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.


Long Term Mindsets to Adopt for Positive Thinking 

Long Term Mindsets to Adopt for Positive Thinking 

What you think influences who you are. It can be challenging to tackle huge parts of yourself when you have all the tools; when your toolbox is empty; however, it can seem impossible. If you are struggling with negative thoughts, you probably also are dealing with low self-esteem, which isn’t something you want in your life when you are working on your recovery. People with depression, anxiety, or addictions often have negative self-talk patterns. A crucial step in recovery is shifting how you talk to yourself. Changing your thoughts and improving your self-esteem make all the difference in the world when you are trying to recover. So, what can you do to change your thoughts and improve your self-esteem? 

Focus on What You Want in Your Life

When you think of what you want in your life, focus on what you already have. The healthy existing relationships and habits you have in your life are essential and should be nurtured since they improve your experience. 

Avoid All-Or-Nothing Thinking

This cognitive distortion is not the place where you want to be. Recovery is never black or white, all-or-nothing. Try to find the gray areas — the areas in between — and focus on those. Remove terms like never, always, nothing, or every from your vocabulary.  

Ask Yourself, “Would I talk to an 8-year-old self in this way?” 

If the answer is no, you shouldn’t be talking to your present self in that way either. Think of your friends or family members that love you. How would they talk to you in the situation? Talk to yourself in that way.

You Don't Have to Always Be Happy, but You Can Always Be Grateful 

Small things can make a world of difference. Don’t wait until the very end of something to appreciate it. Focus on the little things that you’ve achieved and give yourself the credit you deserve. You’ve come so far. 

Pause and Breathe 

When you are feeling overwhelmed, try to take a moment and pause. Think of everything that you’re thankful for in the moment. Another way to practice gratitude is to keep a journal. Write down as many things you can think of that you’re grateful for before bedtime. Jotting down little notes of why is also something you can do.

Improve the Moment

Do something today for which your future self will thank you. Improve your moment now and in the future. If you’re having negative thoughts, try to do something that interrupts those thoughts. 

Short-Term Things to Do Daily:

Drink Enough Water

Keeping yourself hydrated is an important thing. Everyone would benefit from drinking more water. If you tend to drink a lot of coffee, try to have a glass of water in between each cup of coffee. Keeping yourself hydrated is an essential building block to living a healthy life in recovery. 

Exercise Your Mind and Body

Keeping your mind sharp and your body limber is another necessary tool you need in recovery. Exercise releases feel-good endorphins in your brain. Exercising should be a tool that you use every day in your recovery. You can also do brain-teasers to keep your mind sharp. That’s important, too. 

Get Back Up

Everyone has struggles, makes mistakes, and fails at things in their life. If you’ve failed at something, get up and try again. No one is perfect. You cannot expect perfection. That’s an unhealthy and unrealistic expectation. 

Give Yourself Little Rewards

To motivate yourself and keep you going throughout the day, make sure to give yourself short breaks and rewards. Take a break from work for fifteen minutes or reward yourself with your favorite snack. Small rewards keep you pushing toward your goal. 

Use Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmations are sayings that you repeat to yourself, such as “I am doing my best” or “I believe in myself.” These mantras can help remove some of the negative self-talk you may have during your recovery. Talk to yourself compassionately. You deserve that. 

Avoid Triggers

Avoiding your triggers can be a difficult thing to do daily. Some days will be relatively easy, while others will be much more difficult. To avoid triggers, you might have to avoid certain people, places, or things that will trigger your substance use or memories. You must find something else to replace the triggers with. Try to get enough sleep and keep busy by doing a puzzle, listening to music, or exercising. 

For more information about how Enlightened Solutions can help you or a loved one learn new skills for a happy, joyous, and free life, call us today at 833-801-LIVE. 


Positive Thinking

Positive Thinking

When we talk about ways to manage depression and anxiety, one of the things we often hear recommended is positive thinking. When we are feeling like things are absolutely hopeless, it’s very hard to make ourselves think happy thoughts. How do we change our thinking to be more positive? We have the power to change the course of our thoughts, and therefore our energy. We have more control over our moods than we think we do.

Start to pay more attention to your thoughts. Practice observing them. Become more conscious of the thoughts that are bringing you down, causing you anxiety and making you sad. As we dwell on these thoughts, they become our default thought patterns. They are often self-destructive in nature and can have a serious impact on our mental health.

Start to imagine what it would feel like to be free from those thoughts. Take the issues at hand and come up with positive counterparts to them. “I am depressed” could be transformed to “I am healing. I am working through challenges. I am getting stronger every day.”

“I am an addict” can be transformed to “I can create a new life for myself. I am strong. I choose what’s best for me.”

As you create these transformational, affirmative statements, put your energy behind the words while repeating them, and try to feel them as though they are real. You are creating new positive thought patterns, and as you continue to focus on them, they begin to replace the old, negative ones. You are reprogramming your subconscious mind to default to these patterns instead.

Over time, with practice, these thoughts become second nature. When we have moments of fear, anxiety or sadness, our minds become more resilient and respond with self-loving, self-affirming thoughts. We start to believe in ourselves more and mentally build ourselves up more often.  

