How to Quit Comparing Yourself to Others and Focus On Recovery

How to Quit Comparing Yourself to Others and Focus On Recovery

We all compare ourselves to others sometimes, but for the sake of your recovery, it would be great if you could do it less. Several studies have linked participants’ tendency to make social comparisons to bad outcomes such as envy, resentment, lying, anxiety, and depression. When you consider that most people recovering from addiction already have co-occurring mental health issues, comparing your progress to others certainly doesn’t help matters. These comparisons are never accurate anyway since everyone has different needs and personal attributes, to begin with. Comparison can make you focus on the wrong things and it can turn recovery into a competition when it’s far better for everyone to see recovery as a cooperative effort. 

 

While the evidence is clear that comparisons are bad for your mental health and recovery, it’s often hard to break the habit. The following tips will help you compare yourself to others less and feel better in general.

 

Cut Down on Social Media

Social media is like a machine for generating unhealthy comparisons. A number of studies have linked more social media use to a greater risk of anxiety and depression. One study asked participants to cut down on their social media use for three weeks to see if it improved their mental health. In the study, 140 participants were divided into two groups. One continued their normal social media use and the other was asked to limit their social media use to just 30 minutes a day. Both filled out questionnaires about their mental health at the beginning and the end of the study. It turned out that the group that limited their social media use felt much better at the end of the study, reporting significantly less depression and loneliness. 

 

Remember That You’re Not Seeing the Whole Picture

Most of us have a hard time not believing our eyes. When we see our acquaintances’ nice pictures on Facebook or the confident way someone presents themselves, it’s hard to believe the reality might be different or more complicated than what we’re seeing. You may have heard the apt analogy that comparing your life to what you see on social media is like comparing your blooper reel to other people’s highlight reels. We always try to present ourselves in the best possible light, while being all too aware of our own doubts, flaws, and mistakes. However, when it comes to other people, we are too ready to believe that what we see is all there is. Never forget that everyone has their own struggles, weaknesses, frustrations, and disappointments, even if we have no clue what they might be.

 

Focus on Your Goals and Values

Part of the problem with comparing your progress to others’ is that not everyone has the same needs in recovery. This can lead you to focus on the wrong things. Just comparing yourself to someone else is a hollow way of measuring your progress. A more effective way is to keep your goals and values clear in your mind as you work on staying sober. So, for example, a lot of people decide to get sober because they realize their drinking and drug use is hurting their family. Keeping that value in mind will help guide your decisions both in recovery and life. You may set specific goals with these values in mind. These will look different for everyone but as you become more attuned to what you really want, you can judge your activity in recovery by whether it brings you more in line with your goals and values. Judge your progress on whether you’re making headway towards your specific goals and whether you are making improvements from day-to-day.

 

Practice Gratitude

One reason comparisons make you feel bad is that they reinforce a sense of lack. Someone has something you don’t have and you feel inadequate. One antidote to this is to focus on gratitude for what you do have. There are two easy ways to get into the habit of gratitude. The first is to write down a few things each day that you felt grateful for. They could be big or small. This practice gets you in the habit of noticing the good things in life. The second way is to write a gratitude letter. Pick something you never properly thanked someone for and write a letter describing what they did and what it meant to you. After you write it, you can decide whether or not to deliver it. Studies have found that this makes people feel happier for about a month.

 

Look for Inspiration, Not Validation

Looking at what others are doing is not inherently bad. It’s only bad when we become judgmental or use it to determine our own value. When someone in your sober network succeeds, it’s good for you too. It shows you can rise above addiction and live a good life. You can also learn from that person. On the other hand, if you see someone struggling, see if there is something you can do for them. Lifting up the people around you strengthens your recovery too and reinforces the fact that you’re all in this together. 

 

Use Envy to Grow

Even if you do everything right by avoiding social media, staying focused on your own goals, and so on, you will occasionally feel a pang of envy. This can either lead you in a bad direction in which you struggle with resentment and feelings of inadequacy or it can lead you in a more positive direction of self-awareness. Wanting things is not necessarily bad; you just have to take some time to reflect on why you want what someone else has. For example, if someone in your 12-Step group has just gotten a job that you envy, what makes you envious? Is it the money? Is it the status? Is it the nature of the work itself? The aim of the work? These kinds of questions can help you clarify what you really value.

 

Comparisons are not good for your recovery or anyone else’s. To compare yourself to others less, start by avoiding social media and other situations that actively promote comparison. Beyond that, get in touch with your personal values and use them to guide your efforts. Perhaps most importantly, keep in mind that recovery is not a race. No one’s success diminishes your own and, in fact, the opposite is true. Be of service when you can and remember that you’re all on the same team. 

