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  • Writer's pictureCindy Engelstad B.A. ICF

Building New Habits in Recovery

Author: Cindy Engelstad B.A. ICF

Lady walking in the leaves

While moving through recovery, you will likely begin to change old habits and create new habits for yourself. On average, 60% of the things that people do today, they did yesterday and typically they’ll do it again tomorrow. As people, that is what we do, as we tend to be creatures of habit! Creating a new habit can be challenging, especially when we are replacing old behaviours with new ones. Often people are able to start a new habit, but lose momentum before it becomes a new, automatic way of being. Consistency comes from not only changing the behaviour, but also changing the thinking around the behaviour.


Here are some tips for building new habits and keeping consistent with them: 

  • Get to know your process of learning.

  • Slow down – break the new habit into manageable steps. 

  • Be mindful of all-or-nothing thinking that may sabotage your efforts. 

  • Focus on one day at a time. 

  • Be mindful of perfectionistic expectations. 

  • Let go of rules you may have created around the new habit. 

  • Experiment and explore with patience and curiosity – practise trial and error with the new habit. 

  • Reframe assumptions of failure.

  • Consider your values and how this habit will help you live them out. 

  • Practise the new habit mindfully. 

  • Focus on the intention and reasoning behind the new habit. 

  • Bring awareness to the old pattern, and practise purposeful action of the new pattern. 

  • Persevere through the growing pains of building a new habit. 

  • Rework comparisons with others who may engage in similar behaviours. 


Here are some questions to ask yourself as you begin to think about the new habits you want to bring in during your recovery:

  • What is the new habit I’d like to cultivate?

  • Why is this important? What values will I be practising with this new habit?

  • What is realistic to expect of myself when learning this new habit?

  • What are some steps I can take to start practising this new habit today?

  • What strengths do I have that can help me with practising this new habit?


Often we want to adopt and change many habits as once, which can then become a source of overwhelm which can then lead to loss of momentum. Another strategy that can help is considering the one habit at a time approach. Consider, what is one habit you can start? One habit you can stop? And one habit you can change?


Building new habits takes time, patience and self-compassion but it can be done and will serve you in your recovery journey.

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