This article was enjoyable to write and I hope that it is helpful in giving you some insight and ideas of ways to be more positive and happy, especially if you are in recovery from addiction. I have included some personal stories and stories told to me by people in recovery. Also, I have discussed tips from some of the top professionals in the fields of addiction, psychiatry, and psychology, as well as references to their books and resources. Please reach out through the contact form on this website if you find this information useful, or if you have some useful tips to add in future revisions. Thank you.
It is important to stay positive even when it’s hard.
Do you believe in the healing power of positive thinking? While it may not be possible to heal a physical wound with positive thoughts, it is possible to heal the brain.
This is true because your brain is constantly changing on many levels. New connections are formed and the functional structure of the brain changes over time.
Addiction is an alteration to the structure of certain areas of the brain that leads to dangerous self-harming behavior. Yet, by overwhelming the negative thoughts that arise from addiction with positivity, you can heal your brain and overcome your addiction.
There is no doubt that positive thinking helps in recovery. There are many ways to improve positivity in recovery. Having a positive outlook makes a difference.
There are positive affirmations for alcoholics that help people in staying away from alcohol on a daily basis. People with other addictions will benefit from affirmations as well. The practice is so helpful that some rehabs have introduced positive thinking therapy to their programs.
However, it is easy to talk about positive thinking in recovery and how to maintain a positive attitude, but it’s hard to stay positive in early recovery. After quitting drugs or alcohol, you may have many negative feelings to deal with.
As psychologists and gurus alike have pointed out, there is no need to suppress or fight off negative thoughts and feelings. Negative thoughts will come along, inevitably, and it is your job to not entertain them or dwell on them, and most importantly, you must not act on them.
What are some ways to stay positive and happy in recovery?
It is possible to stay positive and happy in recovery by taking various actions to support these states. The power of staying positive is not only staying drug and alcohol-free, but also living a more productive and fulfilling life.
Maintaining a positive mindset can be done with a variety of techniques. Yet, it is rarely as simple as simply deciding to only engage in positive thinking.
Especially in early recovery, times can be difficult and it is not always easy to stay positive during difficult times. At times, early on, the best that can be done is staying away from alcohol and drugs, having faith that things will soon get better.
In addition to having faith, there are various other tips on staying positive that may be helpful, from staying grateful to taking care of nutrition and supplementation as well as following a basic exercise routine. Other practices, such as mindfulness meditation can make a big difference in changing your outlook, perspective, and state of mind.
How can nutrition help with staying positive in negative situations?
Unfortunately, the dietary plans in many rehab programs are not conducive to helping the brain recover from the damage caused by years of addiction. The problem is that nutrition is not seen as an important part of building a strong foundation of recovery.
Have you ever walked into a 12-step meeting, such as an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meeting? Did you notice if any food or drink was being served during or after the meeting?
Very likely, you will see a prominent coffee pot in any such meeting. Coffee is an important part of recovery meetings. It has been said that for a member to start a new recovery group in their area, they must at least start out by having a coffee pot.
While coffee has been touted in recent years to have some health benefits, it will do nothing to help with replenishing depleted neurotransmitters or otherwise restoring brain health. Coffee is a mostly harmless stimulant drink that provides little help in supporting improved mood through improved nutrition.
You might also notice at the meeting, most likely outside these days, that people are smoking cigarettes or vaping nicotine. As you can imagine, smoking has absolutely no benefits at all and is one of the most harmful bad habits known to man.
As far as actual food, at some meetings you might see doughnuts, cake, cookies, and other pastries or snacks. Some meetings provide these treats regularly and some bring them in for special occasions, such as when someone is celebrating a milestone in their recovery.
Sugar may be harmful to your health and state of mind.
It does not take a medical doctor, nutritionist, or dietitian to tell you that sugary, carb-rich treats are nothing more than empty calories that do nothing to promote good health. In fact, foods high in refined sugar may be very harmful to your health.
Sugar is an inflammatory substance in your body, causing reactions that are detrimental to your health and well-being. And, sugar may cause serious chronic illness if you continue to eat large amounts of it.
Looking around the room in a 12-step meeting, you will see people at or near the front of the room who have years of “clean time” and have worked the program. Yet, you may also notice that many are not in the best of physical health.
You might guess that they have had a few too many doughnuts and not enough exercise. So, are drugs and alcohol bad and sugar, caffeine, and nicotine are fine? There does seem to be an element of hypocrisy in the world of recovery.
Why don’t rehabs have better nutrition programs to support brain health and brain healing?
Rehabs are medical facilities and not community peer support meetings, like AA and NA. We expect these institutions to implement the latest in evidence-based treatments.
You might imagine that a rehab looks like a hospital inside, with nurses, doctors, various medical support teams, ensuring the best in healthcare to people suffering from substance addictions. Yet, the reality is very different in many facilities.
Rehabs are not the best place to develop good nutritional habits.
In most residential rehabs, you may see a doctor, and possibly even a psychiatrist, during the first day or two of your stay. Afterwards, you are cared for by staff with various addiction certifications, but generally not registered nurses, doctors, or psychologists.
