simons, R. F., Losito, B. D., Fiorito, E., Miles, M. A., & Zelson, M. (1991). Stress recovery during exposure to natural and Urban Environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 11(3), 201–230. https://www.ambiviro.com/beta/wp-content/themes/blankslate/download/pdf/stress-recovery-during-exposure-to-natural-and-urban-environments.pdf
3 Therapy, A. (2021, August 09). Why missing a meal might be a primary relapse trigger for all addictions! Retrieved February 13, 2023, from https://aminoacidtherapy.com/why-missing-a-meal-might-be-a-primary-relapse-trigger-for-all-addictions/