Practicing healthy living may seem daunting, but the most critical aspect of healthy living is taking everything one step at a time. Once you’ve committed to sobriety, you may find that you have more time available. To reduce your chances of a relapse, you’ll want to fill that time with healthy activities, whether that’s going for a run a few times a week or practicing mindfulness.
Before starting on your healthy living journey, ask yourself why you’re choosing these activities. You are more likely to stick with them if you feel strongly about them, rather than if you think you should or because someone told you to. Everyone is different, and you shouldn’t force yourself to do something because it’s healthy. Some people benefit hugely from meditating, while others find that mental clarity during a jog.
Here are some tips to help you practice healthy living and maintain your sobriety in a healthy, safe fashion.
1. Get Moving
Many people want to get more active but often set their goals too high and quickly become disillusioned. If you push yourself to run a 5K and then can’t walk for the next week, you may do more harm than good. Instead, commit to a small, obtainable goal. Use a step counter and aim to hit 8,000-10,000 steps a day.
You can also set a goal of moving for 30 minutes a day, whether walking, doing yoga, or following a body exercise routine. As you get stronger, you can increase your exercise intensity by running for 10 of your 30 minutes or choosing a more strenuous yoga class.
2. Make a Schedule
Living healthy isn’t just about getting your heart pumping. Many people benefit from having a daily schedule, which helps them keep on top of deadlines and appointments. Doing this can reduce the chances you’ll become overwhelmed.
Whether you use a paper calendar or your phone, you can schedule a regular wake-up time that gives you space to make a nice breakfast, workout and get to work with plenty of time to spare. Try to eat your meals at similar times each day and set a regular time to wind down for bed.
This kind of schedule is important if you work from home because having a set schedule keeps your mind and body on-track, even if you don’t have to commute.
3. Stay in Touch with Your Sponsor
One of the best ways to stay sober is by keeping in touch with your sponsor and therapist. If you feel overwhelmed or have noticed some signs t hat you may relapse, get in touch with them immediately.
Staying in regular contact with your sponsor can help you recognize relapse warning signs sooner. They may recommend you work with a therapist who can give you healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with cravings.
Even if you can’t physically meet with your sponsor or attend in-person meetings, you can stay connected online.
4. Drink More Water
Even mild dehydration can cause you problems, including tiredness, lack of focus, and headaches. Especially if you’ve started exercising recently, you may need to increase your water intake.
Many organizations recommend that you drink eight cups of water daily. However, if you are breastfeeding, exercising a lot, unwell, or in a hot environment, you may need to drink more than that.
Try tracking the number of glasses you drink or always have a full water bottle near your desk. You may find it easier to focus and will probably have more energy to take on your day.
5. Take Time for Yourself
When you decide to practice healthy living, you might focus on the physical aspects, like eating better and exercising. However, taking time for yourself is just as critical to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
How you use this time is up to you. If you love video games, set aside several hours a week to immerse yourself in your favorite game. For avid readers, give yourself permission to spend the evenings with your favorite books. Netflix enthusiasts can settle down on the couch with a pizza and a new series.
Whatever your activity of choice, keep this time open on the calendar. It’s important to give yourself time to wind down and relax, especially in busy, stressful weeks.
6. Schedule Time With Your Friends and Family
One of the warning signs of relapse is increased isolation. Staying connected with your family and friends will help your mental health and keep you on your sobriety track. Your support circle is an important part of your recovery, and you should make time to connect with them.
While you may not be unable to meet in-person, you can schedule an online board games night or just have a long Skype session.
7. Start Cooking
Eating healthy can come in many forms. While some people try fad diets to lose weight and become healthier, these often result in yo-yoing between eating too little and binging, eventually gaining back all the lost weight.
Instead of suddenly reducing your calories or cutting out all carbs, try slowly changing your diet to include home-cooked meals. Many prepared meals, like ramen, frozen pizza, or restaurant dishes, contain a high amount of sodium, which can increase your chance of developing chronic diseases.
By cooking your own meals, you can choose to include less sodium, increase your protein intake, or add more vegetables. Cooking can also be a fun experience, allowing you to explore new cultures through their foods. Once you’ve nailed the basics, try challenging yourself with new foods. Explore vegetarian cooking for a week, or focus on including leafy vegetables in your meals for at least one month.
You can also use cooking to connect with your area by using local produce, which is fresher and may keep more of its vitamins than frozen or transported foods.
8. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is all about letting go and refraining from judgment. You might feel lingering emotions from your past or experience stress from your current work. With mindfulness, you can let go of all those emotions through breathing exercises, and for 10 or 15 minutes, just let your mind relax.
Many of us judge ourselves intensely for mistakes we’ve made in the past. While we can’t ignore our pasts, mindfulness can help us find a way to live with them. There are several mindfulness apps, which guide you through the exercises.
If you find it challenging in the beginning, stick with it for a few weeks. If it hasn’t helped after that, you can speak with your therapist or sponsor to see if there are different exercises to help you find focus and inner peace.
Be Kind To Yourself
Starting a new healthy living journey is difficult. You may slip along the way. However, you can use every misstep to learn and make your future journey easier. Be kind, and remember that the most important thing is to pick yourself up after a fall and try to avoid your past mistakes in the future.
Native of Moldova, Dr. Zhitar is Board Certified in Addiction Medicine as well as Internal Medicine and completed his training at UPMC Shadyside, Pittsburgh, PA in 2000.