Positive thinking is often dismissed as being too simple to be effective, especially for serious depression. Working to transform our thoughts, by way of repeating affirmations, writing in a journal, creative writing, etc., is one part of the healing process. We can’t expect affirmations alone to completely heal our deep-rooted fears and traumas, but they are a powerful tool we can use to help ourselves. Healing is a lifelong process, and we can really help ourselves by working to have more control over the direction of our thoughts.

Treatment at Enlightened Solutions includes therapy, mentoring and recovery planning. Call (833) 801-LIVE for more information.


Changing The Inner Narrative

Adopting an inner narrative means that we learn to say things to ourselves which we pick up from other people. Mostly, these statements come from an “I” point of view. For example, “I can’t do anything right,” or, “I am not lovable anyway,” or, “I am worthless.” Though we may not hear these statements directly, we might hear them indirectly. However we are saying them to ourselves, they are always an “I” statement. If other people were to say the things to us we say to ourselves, they would likely hurt a lot more. Part of the reason we say negative statements to ourselves is because we were hurt so deeply when someone said them to us.

An important part of change is awareness. Awareness means noticing and paying attention. In the case of negative inner narrative statements, awareness would mean becoming aware of these statements when they arise and noticing how they sound, who they sound like, and how they make you feel.It might be challenging to catch them at first. Every now and then when you do catch a negative narrative statement, quickly change it to a “you” statement. Pretend you are someone on the outside directing that statement towards you. Is that something you would want to hear from someone else? Notice how uncomfortable that situation feels. Pay attention to the shift in energy and your feelings. Next, take the exercise a step further and imagine turning that “you” statement toward someone else, like your dearest friend or favorite family member. Imagine their face as you would say that to them. They would likely be hurt and you would feel guilty for putting such toxic energy on them.

This exercise isn’t about creating guilt or making you feel guilty for what is going on inside your head.Everyone has an inner voice and everyone experiences it negatively until they learn to change it.

Identifying the origin of the narrative

Negative behaviors like a punishing inner narrative can quickly become habit. Habits become so routine that we adopt them as normal. Until we start to become aware of our negative inner narrative, we assume them to be normal. As you start to notice more about your negative thoughts and become more familiar with them, pay attention to anything that sounds familiar. You might notice a tone of voice- yes, our inner narratives have a tone of voice!- that sounds eerily like one of your parents, a schoolteacher, or maybe even a bully from the past. Quickly, you’ll find that these negative perspectives were not of your own making, but originate from a negative experience in life. Unraveling the mystery of your inner narrative, you can let go of them piece by piece to create a more compassionate, kind, and loving, voice.

There is a way to love yourself again. Enlightened Solutions has a way. Bringing together proven clinical therapy methods with holistic healing and a twelve step philosophy, the partial care programs at Enlightened Solutions are ideal for healing mind, body, and spirit. For more information, call 833-801-5483.


Why We Get Attracted to Fear

Recklessness is a word that could be used to describe addiction. Under the influence of powerful drugs and/or alcohol, drug addicts and alcoholics make reckless decisions. Even if one isn’t addicted to substances, when they are under the influence they live on the edge. For example, people choose to drive drunk. Some substances cause euphoria in such a way that it makes people feel invincible. Under the influence of such drugs, people attempt all kinds of reckless acts. Even without the influence, addicts and alcoholics, or substance users alike, have a common characteristic of living dangerously. Listen to the stories of recovering addicts and alcoholics and be amazed by the death defying circumstances many have survived.

There are some who can’t seem to get away from such a lifestyle. As if the danger were part of the addiction itself, despite their previous brushes with death, they cannot get away. Using in and of itself is a game of russian roulette. Relapses weaken the body. Vulnerable to the potency of drugs after some time spent clean and sober, overdose is always a possibility. Yet, time after time, just like their drug, addicts return to the high of danger. They are attracted to the fear.

Why We Get Attracted to Fear

It turns out that the attraction to the “fear” associated with substance abuse is not so different from the attraction of substance abuse itself. More specifically, what makes substance abuse addicting also makes fear addicting. When we experience fear our bodies release different chemicals and hormones to compensate. Adrenaline is quite literally the body’s fight or flight response, the natural way of handling fear. Lesser well known for being produced in response to fear is dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain which is supposed to communicate pleasure. In the brain cycle of addiction, dopamine plays a very large role. The brain becomes addicted to, obsessed with, and dependent on excessive dopamine production.

For fear, much like with drugs and alcohol, some people don’t have a tolerance threshold. That is why some people can withstand haunted houses, scary movies, and thrill seeking while others jump at bumps in the night. Since dopamine is released, some actually enjoy the fear. In fact, the scarier the better.

Can fear be an addiction?

It is unlikely that the brain will develop an addiction to scary movies or corn mazes during Halloween. However, the brain can get addicted to receiving pleasure from dopamine production. Whatever it is that stimulates the brain in this way will become an obsession over time. Danger seeking behavior can be problematic in addiction recovery, acting almost like an addiction-swap.