Rehabs are usually not very concerned with nutrition, including quality foods and supplements. In my podcast interview with brain-health expert, Dr. Teralyn Sells, Dr. Sells discusses her experience in visiting rehabs to offer nutritional services to optimize brain healing for their clients.
Incredibly, Dr. Sells was met with indifference at many rehab facilities. There was little interest in providing quality supplements and managing dietary needs for residents just starting out in recovery.
It is not unusual for residential rehabs to offer tasty meals as well as unlimited snacks. I have heard stories of an endless supply of microwave popcorn for residents.
In fact, one patient told me a story of a man in rehab just coming off of heroin, sitting down to a plate of a stick of butter with sugar poured over it. No one came to stop him. He ate the whole thing.
What are some nutritional tips that help with staying happy and positive during recovery?
First, you should avoid refined foods and snacks. Stay away from sugary foods and carb-rich snacks with little or no nutritional value.
As a rule of thumb, natural foods are best, such as raw fruits and vegetables. Fruits and salads are great foods to fill you up during and between meals. Lean meats are also good, such as grilled chicken and fish.
There are some supplements that can be helpful to replenish important neurotransmitters for ideal brain health. One supplement that you may be interested in learning more about is L-tyrosine, which is a precursor to several important neurotransmitters, including dopamine.
In addition to L-tyrosine, there are other useful supplements, usually amino acids, that are helpful. Additionally, vitamins, such as A, B, C, and other supplements, including magnesium, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, and others are important. For the best recommendations for your health, see a nutritionist for a complete evaluation.
What are the best exercises to help with positive thinking in recovery?
In choosing an exercise program, the best exercises are usually the simplest and the ones least likely to cause injury. A moderately paced walk outside for about 30 minutes is a great place to start.
If you live in an area where you have a scenic and safe nature trail, you will find inspiration and satisfaction in walking through the beauty of nature. Taking a walk can help you to clear your head of negative thoughts and to enter a state of gratitude, peace, and calm.
There are proven benefits to getting out and moving, breathing fresh air, being in real sunlight, and seeing the beauty of a sunrise or sunset. If possible, if you can walk near a lake, or even the ocean, large bodies of water and seeing the waves rippling on the surface have a calming effect as well.
I recommend avoiding any exercise program that may lead to serious injury. Some people like to jump right into a heavy strength-building routine, using free weights.
Weight lifting can be a good way to build muscle and increase your metabolism. However, if you must start out with weightlifting, I recommend using safe machines in an environment where you can work with a certified trainer.
One reason why exercise is good for helping you to stay happy and positive during recovery is that it retrains the endorphin system of the central nervous system to work as intended. Addiction is a condition that hijacks the brain and uses the brain’s reward center to further feed the addiction.
By exercising regularly, your brain releases endorphins to reinforce positive activities by giving you a sense of calm, satisfaction, and happiness. Exercising helps you to regain an appreciation for the natural highs of life, rather than the intense and artificial highs and lows caused by drugs and alcohol.
How can mindfulness and mindfulness meditation help with increasing positive energy?
Improving your positivity and happiness can help as a form of relapse prevention. If you feel positive about your drug-free life, you will be less likely to turn to drugs to make yourself feel better.
In my podcast interview with Bryan Robinson, the world’s foremost expert on work addiction, we discussed many of the topics covered in this article as ways to overcome work addiction. There are common elements to different kinds of addiction, so learning how people address work addiction can help in learning ways to be successful in recovery from drugs or alcohol.
Dr. Robinson discussed many techniques, including breathing exercises, appreciating nature, taking breaks throughout the day, and taking walks. He also discussed mindful meditation and gave a very simple way to get started.
You might find the idea of meditation to be intimidating. People talk about styles of meditation, such as Transcendental Meditation, which require training by a professional. There are also classes and ashrams where a person can attend and practice meditation with masters.
Before you go out and buy books on how to meditate, or a fancy app, or sign up for classes, consider the simple advice given by Dr. Robinson in our conversation. On the podcast, he gives very simple advice on how you can do a one-minute meditation almost anytime or anywhere, even if you have never meditated before.
Learn how to do the one-minute mindfulness meditation for beginners.
First, he explains, listen for a sound in your environment, such as nature sounds or even machine sounds that are going continuously. It could be the sound of the wind or birds, or it could be the sounds of downtown traffic, construction noise, or the sound of a washing machine or dryer.
For one minute straight, the instructions are to listen carefully to that sound. Focus on the nature of the sound. Listen carefully to how it changes over time and to the details and nuances. There is no need to overthink, or to think at all. Just listen.
When your minute is up, you can congratulate yourself for having just meditated! It’s that easy to get started. It is a matter of allowing the mind to focus and become free of the endless chatter of thoughts, including the negative thoughts that bring you down.
Meditation is restorative. It gives your mind a chance to rest and reset. It is similar to restarting your computer or phone to get rid of the memory leaks and fragmentation that slow things down. By rebooting, your mind is refreshed and ready to face the world and take on its next task.
Focusing on sound is a form of mindfulness meditation. You are being mindful of something in your environment. In many meditation lessons, mindfulness gurus teach their students to focus on their breath entering or leaving their body through the nose or mouth.
