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Six Ways to Create New Routines after Your Diagnosis

Six Ways to Create New Routines after Your Diagnosis

If you decide to develop the sober routine of running for 35 minutes every morning, ask your neighbor to join you

Receiving a mental health diagnosis can feel like having the rug pulled out from under you, but establishing new routines to account for this diagnosis leads to optimal health in the midst of or perhaps despite the diagnosis. But this is no easy task, as the days’ “what-ifs” build, routines work to reduce their impact.

The Power of Routine

It has been scientifically proven by various neuroscientists that there is a habit loop, in which the brain moves from a conscious choice and focused effort over time to a nearly automatic response. Habits literally move out of the conscious decision making part of the brain and into the automatic response part of the brain. Though not at the same level as breathing or blinking, over time any habit becomes second nature. But it takes time.

You can use this to your advantage as you are trying to recover from the shock and dismay of a new mental health diagnosis. Remembering the power of routines and continuing to develop healthier habits will allow you to build a healthier future, constructed from these healthy habits. In time, these habits will be second nature to you, and will require much less effort.

How to Actually Develop New Routines

Neuroscience aside, developing new routines is not a simple task. There is a reason thousands of people fail to lose weight or stop smoking or exercise more, to the degree that New Years’ Resolutions are almost a joke. But it can be done, if you carefully consider the following six tactics:

  1. Recruit friends to join you in your new habits. There is great power in community, and if this power can be harnessed for good then it can carry you into better routines. For example, if you decide to develop the sober routine of running for 35 minutes every morning, ask your neighbor to join you. This will affect how you approach the task since if you cancel, you will be letting someone down. Beyond that, you will be able to enjoy your neighbor’s company and celebrate milestones or successes together.
  2. Invite people to ask about your progress. Beyond having a partner in a new routine, you can also invite others to ask you about how the new habit is going. If you feel brave, you can even open it up to a broader audience by posting on social media about your goals. This will increase the pressure on you to reach your sober routine goals. One word of warning is to know yourself and your response to stress before taking this broadcast too far. Certain personalities are more likely to implode when faced with the pressure of a public failure. If this might be you, stick with a few close friends.
  3. Visualize your future with this new set of routines. There is profound power is visualizing your own success, and greater power is available as you picture your future with more detail. Many of the greatest athletes mastered this ability, among them Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan. When Jim Carrey was a struggling actor, he imagined exactly how he would respond to his fans when he was one of the most popular comedic actors of his generation. You will find the same motivation and strength if you visualize your own future, in as much detail as possible.
  4. Ease into the routine. Trying to change everything at once can quickly become overwhelming. Instead, choose one of two smaller parts of your routine to change. As you experience success in these small areas, expand your changes. Taking it one piece at a time is typically more successful that a wholesale change.
  5. Use visual cues. This may mean color coding your daily calendar to remind you of the new component of your routine. It could look like sticky notes on the mirror or in other places you will see them regularly. It might even be a checklist on a smartphone app. Regardless of the specific application, having reminders of the routines in front of you will increase your chances of success.
  6. Just don’t quit. This is less a secret or a strategy, and more a mindset. In the same way visualizing your success can lend you power, so can the assumption of accomplishing the task. Instead of wondering if you will be able to set new sober routines, train yourself to begin your thoughts like this: “Once I have established these new routines, then I will…” The intentionality of assuming success trains your brain to expect it, and to take whatever steps are necessary to get there.

A Change in Mindset is Necessary

New routines are difficult for everyone. Yes, your specific challenges as a person with a mental health disorder make it more difficult, but you can overcome. You have to make a choice. You can to choose to be healthy, and to pursue wholeness.

The cost of doing nothing is too high. If this is where you are right now, the most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. We can help you. We can answer your questions. The admission counselors at our toll free, 24 hour helpline can help you learn more about your mental health condition. They can help you find your way.