One of the core things that intensive recovery programs, such as residential treatment, provide is a strong and healthy daily routine. You wake up at the same time each day, have meals at specific times, and have a scheduled day jam-packed with interesting activities.
Keeping a daily routine might sound simple, but it is vital, particularly for people in the early stages of recovery.
Why Is It Important To Keep a Regular Routine During Early Recovery?
There are many reasons why it is important to keep a regular routine during early recovery. Below, we have highlighted just a few.
Learning New Skills
When you’re in the early stages of recovery, your brain is learning - and unlearning - a whole load of things.
You’re letting go of maladaptive coping mechanisms like substance use, confronting deep-buried traumatic responses, and ridding yourself of bad health habits. You’re learning new skills, developing new strategies, and carving out a different kind of life for yourself - that’s hard work!
You need to make sure you're giving yourself all the support you need. Having a strong daily routine is one of the best ways you can do so.
Your Body Clock
Humans come with a built-in body clock that tells us what we should be doing at each time in the day. It makes you hungry when it’s time to eat, alert when it’s time to do things, relaxed when it’s time to wind down, and drowsy when it’s time to sleep.
Unfortunately, you can’t program this clock with your mind. It learns through the only way it knows how - through your bodily routine.
For example, if you go to sleep at two o’clock in the morning every day after scrolling through social media feeling upset for hours, then your body will learn that this is what you’ll be doing every day, and it will prime itself accordingly.
Recovery is all about building new habits to support a better life, so it’s important to program your body with the right information that will enable you to keep healthy habits. Your body is where desires and cravings originate. With a positive daily routine, it will work with you, not against you.
It's not just your body you can support with a good routine; it's your mind, too. Executive functioning is the scientific term for the set of brain activities that act as the brain's control center. Executive functioning happens when you decide what to eat for breakfast, when you plan out an activity, and when you decide not to do something harmful even though you desire it.
Just like your body, your brain does not have an unlimited amount of energy to use each day. Your executive functioning skills use up a fair bit of brain energy. If you have to start from scratch every day and decide what you’re going to do with each hour of it, you’re going to find yourself with less energy for the learning and unlearning that is such an essential part of early recovery.
Building a strong routine means you can save up that executive functioning energy for the stuff that really matters.
The Benefits of Keeping a Strong Routine in Early Recovery
Scientists have demonstrated the benefits of keeping a solid routine in early recovery. These include:
- Improved physical health
- Heightened ability to learn new tasks
- Reduced boredom
- Reduced stress
- Better sleep
- Improved sense of security
- Better long-term recovery prospects
So what are you waiting for? Pull out a notepad and pen and get thinking about how you can give yourself a more helpful routine!