After getting started with the basics of meditation as described here, you may want to take it further. An excellent place to start is with some good books on the topic. You might also be interested in Bryan Robinson’s book, #CHILL. I also like to recommend “The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself” by Michael Singer as a good starting point.
Are there other spiritual practices besides meditation that are good ways to stay positive during recovery?
Considering that my podcast is essentially an addiction treatment podcast with a focus on medication-assisted treatment, I have done a lot of episodes on topics related to spirituality. One that comes immediately to mind is the episode with Anna Yusim, M.D. where we discuss her book, “Fulfilled: The Science of Spirituality.” Dr. Yusim gives many practical exercises in the book that are easy to follow. These exercises help the readers to develop a better sense of spirituality in their lives, leading to more positivity and happiness.
Additionally, there are many episodes on my podcast website, The Rehab, that I would highly recommend. For example, there is Harry Derbitsky, a teacher of The Three Principles. The Three Principles is a philosophy founded by Sydney Banks. It is an alternative to the 12-steps for many people looking for a simpler and more spiritually-connected practice.
Also interesting is the episode with Harvard neurosurgeon, Dr. Eben Alexander, on the topic of near death experiences and his message of hope and comfort for people who are anxious about their own mortality. Dr. Alexander’s partner, Karen Newell, is featured on another episode about her company, Sacred Acoustics, where we talk about the therapeutic value of binaural beats and other soothing sound programs.
In fact, binaural beats are a topic that deserve an entire article, or even a book. You will find mention of the topic throughout articles on this website. These sound programs are powerful and safe tools to help with meditation, relaxation, and sleep. There have been studies to demonstrate clear efficacy in helping people to feel more calm and relaxed.
Of course, I would love for you to subscribe to my podcast and leave your thoughts in a five-star review if you find the material helpful. As far as reading recommendations, for promoting a life of positivity and happiness, I think Dr. Yusim and Dr. Robinson’s books are excellent places to start.
How to stay positive and happy during recovery through gratitude and forgiveness.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is easy to lose sight of how to stay positive and happy during recovery. With the reports of outbreaks, suffering, deaths, and an unstable economy, listening to the news every day, it’s hard to stay positive.
Yet, even during a pandemic, you can still keep a gratitude list every day, writing down the things in your life that you are grateful for. In fact, you will likely become aware that the pandemic has brought about changes in your life that are positive in some ways.
Have you ever kept a gratitude list before? While it may seem pointless at first and not easy to think of things to write down, if you stick with it, you will discover that gratitude is the magic that keeps you going in recovery.
A popular saying in NA is, “A grateful addict never uses.” While I disagree with using the term “addict” to describe people in recovery, I agree that gratitude is a protective state of mind that can help to keep you positive and safe from negative thoughts and actions.
To keep a gratitude list, you simply need a place to write your least each morning. You can even add to your list throughout the day. You may want to start out your list that you are grateful to be drug-free. Sometimes it is hard to remember the pain of using drugs and alcohol, but when you think about it, you will certainly be grateful to no longer be using substances.
Why is forgiveness important? Why should I forgive anyone?
There have been studies that have definitively demonstrated that forgiving people in your life helps you to achieve a peaceful, content state of mind. But, is it right to forgive people who have hurt you?
This is a very personal issue and something better discussed with your therapist and people close to you. I cannot advise you on whether or not you should forgive people, since it is possible that you were hurt severely by someone in ways that are not easily forgiven.
Yet, you may discover, working with a therapist, that if you are able to forgive people, and forgive yourself, you will start to feel free, as if a heavy weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Forgiving is only for your own benefit. It does not necessarily involve you going to anyone to announce your forgiveness.
Is it important to feel happy and positive on your recovery journey?
Some people have wondered if happiness in life is important at all. Do human beings need to be happy to get through life?
There are theories that the human brain is not designed for happiness. If a person is happy at all, it is more of a side effect than part of the intended purpose in the evolution of the brain.
Is it possible that we are not built for happiness? It is true that life involves pain and people learn from pain. Yet, I have no doubt that happiness in many forms, is an important part of life and is an intended function of the human brain.
One issue is that we must define happiness to determine if it is a normal human condition. The happiness that we imagine when thinking of movies and television programs and how we should feel when at a fun party may not be realistic.
While people in nightclubs, parties, and at entertainment events may walk around with big smiles on their faces, they are not necessarily happy at the moment. More likely, they are putting on a brave face to look good in a very stressful situation. Parties are often not fun and do not make people happy.
Happiness might better be defined as the peaceful, quiet feeling of listening to the sound of running water in a nearby stream while on a nature walk. And, thinking of how grateful you are for the good things that have happened in your life up to that point, and the bad things that you have put behind you in the past.
If you have children, you may think of being with them as a feeling of happiness, being involved in their lives and how they enjoy your company. The same could be said of close friends, and other family and loved ones.
I believe that it is very important to stay focused and positive and to make an effort to achieve a state of happiness. And, to do so, you must determine what happiness truly means to you and what it takes for you to be happy.