Forming Healthy Habits and Routines

Achieving sobriety is a life-long journey. Even those who have been sober for many years still find they need to update their trigger-response tools, prune their friend group and greater community, and create new habits. Those in the early process of recovery may find this as helpful as those who have been in the journey a long time.

At the outset, learning to live a sober life can seem overwhelming. New, healthy habits will take a while to build, and finding the right routines for your new life can be a bit of a trial-and-error system. There are, however, a few things you can start doing right now that will immediately make an impact. Once you have these basics down, you can continue to refine them until you’ve built a strong, secure set of habits and routines you can utilize for years to come.

Here are four things you can do to start forming healthy habits and routines:

Practice Mindfulness

It’s not always easy to be in the present. Often, our minds travel to the future or the past, worrying about what could happen or what did. It’s a natural part of being human, but it can also cause anxiety and stress.

To combat this, it’s important to practice being mindful of where you are and how you’re feeling in the present moment. If you’re feeling sad, scared, or angry, allow yourself to feel those emotions and recognize how they impact you in the moment. Learn to channel those emotions into something positive, or to just let them go. Don’t go back and revisit negativity.

Bring your focus inward. Count your breaths. Feel your physical self, alive in whatever space you’re in. Try to take yourself away from whatever the past or future is making you feel, and concentrate on your body and your mind in the present.

Eat Well and Exercise

Your body deserves to be treated kindly and with respect—it’s the only one you have. One of the best ways to build a healthier, happier body into sobriety is to begin an exercise regimen. If you’re unaccustomed to exercising, start small and find an activity that makes you feel good and you enjoy.

Lift weights, do yoga, swim, bike, go for walks or runs—whatever you do, make it something you can commit to doing 2-3 times per week.

In addition to exercise, eat healthy food as often as you can. Your body and mind will heal better when you feed it nutritious meals. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and, if you haven’t already, practice cooking! For some people, cooking dinner can be therapeutic and calming. Enjoy the time it provides you to concentrate on the present moment and feel great about creating a routine you know will help you heal and grow.

Build a Positive Community

Finding new friends and growing your network of safe, supportive people takes time. Moreover, removing those people who aren’t supportive can be difficult and painful. But, taking the time to build a community of people who understand your limitations, want to help you move forward, and love you despite what may have happened in the past will be a great asset in your march toward life-long sobriety.

With this community, you’ll have a group of people who you can feel comfortable spending time with. If possible, you may also ask your community to help you when times get tough—because they likely will—and lean on them for support.

If you feel guilt and shame about how you’ve treated friends and family in the past, you may feel the urge to disappear into solitude. Resist it. Reach out to those who you want in your life, acknowledge your mistakes, and ask them to move forward alongside you.

Set Goals

Goal setting may be the most important thing you can do as a person new to sobriety. The best part about it? They’re totally up to you.

Your goals can be anything, but the best ones are always specific, measurable, and attainable. For example, a goal to “only have good days,” is pretty difficult to measure. It’s also probably impossible to attain. Even people who’ve never struggled with substance abuse have difficult days.

Instead, think of something like this: Every night, I will journal about what I did and how I felt during the day.

Once you have a few goals, break them down into steps and take pride in achieving even the smallest win. Your celebrations for strength and tenacity should be a consistent part of your habits and routines.

Enjoy the simple fact you’re doing your best to reclaim your life.