 

At Enlightened Solutions, we know that joy and connection are essential elements in a strong recovery. We emphasize individualized, holistic care for long-term success. For more information, call us today at 833-801-LIVE.


gratitude letter

How to Keep a Positive Outlook When Recovering from Addiction

When recovering from addiction or even when considering getting sober, a positive attitude is a huge asset. For one thing, it’s hard to put much effort into recovery if you don’t think it’s possible. Optimism also enhances the quality of your recovery. Studies have shown that optimism has many benefits, including a more engaged style of coping and less avoidance, more goal-oriented behavior, more resilience, and even better health. 

 

Unfortunately, most people considering entering addiction treatment or just beginning recovery aren’t burdened with an excess of optimism. The decision to seek help typically comes at a personal low point, when they can no longer ignore the seriousness of their substance use issues. What’s more, many people with substance use issues also struggle with co-occurring depression and anxiety disorders, neither of which are conducive to positive thinking. 

 

If that describes you, there is still hope. While some of our optimism is determined by genes and childhood experiences, a lot of it comes down to our thinking and behavior and we can learn to be more optimistic with persistent practice. Here are some tips for seeing the glass as half full.

 

Change Your View of Optimism

If you’re currently a pessimist, one of the biggest challenges to being more optimistic is that you probably have a mental image of optimists as naive and perhaps slightly irritating people – Pollyannas who are just one good deed away from getting taken for all they have. The reality is a bit more complicated. First, it’s important to realize that we are all, to varying degrees, risk averse because erring on the side of caution helps us survive. However, the reason optimists exist and often thrive is that we need to accept some level of risk to survive and grow. If you are too pessimistic, not only are you exaggerating threats more than average, you’re limiting your opportunities. A more clear-eyed view of optimism is to think of it as seeing the possibilities and the threats and not just the threats.

 

Accept Challenging Emotions

Another common misconception about optimism or positivity is that it means rarely or never experiencing negative emotions. In reality, that’s impractical. We all feel sad, angry, frustrated, depressed, bored, anxious, afraid, and jealous sometimes. Often these are normal and healthy reactions to common life events. What’s not helpful is to believe these emotions are inherently wrong or bad. When you try to suppress these emotions or criticize yourself for feeling them, you only end up feeling worse. In fact, studies show that  people who are most accepting of their emotions tend to have fewer depressive symptoms and less negative affect when under stress. Positivity is not about feeling good all the time but rather about knowing things can get better.

 

Three Good Things

This is an exercise recommended by positive psychology pioneer Martin Seligman. The idea is simple: each night before you go to bed, write down three things that went well that day and why they went well. This helps shift your attention from the bad things, which we naturally pay more attention to, to things that are going well or that we did well.

 

Practice Gratitude

Gratitude, like optimism, has been shown to have many benefits, including better health, better sleep, better relationships, greater well-being, and more optimism. There are primarily two ways to cultivate gratitude. The first is similar to the “three good things” exercise above, except that you write down three things you’re grateful for. They can be big things or small things. 

 

The other big gratitude practice is to write a gratitude letter. Think of something someone has done for you that you haven’t adequately thanked them for. Write a letter describing what it was and what it meant to you. Then, you can either deliver the letter in person or not. Researchers at Stanford found that writing gratitude letters helped reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in participants, even if they didn’t deliver the letter. However, if you do decide to deliver it, it can be a nice little boost for your relationship.

 

Examine Your Thinking

As noted above, being more optimistic isn’t necessarily a matter of exclusively seeing the positive, but rather enlarging your view to include the positive as well as the negative. Many of our cognitive biases cause us to take an excessively negative view of the world and ourselves. For example, many people are afflicted by the cognitive distortion of catastrophizing, the belief that some outcome will be indescribably awful. For example, your boss criticizes something you did at work, so you instantly assume you’ll get fired and end up homeless. In reality, we don’t really know what will happen, but most of the time, it’s not that bad. 

 

Positivity researchers have identified two particular traits of optimists: when good things happen, they assume they are responsible for them and that good things will continue to happen in the future. When bad things happen, they assume circumstances are to blame and they will fare better under different circumstances. Pessimists are the exact opposite. They see good things as accidents and bad things as the normal state. The truth, of course, lies somewhere in the middle, but it’s certainly to your advantage to think of failures as the result of temporary circumstances.

 

Keep Positive Company

Finally, a lot of your attitude depends on who you spend time with. If you spend time with positive people, you are more likely to be positive and if you spend time with negative people, you are more likely to be negative. This is one reason a sober network is such a huge asset. A 12-Step meeting is a place you can go regularly and be assured that you will be surrounded by people focused on sobriety. 

