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How to Develop Healthy Lifestyle Habits While in Recovery

by Ken Seeley(more info)

listed in detoxification, originally published in issue 259 - January 2020


It’s pretty amazing how great you begin to feel once you have completed detox and rehab. You are pumped to begin a new life in recovery, one that is productive and active, and centered squarely on a healthy sober lifestyle. Your head is clear and a renewed zest for life has replaced the gray days of active addiction.

Establishing new healthy habits will not happen in a snap, as new routines and habits take a few weeks of consistent effort before they begin to stick. Reaching a place where your daily routine reflects who you want to be in recovery is well worth the self-discipline and commitment needed to develop a lifestyle based around wellness.

Keep in mind that developing the framework for sustained sobriety will depend upon not only new healthy habits, but on continuing care efforts that provide the support needed to work through any challenges encountered in early recovery. By integrating healthy habits into aftercare planning, the road is paved for success.


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Women preparing dinner in a kitchen concept dieting healthy food by undrey
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The Mind-Body Connection

Think about the link between how our body feels and our moods. Or vice versa. When we feel anxious or depressed, we lack energy, we have a hard time concentrating, and we don’t sleep well. Likewise, when our body is sick or malnourished, we feel down or moody. This is because the body and mind are intrinsically connected.

Therefore, the key to optimizing overall recovery effects depends on the simultaneous effort to restore health and wellness. Addiction can hijack our health, leaving us feeling depleted and weak. In recovery, there is an opportunity to rebuild ourselves from the inside out through continuing care activities that include psychotherapy, social support, nutrition, and exercise.

Clear scientific evidence exists that the mind-body connection exists. Research centered on the effectiveness of mindfulness training in addiction recovery has demonstrated how this practice can result in reduced stress and improved coping skills that can be successfully integrated into daily life post-treatment.

Establishing new healthy lifestyle habits can actually help sustain sobriety. Being focused on building oneself back up through productive daily habits can be protective against relapse. This may be due to the goal-oriented nature of this endeavor, of setting new personal goals and committing to seeing them through to fruition.

8 Steps for Building a Healthy Lifestyle

At first it may seem odd or unfamiliar, the idea of taking care of your physical and mental health. Too often health is placed on the back burner, with little to no effort made to maintain wellness. As a result, many experience nutritional deficiencies or other health issues that must be addressed. Some of the most common health conditions involve a thiamine deficiency, hypertension, excess weight or being underweight, calcium and magnesium deficiencies, and a compromised immune system.

In recovery the tendency to neglect personal health can be reversed with a concerted commitment to cultivate a new healthy, sober lifestyle. Consistency is important, as developing new healthy habits will take a few weeks before they take root. Sometimes it helps to create a daily ‘to-do’ list to help keep you on track with this endeavour.

At the outset of recovery, even while in rehab, make a blueprint for changing your life. Take it in little chunks, but keep the big picture view of achieving wellness ever present. Set reasonable goals with reasonable timelines. Don’t try to accomplish everything all at once, as this is a recipe for failure. Be patient and continue to move forward just a little bit more each day.

To develop a healthy lifestyle in recovery, lay down some goals, such as:

