8 Simple Steps to Create a Healthy Daily Routine in Recovery

It seems to be common knowledge that having some kind of routine during the day is a setup for success, especially in early recovery. 

The truth is, we all have some kind of routine, whether it’s one that leads to our own health or harm. Before recovery, daily routines usually lead to self-destructive behaviors, which is one of the reasons it’s so important to establish something new and different in sobriety. That old routine, says Lynette Mitchell, interim director of nursing at Laguna Treatment Hospital, can trip us up: “A new routine in recovery is so important because so much of relapse can be triggered by (old) routine,” Mitchell explains. 

Driving by the same liquor store every day or continuing to hang out in spaces where people are actively drinking can cause those in recovery problems down the line.

“In recovery, routine helps with much-needed structure as well”, says Derek Price, CEO of Desert Hope Treatment Center. “When individuals shift away from a lifestyle of substance use, they will often need something to fill the gap,” he explains. “A daily routine can limit idle hours, provide structure for the day, and create a sense of accomplishment as tasks are completed.” So how do you go about setting up a healthy routine that supports your recovery? We’ve got 8 easy steps to follow based on expert advice.

1. Don’t change it all at once

We often think that big, sweeping change is needed to make a difference, but the truth is that this approach can cause overwhelm. “Think about New Year’s resolutions,” Mitchell says. “People commit themselves to these huge lifestyle changes and most of the time, it’s all back to normal within two weeks.” Instead of looking at your current situation and changing everything at once, focus on small changes like changing the route you take home if you drive past a liquor store.

2. Figure out what you neglected

Because of the way alcohol alters brain chemistry, many people neglect simple necessities when drinking. One way to create a healthy routine is to take stock of what you might have been missing before recovery.

Maybe you stopped brushing your teeth in the mornings because it made you nauseous. Maybe you stayed out way later than you wanted to. Maybe hydration took a backseat to alcohol or it’s been a while since you moisturize your skin. All of these things are simple and set the stage for a healthy routine. 

3. Focus on what’s easy 

Seriously. Don’t worry about coming up with the perfect morning routine right from the start. It’s not important that you have every hour of your week planned out. What is important is that you start to add in healthy habits, and that you’re consistent. The easiest way to do this is to focus on what’s easy. Look around and figure out what would be easy to implement. Do you need to set your alarm just 15 minutes earlier so you can do some deep breathing?

“A simple task such as making your bed every day is a great way to start,” says Price. The goal isn’t a complete overhaul on day one. The goal is sustainability so that you build a routine that supports your recovery.

4. Add in exercise

One of the single most important ways to build a healthy routine daily is to add in exercise. No, you don’t have to hit the gym for an hour five days a week or commit to a 90-minute yoga class every afternoon. You can start with something as simple as a walk around the block.

“Exercise can also be a powerful coping mechanism for navigating stressful situations that can put sobriety at risk,” says Price. “Even a walk around the block can make a difference because exercise releases endorphins and serotonin, and acts as a natural mood enhancer.”

Start with that walk around the block and see what happens. You might find that, after a while, you want to add in more exercise. 

5. Take a look at what you’re eating

Long-term alcohol use can alter our body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. After someone stops drinking, it’s helpful to make an effort to replenish these nutrients. There are even certain foods to eat while detoxing from alcohol. Part of a healthy routine in recovery is taking a look at what you put into your body.

“Bodies operate at optimum when we’re fueling it properly,” explains Mitchell. “Substance use disorders wreak havoc on our bodies, and proper nutrition is crucial to the body’s healing.” Remember that these changes should be small so that you can build consistency. Ask yourself what’s one thing you could do differently on a daily basis to fuel your body well.

“It doesn’t have to be intense,” Mitchell says. “Just add in an extra serving of fruits or veggies to start.”

Small steps add up. 

"The best foods to eat when you stop drinking: cucumber, broccoli, nuts, oatmeal, legumes, yogurt, leafy greens, salmon, cayenne"

6. Step back into the past

Typically, we don’t dwell too much on the past in recovery, but it’s important to take a step back from time to time. Various reasons for doing so include taking stock of how far you’ve come and looking at patterns of behavior. 

When it comes to forging a healthy routine, looking back can also inform what that routine looks like for you.

“I often tell people to think about things you enjoyed doing before substance use took over their life,” said Mitchell.

Did you enjoy writing or reading? What about painting or improv or board games? The perfect time to rediscover old hobbies is while building a new routine to support your recovery. You might find that you don’t enjoy whatever it was you used to, and that’s okay. You can experiment with many options and see what sticks.

7. Start and end the day well

Set yourself a consistent time to wake up and go to sleep. Whether workday or weekend, the more consistent you are with when you wake up and when you go to bed, the better.

This, said Mitchell, allows you to start your day in control. 

“You get to start and end on a strong note,” she said.

Giving yourself some time each morning and each night—away from the daily responsibilities and tasks—also helps your brain unwind. Maybe you have the luxury of an uninterrupted 15 minutes in the morning where you can practice some deep breathing or read or meditate. Maybe in the evening you can light a candle, turn on an episode of your favorite show, or take a bath. 

As with all of the other tips, this one doesn’t have to be extravagant or perfect either. And it needs to fit your life. If you start your day super early for work or have kids, you might just have an extra five minutes in the morning to breathe deeply while still laying in bed. That can still have a meaningful impact.

8. Be open to change

Treat finding your perfect daily routine as trial and error in the beginning. Not everything is going to work the way you think it might. Try different things at different times. If something is more of a chore than a joy, cut it out if you can. 

Soon enough, you’ll find a groove that works. Being open to change is a short-term and a long-term game. As life goes on, circumstances change, and your routine will change right along with it. 

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

About the Author

Randy SmithRandy graduated from Pitzer College with a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies. This educational foundation has been instrumental in their approach to content creation, allowing them to craft narratives that are engaging and deeply impactful for readers seeking guidance and support in their recovery process. Randy has a rich background in media studies and a profound commitment to mental health and addiction recovery, making significant contributions to Monument's content strategy. Starting as an Editorial Consultant in October 2020, they quickly rose to a full-time role, leveraging their skills to produce insightful content that resonated with individuals on their recovery journey. As a Content Associate and later as a Content Manager, Randy's work focused on providing resources to help individuals understand and navigate the challenges of sobriety. Collaborating with licensed therapists, they developed articles that were informative but also empathetic and supportive. Randy's pieces, particularly on managing sobriety during holidays and overcoming self-sabotaging behaviors, have been invaluable in guiding many towards positive steps in their treatment journey. Randy's tenure at Monument was marked by a deep dedication to empowering individuals with the knowledge and tools necessary for recovery. Their work in content management played a pivotal role in shaping the narrative around addiction recovery, offering hope and practical advice to those in need.