 

No one can be positive all the time. Even the most optimistic people who have ever lived have faced setbacks they didn’t know if they could ever overcome. Often, it comes down to a willingness to keep trying. At Enlightened Solutions, we know that recovery is a journey and how it goes depends a lot on your outlook. That’s why we emphasize a holistic approach and a positive environment. To learn more about our programs, explore our website or call us today at 833-801-LIVE.


Gratitude as a Remedy for Anger

Gratitude as a Remedy for Anger

Anger is a part of the human experience, and those of us with addictions and mental health issues often find ourselves having tumultuous relationships, stressful conflicts, and other tough interpersonal issues.

When someone angers us, we have a tendency to react with aggression and hostility. We yell, we scream, we punch holes in walls, we break things, we abuse each other.

Some of us shut down and respond to our anger with silence, detachment, distance and/or isolation. We cut people off. We stop talking to them altogether. We end lifelong relationships and never speak to family and friends again.

We often hurt the people we love the most. We consciously or unconsciously trigger each other’s sensitivities and pain. We carry grudges. We are most impacted by the hurts brought on by our loved ones, because it is with them we feel the strongest connection. Anyone can anger us, but when our close family and friends hurt us, it often affects us in deeper, more personal, more impactful ways.

One way to manage our anger is to intentionally switch our focus to gratitude. Our loved ones often give us a lot to be grateful for. They have supported and cared for us, helped us. They gave us life. We could put our energy towards focusing on all the things we’re grateful for about them. This can help a lot, especially in moments of heightened pain and anger. To do this, we are essentially meditating and praying on gratitude.

“I am grateful to you. I am grateful for all the ways you’ve loved me and helped me. I love you.”

This process doesn’t mean we forget how they’ve wronged us. It doesn’t mean we condone their behavior, or that we let them off the hook. It doesn’t replace the work of resolving the conflict, which can be some of the most difficult work we’ll ever do in our lives- it hurts!

For many of us, the people we’re most angry with hurt and abused us to the point where we can’t find much to be grateful to them for. We can focus our gratitude on how strong and resilient we are. We’ve endured so much and are still here. We haven’t given up. “I am grateful to be the person I am.”

Gratitude is like a soothing remedy. It helps us to relieve some of the pain as we heal our wounds. We can find a lot of comfort in choosing to focus on gratitude. We can even find gratitude in the situation. “What can I learn from this? What wisdom will this bring me?” We can choose to see our pain as a blessing. The lessons it brings can be huge transformational gifts in our lives.

Our healing and recovery benefit greatly from working with our emotions holistically. The community at Enlightened Solutions can help you process your difficult emotions, relationships and experiences. Call (833) 801-LIVE.


Gratitude Practice as a Tool for Depression

Gratitude Practice as a Tool for Depression

If you search online for ways to deal with depression, one of the things you’ll find highly recommended is starting a gratitude practice. In our daily lives, we tend to take things for granted, the blessings of our families and friends, having a roof over our heads, having enough to eat. Depression can be exacerbated by focusing on everything that is going wrong in our lives, rather than all the things that are going right. Gratitude can help change some of the mental thought patterns that contribute to depression such as a scarcity mindset rather than an abundance mindset- feeling like you never have enough can be transformed into being grateful for everything you have. You have eyesight to read these words, you are able to read, you have a mind working to process and understand. You can choose to be grateful for anything and everything. With gratitude, painful experiences become lessons learned, challenges become opportunities for growth and empowerment.

When you first wake up, when you go to sleep, and/or throughout the day, try listing some of the things you feel grateful for. If you’re depressed or anxious, this might be really hard to do, but try. Maybe the sun is shining, and even if you’re feeling too depressed to go outside, even saying the words “I am grateful for sunshine” might spark the motivation to put your face in the sun, even for just a few minutes. Any steps you can take will help, and gratitude can often be the catalyst. If you woke up in a comfortable bed with pillows and blankets, or got enough sleep, or are waking up in order to get to work, be thankful for anything and everything- the bed, the pillows, the sheets, the blankets, the job you have that allows you to pay for the things you need, the family you’re supporting by going to that job, the love you feel for your family. Be grateful you got to eat today. Be grateful you made it home safe. Be grateful there are people out there who care about you and want you to be happy.

