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5 CBT Exercises That Can Support Your Addiction Recovery

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widely-known, evidence-based modality that focuses on the intersection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. By learning how to challenge unhealthy thoughts, you can feel and cope better with your life circumstances.

Many therapists implement CBT in their treatment planning. Regardless of whether you're engaging in individual therapy, you can still learn how to integrate CBT exercises into your daily routine. With practice, you should notice some improvements in your mental health. Let's get into some suggestions!

Cognitive Restructuring

Many of us move through our days thinking negatively about ourselves and others. These thoughts are usually automatic, and we often don't recognize their impact until we truly start reflecting on them.

In some cases, we hold onto cognitive distortions that guide our beliefs. Common cognitive distortions include:

  • polarized thinking: the world lies in extremes (always, never, good, bad).

  • personalizing: someone else's behavior was deliberately set against you.

  • fortune-telling: you can control and even predict future events.

  • filtering: you disregard positive news and only focus on negative details.

  • catastrophizing: you assume the worst-case scenario regardless of the evidence.

  • emotional reasoning: believing that feeling a certain way means things are that way.

Cognitive restructuring entails identifying these distortions as they arise throughout your day. Instead of taking them at face value, you will need to practice challenging them.

For example, if you believe, I am always doomed to a relapse, can you think of a time where you didn't relapse when you were triggered? Can you come up with a more realistic thought like, Even though I have relapsed a lot in the past, that doesn't mean I will relapse today.

Activity Scheduling

Following structure can be an essential component of a healthy recovery. Adhering to a consistent schedule keeps you on track and holds you accountable for your goals.

If you feel depressed, anxious, or hesitant in your recovery, take some time to plan some enjoyable activities. Can you arrange to have dinner with a sober friend? What about planning a weekend hike?

Each day, set two self-care activities for yourself. Write them down and check them off as you complete them. Over time, this strategy will remind you of the benefits of treating yourself with compassion.

Relaxation and Mindfulness

How present do you feel in your daily life? Do you take the time to notice your thoughts, feelings, and sensations?

From decreased anxiety to greater self-awareness to reduced chronic pain, here are numerous benefits of practicing mindfulness. The more you prioritize it as a daily habit, the easier this discipline will become.

Start by reflecting on some realistic ways you can become more present. Can you set a time and practice deep breathing for two minutes? Are you willing to take a brief walk- without any electronics or distractions- and just focus on how the air and sunshine feel?


If you ever maintained a diary as a child, you probably know the benefits of releasing your thoughts and feelings on paper. This exercise can feel so fulfilling and cathartic.

If you're concerned you are bad at writing (or don't know how), consider these journaling tips:

  • commit to a certain time each day to write.

  • consider setting a timer and writing for a specified amount of time.

  • invest in a high-quality journal that motivates you to want to write (or use an online app)

  • don't be too rigid or strict about the process!

Journaling is simply a method for tracking your emotions and thoughts. There are no right-or-wrong ways to do this CBT exercise, but consistency is what makes it most effective.

Goal Setting

Goal setting can help you feel eager and excited about your recovery. When you start working towards concrete goals, you tend to notice significant improvements in various areas of your life.

That said, goals need to be specific, realistic, and timely. If you're vague or overly grandiose about what you want to achieve, this pattern can lead to defeat. Instead, it's better to take the time to outline your intentions clearly.

Remember to start small. Break down large goals into small, bite-sized pieces. Even if it feels tiny, try to go a bit smaller. You can always build upon your goals with time.

Then try to set your fears aside. It's normal to have apprehension when making a change. Write down all the reasons why this change still feels worth it. Keep this list accessible and refer to it whenever you need it.

Finally, make your plan! Set deadlines for when you want to accomplish certain steps and reward yourself appropriately after mastering them!

Final Thoughts on Integrating CBT Exercises Into Your Recovery

CBT exercises can help supplement your current recovery routine. They can also augment your treatment with your therapist or life coach.

At The Resurface Group, we value our clients feeling supported and empowered during their healing process. We are here for you and your loved ones. Contact us today to get started on your journey!

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