Building Healthy Daily Routines in Recovery

Ioana Cozma
Morgan Blair
Written by Ioana Cozma on 07 August 2023
Medically reviewed by Morgan Blair on 10 August 2023

Building healthy daily routines in recovery promotes physical and mental health, decreasing the chances of relapsing. This guide discusses 7 daily habits that support sobriety, such as quality food, rest, stress management, and attending support groups.

Building Healthy Daily Routines in Recovery

Why is routine important in recovery?

Studies show that people with substance use disorder (SUD) in addiction recovery have a 40% to 60% likelihood of relapse, with a high 85% risk during the first year.

Moreover, people recovering from drug or alcohol addiction have 16-18 hours each day to fill with activities other than procuring, consuming, and withdrawing from substances. One research study’s authors suggest that creating structured daily routines helps people occupy these hours meaningfully.

Establishing a clear routine in addiction treatment helps recovering individuals handle daily stressors without substance use.

Substance abuse triggers the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine, which increases behavior frequency by creating a sense of reward. Withdrawal entails mental health symptoms like depression, anxiety, and low mood, as well as the need to consume again to feel better.

Structuring your days with a healthy routine and accomplishing small goals may accelerate dopamine release, thus giving you a sense of increased satisfaction. This satisfaction helps you manage daily stressors without returning to substance use.

Apart from avoiding boredom and improving mental health, routines also help you learn to build healthy habits, exercise your control, and create a healthy lifestyle.

7 daily habits to help sobriety

The habits below contour a healthy daily routine to assist your physical and mental recovery, but it is essential to adapt them to your needs and preferences.

1. Eat healthily

Studies show chronic addiction damages your nutrition status, depriving you of essential nutrients. Apart from lower-quality food intake, drugs interfere with nutrient absorption by affecting your hormonal system.

As a result, eating healthily during your detox will replenish these lost nutrients, supporting your metabolic rebalance. Rebalancing your nutrients promotes overall healing and improves mental health symptoms. Additionally, certain nutrients like amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids may assist relapse prevention.

2. Sleep well

Quality sleep restores physical and mental health, helping you feel refreshed and more productive. Moreover, quality sleep increases self-control and decreases interpersonal hostility, thus helping you stay on the road to recovery.

To ensure proper rest, most sources recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per night and consistent bedtime routines. It is best to go to bed relaxed, so dim the lights in your home and avoid screens; these visual stimuli keep your brain in an alert state associated with wakefulness.

3. Exercise

Exercise promotes the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters that promote happiness. Physical activity is also linked to dopamine release, thus increasing your feeling of reward throughout the day. Additionally, working out helps you gain a sense of healthy accomplishment when you master new exercises.

Avoid strenuous exercise at the beginning of your recovery. Walking, pilates, and mild bodyweight training are easier on your body, so they are better for promoting quick healing. Outdoor and group activities are also shown to increase the mental health benefits of exercise.

4. Keep your stress levels low

Feeling stressed or overly anxious increases the likelihood of relapse because your brain subconsciously seeks the endorphin release from substance abuse. For recovery to work, it is vital to (re)learn healthy stress management techniques.

You can try journaling, meditation, hiking, prayer sessions, or spending time with your pets based on your preferences. Mindfulness, specifically mindful breathing, has proven beneficial for managing difficult withdrawal symptoms, from reduced rumination to improved cognitive function, calmness, memory, and morality.

5. Take up a hobby

Taking a hobby has many benefits for your recovery, such as improving your self-esteem as you learn new skills and boosting your sense of accomplishment as you improve.

Hobbies like animal care may help you develop healthier mechanisms for emotional self-regulation. Conversely, hobbies like cooking, pottery, or knitting may be monetized, thus allowing you to start a business.

You may also consider learning a new language, which exercises your memory, improves brain functioning, and opens you up to more interpersonal relationships through group classes.

6. Set manageable goals

It is important to start small when building healthy daily routines in recovery. Setting realistic, achievable goals and practical tasks gives you a faster sense of accomplishment, thus helping you continue. Conversely, setting unrealistic, major goals may become overwhelming and, therefore, a source of anxiety.

Many therapists and recovery specialists recommend manageable tasks, such as making your bed, showering in the morning, and having a healthy breakfast. It is best to avoid more difficult tasks in the early recovery stages, such as taking difficult college classes.

7. Attend support groups

Peer support has been shown to support addiction recovery, showing fewer relapse rates, less risky behavior, and decreased craving for secondary substance abuse. Conversely, treatment engagement increases significantly.

While support from loved ones is essential, support groups such as 12-step programs connect you with people with similar struggles. This gives you perspective, helps you learn from their stories, teaches you healthy human interaction, and motivates you to continue your recovery journey.

Resources:

  1. Kitzinger, R. H., Jr, Gardner, J. A., Moran, M., Celkos, C., Fasano, N., Linares, E., Muthee, J., & Royzner, G. (2023). Habits and Routines of Adults in Early Recovery From Substance Use Disorder: Clinical and Research Implications From a Mixed Methodology Exploratory Study. Substance abuse : research and treatment, 17, 11782218231153843.
  2. (2020). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  3. Ryback, R., M.D. (2016, October 3). The Science of Accomplishing Your Goals. Psychology Today.
  4. Mahboub, N., Rizk, R., Karavetian, M., & de Vries, N. (2021). Nutritional status and eating habits of people who use drugs and/or are undergoing treatment for recovery: a narrative review. Nutrition reviews, 79(6), 627–635.
  5. Pilcher, J. J., Morris, D. M., Donnelly, J., & Feigl, H. B. (2015). Interactions between sleep habits and self-control. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 9, 284.
  6. Wicks, C., Barton, J., Orbell, S., & Andrews, L. (2022). Psychological benefits of outdoor physical activity in natural versus urban environments: A systematic review and meta-analysis of experimental studies. Applied Psychology: Health and Wellbeing, 14(3), 1037-1061.
  7. (2020, January 22). Addiction and Recovery: How Mindfulness May Help. USC University of South California. https://msw.usc.edu/mswusc-blog/addiction-recovery-mindfulness-exercises/
  8. Tracy, K., & Wallace, S. P. (2016). Benefits of peer support groups in the treatment of addiction. Substance abuse and rehabilitation, 7, 143–154. https://doi.org/10.2147/SAR.S81535

Activity History - Last updated: 10 August 2023, Published date:


Reviewer

Morgan Blair

MA, LPC

Morgan is a mental health counselor who works alongside individuals of all backgrounds struggling with eating disorders. Morgan is freelance mental health and creative writer who regularly contributes to publications including, Psychology Today.

Activity History - Medically Reviewed on 05 August 2023 and last checked on 10 August 2023

Medically reviewed by
Morgan Blair

MA, LPC

Morgan Blair

Reviewer

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