  1. Create fitness goals. Everyone has his or her own unique take on the best way to approach exercise and fitness. Some people gravitate towards team sports, while others enjoy solo activities. Some may focus on building strength, while others aim to increase stamina. Setting some fitness goals that fit you and your lifestyle is an important step in developing a healthy routine. Make the goals realistic and attainable, while still challenging. Achieving the benchmarks helps build confidence, self-esteem, and a sense of accomplishment, in addition to the many physical and mental health benefits;
  2. Overhaul the diet. By now it is well known that processed salty foods and high sugar intake can have a negative impact on our health. These types of ‘comfort’ foods may have sufficed while in active addiction, but in recovery it is a good idea to rethink your diet. Emphasizing lean proteins, salmon, nuts and seeds, fresh vegetables, and whole grains will yield renewed cellular growth and a stronger immune response. At the same time, restricting fast foods, sodas, and sugary treats will add to the net effect of a new healthy diet;
  3. Learn how to relax. Relaxation techniques are so important in recovery that these activities are usually introduced in rehab as complementary treatment elements. The reason for this is that stress and anxiety are the most common triggers for relapse. Learning how to calm the mind and find inner peace when confronting a triggering situation is critical for relapse prevention. Try different relaxation methods to find the ones that best suit you, such as yoga, meditation, therapeutic massage, acupuncture, and deep breathing;
  4. Feed your mind. With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets it is easy to get swallowed up in the never-ending online distractions. It is so easy to lose hours a day on mind-numbing social media feeds and YouTube videos that do nothing to improve your cognitive skills or knowledge base. In recovery, a healthy lifestyle includes feeding the mind healthy stuff, too. Try committing to reading one book every other month, or subscribing to an interesting podcast, or learning a new skill. Maybe take a class at a local college or an online college course. Join a book club or visit some museums or galleries. Try expanding your horizons and your gray matter at the same time;
  5. Feed your soul. Substance abuse can take over your life. It becomes so pervasive a force that it can obliterate all the interests and passions that once made you who you are. In recovery, an opportunity exists to reclaim those passions and reintroduce them into your life. Once the fog of addiction has cleared, go ahead and consider what activities and hobbies you truly enjoy, that stir your soul. The range of possibilities is endless, whether it is revisiting a passion for art, music, or theater, going back to church, picking up your camera (or phone) to pursue photography, writing a novel, or volunteering at a food bank, just find something that stokes a flame in your heart;
  6. Improve sleep quality. It doesn’t matter how diligent you are about your diet or exercise routine, if you aren’t getting quality sleep on a regular basis you will not be functioning optimally in recovery. The importance of getting good, sound sleep cannot be overstated. Doctors tell us that we need 7 ½-8 ½ hours of solid sleep every night. Identify the factors that are negatively impacting your sleep and make some adjustments. It can be as simple as going to bed at the same time each night, putting the smartphone and laptop away an hour before bedtime, taking a warm bath, avoiding caffeine after mid-day, or spending a short time in meditation;
  7. Tidy up. A messy home environment causes a sense of chaos and stress. Although housekeeping isn’t everyone’s thing, it is important to have order and cleanliness in recovery. Not only does an orderly living space reduces anxiety, a clean house leaves you feeling like you have accomplished something. To incorporate regular chores into the weekly routine, pick just one chore a day or focus efforts on one room per day to avoid becoming overwhelmed. If you simply do not have the time to bother with housework, consider hiring a cleaning service to help you;
  8. Get your finances in order. Another potential source of stress in recovery is financial distress. If there are sufficient income and resources to cover living expenses, just do a financial makeover by outlining the monthly budget, setting up an automatic savings deposit, and focus on paying off debt. If finances are in bad shape, consider meeting with a financial planner who can help you create a sound fiscal plan. If income is not sufficient, double up efforts to land a more lucrative job that will not only produce more income but may offer new career opportunities as well.

Everyone, not only recovering addicts, will benefit from building healthy lifestyle habits. These are universal practices – eating right, exercising, getting good sleep, etc. – that can lead to positive changes in anyone’s life. With regard to addiction recovery, there is much at stake, providing an even bigger incentive to stick with the new healthy lifestyle routines. Embrace a whole new way of experiencing life, free of substances and full of vitality and purpose.


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About Ken Seeley

Ken Seeley CCMI-M CIP is an internationally acclaimed interventionist, having years of experience in this field. Certified as a Board Registered Interventionist-Level 2, Seeley has worked full-time in the business of recovery and intervention since 1989. He is a regular contributor to CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and ABC on the topics of addiction and intervention. He was one of three featured interventionists on the Emmy Award winning television series, Intervention, on A&E. He is also the author of Face It and Fix It, about overcoming the denial that leads to common addictions while bringing guidance to those struggling with addiction. Ken Seeley is the founder and C.E.O. of Ken Seeley Communities, a full spectrum addiction recovery program located in Palm Springs, California. Ken may be contacted via

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