The Importance of Positive Thinking in Addiction Recovery

The way that people think impacts the way they will experience the world. Those who are prone to negativity not only experience life through a grey cloud, but they are potentially setting themselves up for further misery in the future. There is strong evidence to suggest that positive thinking can improve people’s mental and physical well-being. This mode may not be the answer to every problem in life, but it can be a great help. Positive thinking can be particularly beneficial to those who are trying to build a new life in recovery from addiction.

The Benefits of Positive Thinking

There are plenty of good motivations for positive thinking including:

* People who focus on the positive are far less likely to suffer from symptoms of depression
* Some research indicates that positive thinking can boost the immune system. This means that people will not get sick easily as their body is better at fighting off infections.
* Those who think positively may be less likely to develop cardiovascular disease. This is because positive thinking has been shown to reduce levels of stress and inflammation in the body.
* Thinking this way can help people live longer.
* People who think positively are able to handle problems and stress a lot better.
* It improves quality of life as the individual will feel more at ease.
* Positive people have a lot more energy to do the things they want to do in life. Negativity sucks energy away.
* If the individual feels positive they will be more likely to achieve their goals.
* Positive people are just nicer to be around.

Positive Thinking and Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy refers to the belief the individual has in their ability to achieve a goal. The higher their self-efficacy the more likely they will be of achieving something. This is closely related to positive thinking. Self-efficacy can be increased by:

* If people are able to accomplish something once, their self-efficacy towards that particular task will be higher the next time.
* If a peer manages to accomplish the task, this can raise self-efficacy. This is because of the tendency to think if they can do it then so can I.
* The individual can have their sense of self-efficacy increased by a convincing argument provided by other people. In therapy this is referred to as motivational interviewing.

The Dangers of Stinking Thinking

Stinking thinking occurs when people are overly negative. They may feel anger and resentment about their life. They may tend to be pessimistic about the future. This mode of thought is particular dangerous for people in recovery because:

* It increases the risk of relapse back to addiction.
* It prevents the individual from finding happiness in sobriety.
* People around them will suffer because of all this negativity.
* When people are locked into negativity they experience the bumps in life to be more painful and stressful.
* Negative thinking can prevent people from seeing the real cause of their suffering.

Negative Thinking as a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

A self-fulfilling prophecy is where just predicting something helps cause it to occur. This is because people will change their behavior in light of the prediction. They may unconsciously create the conditions that allow the event to happen. For example, if the individual predicts that something they need to do is going to be too difficult, they may worry excessively about it. This worry alone may be enough to make the task more difficult. If they had a more positive attitude then perhaps the task would have been easier.

The Limitations of Positive Thinking in Addiction Recovery
While there is little doubt that positive thinking can improve life it is probably dangerous to see it as the panacea to cure all life’s ills. Positive thinking combined with unrealistically high expectations can lead to suffering, particularly if the only real action the individual takes to achieve a goal is to think positively. Positive thinking can even be dangerous for people in recovery when:

* When it causes them to become overconfident. This is particularly likely to happen in early recovery. The individual is on a high because they believe that they are now cured of their problems. They can develop pink cloud syndrome and are full of optimism about the future. When reality catches up with them it can be painful.
* Some people develop a type of magical thinking in regard to positivity. For instance, the individual may become convinced that if they think positively about winning the lottery, this will cause it to happen. When their numbers do not come up they feel disappointed. They may even blame themselves for not being positive enough. This type of magical thinking can be particularly harmful when people choose positivity over medicine to cure disease or injury.
* The individual may use positive thinking as a replacement for action. This would be like somebody becoming convinced that they are going to win the lottery but not even buying a ticket. Positivity without action is useless.
* There are many reasons for why things do not work out in life. To blame everything on lack of positivity is unreasonable and unhelpful. Just because something goes wrong in the life of the individual does not always mean that they are doing something wrong.

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How to Develop a Positive Outlook

It is possible to think of positivity as being like a seed; the more people water this seed the more it will grow. Here are just a few of the ways that the individual can develop a more positive outlook in life:

* Keeping a gratitude journal can be highly beneficial if people wish to develop a more positive outlook. This is where they will write down all the good things that are happening in their life. This will help encourage a good frame of mind that will stay with people throughout the day.
* Make an effort to regularly spend time with inspirational books, audio, and video. What people put into their minds can be just as important as what they put into their mouths. Inspirational material can motivate people and greatly increase positivity. A fine example of this type of material would be The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.
* People need to think carefully about what they want in life. They can then produce a list of goals. It is helpful to break down big goals into smaller more manageable tasks. Once the individual has managed to accomplish one task it will give their positivity a boost so that they move onto the next task. By working this way they will eventually achieve their overall ambition.
* Mindfulness meditation allows people become far more aware of their inner landscape. This means that they will be able to spot negative thought patterns that can cause mischief. Once such thinking is indentified it becomes a lot easier to deal with.
* People are hugely influenced by their social network. Spending too much time with negative people can be draining, and it encourages the individual to also think that way. Conversely spending a lot of time with positive people can be energizing and motivational. In 12 Step Groups they recommend sticking with the winners and this is good advice.
* Helping others is another wonderful way to help the individual develop a better outlook in life. This is because self-absorption tends to lead to stinking thinking. Helping others also increases self-esteem because it makes people feel useful.
* Negative thoughts can come from nowhere. It is almost impossible to stop them from occurring. When people can do is to nurture positive thoughts. By deliberately focusing on the positive they can lower the amount of negativity in their life.
* Reading about all the bad things in the world every day can increase negativity. The news media tends to be just full of all the bad things that are happening around the world. It may be helpful to reduce exposure to negative news as much as possible; or better still read choose a media source that focuses on positive news.