One of the most important aspects of recovery is learning how to live a steadier, more peaceful life. Making sure your days are structured well will not only reinforce new positive habits, but also help you love and better care for yourself in the end. During my addiction, I was so used to living in chaos that I resisted the idea of any kind of structure for a while. The idea sounded boring and restrictive to me. Fortunately I didn’t give up, and eventually discovered the blessings of a more ordered life.
If you are wondering how to start adding more structure into your life, here are some ideas to use as a starting guide. As these are merely suggestions, be open to finding the best method for yourself as you move ahead to better things.
Note: It may help you to do these exercises with your sponsor or a trusted friend. Look for someone who has formed the kind of healthy lifestyle you’re aiming for. They may have valuable insights and experiences to share. Plus, you’ll feel their supportive energy coming your way.
1. Record yourself.
Write down as accurately as you can all the activities you do for at least one day (preferably two or three) on paper. Put them in the order you do them, and note about how long you spend doing each. I found carrying a small notepad or piece of paper and jotting things down as I go is easier than trying to recall everything at the end of the day.
2. Take a step back.
Sit down and look over your lists (this is where another set of eyes really helps). Notice if there is a logical flow to your day. We all have various things to do and places to be, but it wasn’t until I stopped everything and took a look at exactly what I was doing that I realized just how scattered my to-do lists actually were.
3. Group things together.
Think about how you could organize your activities into groups. For instance, in the area of housecleaning, I decided to work on one room at a time instead of moving all around the house to complete one kind of chore. The same idea applied to my shopping—I planned my trips to include all the stores in a certain location of town. With those seemingly small changes, my days became less stressful and allowed me time to plan activities that nourished me.
4. Review your activities.
Look honestly at how to spend your personal free time. Review your list and ask some questions about each activity you see:
- Is this positive and healthy for me?
- Does doing this encourage me in my recovery?
- Is this moving me toward completing a personal goal?
- Does it leave me feeling relaxed and energized?
I found that some of my habits were little more than time wasters. So I came up with new hobbies, like cooking, and mini-goals that built me up and helped me grow.
Note: Another issue I discovered was my trying to do too much in a day, which often caused me frustration and irritation. If you see this kind of pattern in your daily routine, consider which items on your to-do list could be put off or eliminated altogether.
5. Start fresh.
Take some time to consider all that you’ve learned from your list. Then write out a new list, with any changes or improvements you’d like to make. When I felt confident enough with my “ideal day,” I showed it to a couple of people whose lifestyle I admired. Their feedback helped bring even more clarity and creativity to my thinking.
Once you’ve gone through these steps, it’s time to put your plan into action. Take it slow, especially if you haven’t had a lot of structure in your life up to now. Focus on only one or two small changes each week, and give yourself time to adjust to each. Be aware of any feelings that come up along the way, journaling about them or sharing them. Above all, keep in mind the benefits of adding order to your life: a calmer mind, a more relaxed body, and an easier path to recovery. Having trouble staying on track? Browse our directory of recovery professionals or call 866-606-0182 to get help.