The road to substance use recovery can seem dim. It’s fraught with painful withdrawal symptoms, overwhelming cravings and facing a life that has been devastated by drugs and alcohol. Some days, it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Due to the intense difficulty of sobriety, it’s essential that you find hope, cultivate it and let it guide you. In this article, we’ll talk about the best ways to build up a storehouse of hope for the rockiest days in the journey ahead.
How can hope make my recovery better?
According to Mayo Clinic, the personality traits of optimism and pessimism are connected to numerous health markers. While some parts of our personality are genetic, a hopeful outlook is something that can be trained, and will have a significant impact on a person’s ability to manage stress.
While science can’t determine exactly the connection between positivity and decreased stress, John Hopkins Medicine postulates that a person who exhibits hope may be better protected against the inflammatory effects of stress. Moreover, negative emotions have been shown to weaken immune response.
Regardless of the biology behind positivity, it’s clear there are perks to it. Aside from the physical effects of optimism, this perspective has the power to get you through the hardest days of withdrawal and long-term recovery for many reasons. Here are some benefits of being more positive.
- You’re more likely to make concrete goals about the future, which can provide important motivation
- You are more pleasant to be around so you’ll find making friends is easier
- You’ll start to look for meaningful moments in daily life
- You’ll benefit from a more positive mood and overall happiness
- You’ll have control over your attitude and how you react to negative events
- According to an article by the Harvard Medical School, optimism is correlated with better cardiac health, healthier blood pressure, less risk of infection and decreased rates of heart disease
There are clear physical and mental health benefits of a hopeful outlook during the substance use treatment process. The next step: learning how to cultivate hope.
How can I foster hope?
While we’d all like to be able to instantly have hope at the flick of a switch, building a solid foundation of hope takes time and intentionality. Thankfully, though, there are several tried and true practices for fostering hope that can help you achieve and sustain life-long sobriety.
Learn positive self-talk
The thoughts that pass through our minds all day long affect us more than we think, even though it’s only us who are hearing them. The way we allow our mind to reflect on our own beings and our actions is called “self-talk,” and changing these thoughts can give us a wellspring of hope.
Our own self-perception is built up of patterns of smaller thoughts that occur over time. For example, if we mentally respond to small behaviors with “I keep messing up,” this reinforces a message that we are failures. Changing this compulsive reaction to “I’m strong because I keep trying” we’ll have a healthier and more hopeful self-awareness and self-esteem.
Accept that everything won’t be perfect
In an effort to make our thoughts and feelings more positive, we may sometimes try to overcompensate and respond to everything, even sad events, with cheeriness. Forcing a false joy isn’t helpful, and can actually lead you to feel apathetic.
When you are trying to cultivate hope for your recovery, it’s important to keep a balanced mindset while leaning towards the positive. It’s OK to be upset or frustrated when you experience a relapse, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job and so on.
Negative emotions can be used as fuel or to help in the grieving process, so don’t automatically shut down sad thoughts. Recovery, like life, isn’t perfect, so it’s normal to respond with nuance instead of feeling pressure to be optimistic when it’s uncalled for.
Grow in mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of the present moment— in your body, your mind and your surroundings. This grounding practice can help you see things realistically and notice the interplay of different aspects of your life.
Mindfulness meditation is a chance to slow down and engage in the world around you. It’s much easier to be hopeful when you pause to notice the good in life and let it soak in. You’ll be more thankful and more attuned to the good already in your life.
Take care of your physical health
It’s hard to have happy thoughts about the future when your present is less than comfortable. Lack of sleep, a poor diet, untreated withdrawal symptoms and other pains can make recovery a drag. When you’re trying to support your recovery with hopeful thoughts, make sure you’re taking care of your body, too.
The key to success
Hope in the addiction recovery process is the key to success. A positive outlook toward the future can boost your mood, inspire change and give you motivation when triggers seem too difficult to overcome.
Being optimistic is hard, though, and many people struggle to build hope when recovery attempts in the past have been bleak. Find new hope with Mazzitti & Sullivan Counseling. Professional counseling can give you the advantage you need to break an addiction for good. Get in touch today.