Healthy Habits to Help Manage Sobriety
by: Michelle Peterson
One of the most effective and sustainable ways to encourage sobriety is by replacing bad habits with healthy ones. It may sound overly simplistic, and every person reacts differently in recovery, but by leaving less room in your life for the bad, there is only room for the good to thrive. There are countless numbers of positive activities that we could do, but many of us veer toward the easier path of quicker rewards. We drink because it makes us feel good, at least while we are drunk. We eat fast food rather than exercising because we’re tired and hungry, and we just want comfort.
We all know healthy habits are better than taking the easy road, but how do we make the successful leap to sustainable change? The answer requires an understanding of how habits develop and how we can control them with a little work.
Stages of a habit
Any habit, be it good or bad, follows three simple stages. These are the reminder, routine, and reward stages:
● Reminder. This stage is the cue for our habit. No matter what the habit, something triggers it to be reintroduced in our lives. This can include a morning alarm or walking past your favorite bar.
● Routine. This is the action that you take—the thing you do (e.g., putting on exercise clothes or stopping in for a drink).
● Reward. This is the benefit you get from the habit (e.g., a quick morning run with your dog or getting drunk and blowing off steam about your job).
The pattern is the same whether the end result is good or bad. Breaking a bad habit requires that we first understand these stages. A drink is not necessarily a bad thing, but needing one daily after work in order to deal with your job or marriage is most definitely not a good thing.
In order to break a bad routine, you have to identify alternatives when your cue arises. Can you relieve stress after work by having coffee with a friend? Will discussing your problems produce a solution better than drowning in them?
Breaking the Habit
Breaking a bad habit also requires committing to change and being persistent in your ability to reevaluate your habits and replacements down the road. You must also anticipate setbacks. Although the ideas are simple, human behavior and the reward system are complex. People have different needs that are deep rooted and can have numerous origins. There is no magic cure, but there is help in knowing your personal bad-habit stages.
For those struggling with sobriety, there may be a shortcut of sorts. If you identify a reward as getting drunk, for example, you may be able to find an activity that similarly rewards you while not being physically, mentally, and emotionally destructive. Exercise, for example, has been shown to produce euphoria and endorphins similar to that which results from getting high. In addition to working out, the following may be substitutes for intoxication:
● Yoga. This is also exercise, but the rewards include relaxation and mindfulness.
● Hobbies. Many addicts have found success in occupying themselves with a rewarding hobby in lieu of using substances. Hobbies are an important part of life in general, contributing to a more well-rounded life.
● Self-care. Attending to oneself through doing enjoyable activities aimed at increasing comfort can be a way to replace euphoria.
● Rest. Slowing down may be a path for a reward. Stress amplifies when we don’t get enough sleep, so slowing down and treating ourselves to a good night in bed may be better than any high.
To maintain your sobriety, it’s crucial that you replace bad habits with healthy ones. Sobriety can thrive in healthy habits as long as we remember all stages of the habit cycle and ensure that we understand why we act habitually and what the consequences may be of our actions.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
by: Michelle Peterson
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