Positive thinking isn’t always easy, especially when we’re depressed and giving up hope, but try, and keep trying. The more you practice looking for things you’re grateful for, the more your mind will naturally direct itself to find more things to be grateful for. Gratitude helps program our minds to start seeing the good in things automatically. Having the energy of gratitude opens you up to receiving even more blessings. When we are feeling down and defeated, simply saying “Thank You” for the blessings we have can transform our energy and help lift us out of depression.

Let Enlightened Solutions help you discover new ways of healing. Call (833) 801-LIVE.


substance abuse addiction treatment new jersey

Working Through Grief When Losing Someone To Addiction

Addiction is a deadly disease. Without help or treatment, it can claim a life in a flash. Overdose is now a more common cause of death in America than car crashes and gun violence. Accidental deaths due to alcohol abuse is common. Drugs and alcohol kill people every single day.

Recovery can be a lifelong trend. Relapse does not have to be part of your story once you decide to get sober. Unfortunately, for many people, it is. Relapse is dangerous not just because you go back out to drugs and alcohol, but because there is no guarantee you will come back. When you have been in treatment and recovery for even a few weeks, you start to understand the magnitude of staying sober. One by one, you will witness people decide that sobriety is too much for them and that they would rather go back out and use their substances of choice. Some of them will come back eventually. Many of them will die. Problematically, most people think that after detoxing their body and spending weeks sober, they can return to drinking and using the way they did before getting sober. Their bodies are not equipped to handle the toxicity of the drugs and alcohol. Overdose happens more quickly than it would have before. Coping with grief and loss is a sad part of being in recovery. Tragically, learning to cope with the grief of losing a friend in recovery is a necessary skill.

Reflect On Your Relationship

Friendships have varying degrees in recovery, but that never makes the reality of the loss any less devastating. Each day sober is a gift which should be cherished. Watching a friend die to relapse is a reminder of the seriousness of the disease. Some friends are acquaintances you knew by name from meetings. Others are people you hang out with on a regular basis. Even more can be close friends and confidants. Reflect on your relationship with them and what they meant to you, your recovery, and your experience in sobriety.

Find Gratitude For Your Recovery

Your relationship to your recovery is one of the most important things to focus on when grieving a friend who has passed away due to addiction and alcoholism. Though your life might not look the way you want it to and things are difficult, you are sober today and that is crucial to your survival.

Take Time To Grieve

Grieving is a process. After learning the news of a friend’s passing, there is no need to hide the wealth of emotions you will be experiencing. Take the time you need to cry, feel afraid, feel sorrow, and call a friend. These are healthy emotions you need to let out in a safe and structured way.

You don’t have to lose your life to addiction. You can gain your life through recovery. Enlightened Solutions is here to bring compassion back into your life through integrative treatment and healing. For more information on our programs, call 833-801-5483.


Two Easy Ways to Reduce Negative Emotions

One of the most challenging and unattractive parts of recovery to many people is feelings. Feeling feelings is difficult for the first time when drugs and alcohol aren’t present. Some feelings are associated with traumas and stories of a painful past which hasn’t been reckoned with. Learning to manage negative emotions is a necessary survival skill for lifelong sobriety. Here are two methods which are proven on a neurological scale to help.

 

Gratitude

We hear a lot about gratitude in early recovery. As if it is the new drug du jour, people are always talking about gratitude lists, gratitude journals, and being grateful all the time. It is the “attitude of gratitude” as it is commonly said, which keeps people sober. In terms of recovery and the spiritual solution provided by the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, this makes sense. Resentments, as highlighted in the fourth step inventory, are, as The Big Book authors and AA founders put it “fatal” to the alcoholic. Essentially, it is impossible to be in a resentment and be in gratitude at the same time.

 

According to neuroscientific research, gratitude increases levels of dopamine production as well as activates dopamine circuits involved with social activity. So not only does dopamine makes us feel better in general, but practicing gratitude toward others increases our happiness toward others.

 

Emotional Literacy

Most people who have been to treatment for recovery from drug and alcohol addiction are familiar with a famous chart. This chart has rows upon rows of “emoji” faces expressing different emotions. Under each emotion is the label for what that feeling is. Drug and alcohol addiction stunt developmental growth, especially in emotional maturation. Not only do emotions not mature, the literacy required for adequately articulating those emotions also gets stunted. What “feels bad” to someone could really mean a range of feelings from sad to angry to hurt. Without knowledge of these labels, it is hard to identify them; without identifying them, it is hard to work through them and let them go.

 

Emotional literacy and being able to label feelings actually reduces the chaos and discomfort many recovering addicts and alcoholics experience when dealing with emotions for the first time. With just one or two words to associate with an emotional experience, the prefrontal cortex gets activated, thereby reducing activity in the limbic system which results in that discomfort.