It’s no secret that big life changes can be scary, and if you’re in treatment or recovery, even the promise of a future no longer ruled by substance use can be a frightening proposition.
Maybe you’re afraid staying sober will be too difficult. Or perhaps you fear relapse and aren’t quite sure how to face life’s challenges without something medicinal to ease the sting. You might even worry that life without drugs and alcohol won’t be any fun. Then there’s the daunting realization that your past behaviors have actual consequences.
No doubt, plenty of unfamiliar, uncomfortable territory comes with the journey to sobriety. But facing your fears and finding antidotes to negativity is an integral part of the healing process.
A positive mindset is not only possible but can be a real game-changer for your mental health. And while the battle probably won’t be won in a day, a week or even a month, there are practical, healthy ways to improve your outlook in the meantime.
Gratitude, Mindfulness, Anticipation, Repeat
As the director of outpatient services for Foundations Atlanta at Midtown, Anne Marie Dine is a big believer in having a set of habits that improve your day, even noting how it’s likely “much easier than most people imagine.”
Backing up her beliefs with strong scientific support and an equally compelling track record of proven success, Dine has discovered three daily rituals that dramatically improve the outlook of someone in treatment or recovery from drug or alcohol addiction.
1. Make a Daily Gratitude List
Ever hear the exhaustive laundry list of side effects for prescription medications on a television commercial and think, “Wait a minute, that sounds so much worse than the actual condition?” Well, gratitude is basically the polar opposite of that.
The simple act of acknowledging what you’re thankful for — and finding the beauty in life, no matter how big or small — delivers seemingly countless returns. Scientific studies have concluded that practicing gratitude not only leads to better sleep and overall health, with fewer aches and pains, but it’s also been linked to longer relationships and increased happiness, generosity, empathy and self-esteem.1
Dine suggests writing down three to five things each day that you’re thankful for. “This can be repetitive but helps to frame life and experiences in a more constructive manner,” she explains.
2. Practice Mindfulness Intentionally
While mindfulness strategies have long been regarded as an effective course of action to relieve stress and anxiety, research shows it’s also been helpful for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. A UCLA study recently concluded that mindfulness may actually reduce the likelihood of relapse for people who’ve been diagnosed with depression or anxiety and are working to break their addiction to stimulants, including cocaine and methamphetamines.2
Defined as a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment, mindfulness is a healthier mode for processing information. While there are several methods for cultivating mindfulness — including tai chi, yoga and qi gong — the most common and documented research method is meditation.3
“This can look like focusing on the breath, being in the moment, observing the colors in the room, a focus on the taste of food as it is consumed or almost any other activity,” Dine says.
Researchers have uncovered many positive benefits of mindfulness, including:
- Reduced negative rumination
- A marked decrease in stress
- A decline in emotional reactivity and fear
- A substantial uptick in focus, memory and satisfaction in both interpersonal and romantic relationships3
3. Have Something to Look Forward to Each Day
Maybe it’s seeing the new Star Wars film on opening night or trying the hot new Vietnamese restaurant everyone’s been raving about. Perhaps, this is the year you’re finally crossing Italy off your bucket list.
Whatever your thing is, anticipation is actually good for you. Researchers have found that looking forward to something — no matter how big or small — has a positive impact on your life and emotions in a very tangible way. A larger study even concluded that, emotionally, the past played second fiddle to future events, which can’t help but underscore how a healthy life includes having something fun to look forward to.4
“Clinically, we refer to this as cultivating and building positive emotional experiences,” Dine says.
That’s why it’s important to prioritize things you love that don’t involve drugs or alcohol. Whether it’s setting aside a few minutes to read the latest page-turner, going for a morning jog or learning how to whip up a killer batch of fried chicken, having something positive to anticipate each and every day can make the sober life a lot more fun and fulfilling.
If you would like to speak to someone about seeking treatment for substance use and mental health issues give us a call today at 706-914-2327.
1 Firestone, Lisa. “The Healing Power of Gratitude.” HuffPost, November 20, 2015.
2 Gordon, Dan. “Mindfulness Training Helpful in the Recovery of Adults Addicted to Stimulants.” UCLA Newsroom, August 4, 2016.
3 Davis, Daphne M. “What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness?” American Psychological Association, July/August 2012.
4 Roberts, Martha. “The Joy of Anticipation.” Pyschologies, April 8, 2014.
By Christa A. Banister