by Melissa Riddle Chalos
A positive outlook can often mean the difference between recovery success and relapse. A positive outlook reduces stress and enables the person struggling to feel that he or she has value and is defined by more than just addiction. But keeping a positive outlook can be a struggle, especially when a person in recovery is faced with relapse triggers.
Finding and keeping a healthy emotional balance is the key. Using the coping strategies learned in rehab at those moments when stress and temptation are at their worst can help.
Recognizing Negative Self-Talk
Learning to recognize and eliminate negative self talk is an important part of developing a positive outlook on life. According to the Mayo Clinic, optimism and pessimism can affect many areas of your health. Optimism can increase your overall sense of well-being, and pessimism can actually weaken your immune system, leading to decreased health and vitality.
One of the first signs of a pessimistic frame of mind in someone who struggles with addiction is the presence of negative self-talk. Negative self talk begins as thoughts about how you think others perceive you. This turns quickly to thoughts of your weaknesses and the shame you feel in not being able to control your actions.
Negative self-talk changes to self-loathing as you begin to feel you are not worthy of saving; that no matter how hard you try you are always going to have the same struggles. It is true that most people have at least one issue they struggle with throughout life. The difference is the frame of mind with which one approaches those struggles.
Health Benefits of Positive Thinking
Not only does a positive outlook on life reduce stress, it also provides many health benefits. The Mayo clinic suggests the following health benefits of positive thinking based on current medical research:
- Increased life span
- Lower rates of depression
- Lower levels of distress
- Greater resistance to the common cold
- Better psychological and physical well-being
- Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
A positive outlook also makes you better able to cope with everyday stress. Many times, for those struggling with addiction, it’s the day-to-day challenges that can derail recovery. Learning to look at life through a positive lens rather than a negative one helps bring balance and focus to daily challenges and keeps life’s stressors in the proper perspective.
The Power of Expectation
Positive thinking in recovery can also change your expectations. Expecting success rather than failure can actually fuel your ability to produce positive change in your life. For those struggling with addiction, expecting the best outcome from your treatment, ongoing support group and your therapy can actually increase your ability to prevent relapse. If you expect failure before entering a challenging situation, you are more likely to see that result than if you expect success.
The power of expectation is also important when it comes to how you see challenges in your life. If your attitude is primarily positive, you are a person who sees challenges as opportunities for change. A person who is predominantly negative sees challenges as road blocks to happiness. A positive person is more likely to look at a situation and find a path to success in spite of hardship, while a negative person is more likely to see the difficulties ahead and give up.
Tips for Developing a Positive Attitude
Changing your attitude is a vital part of changing your life. As a person who struggles with addiction or as the family member of an addicted loved one, you have the power to change your thoughts from negative to positive. With the help of treatment and other support systems, developing a positive attitude can empower you to make and keep your life-long commitment to staying clean and sober. The following tips, taken from Inc.com, can help you along the way:
- Remember that YOU control your attitude. Your attitude does not come from circumstances, but how you react to those circumstances.
- Frame events in positive ways. Instead of assuming that one difficult circumstance at the beginning of the day will ruin the entire day, learn to see challenges for what they are and not give them the power to derail your commitment to recovery.
- Create a library of positive thoughts. If you are prone to negativity, learning to use a host of positive thoughts can help when you are tempted to react negatively.
- Avoid negative media or angry situations. Negative thoughts can be fueled by negative situations, whether they are yours or someone else’s. Stay away from bad news, angry or violent television programs or generally angry people to keep from falling into negative thought patterns
- Use a positive vocabulary. Changing negative thoughts for positive ones can be as simple as choosing different words. Your words reflect your thoughts, so developing a more positive vocabulary forces your brain to change negative thought patterns into positive ones.