Boosting happiness in addiction recovery helps you stay on track to maintain your sobriety — however, the idea of finding happiness without the use of drugs or alcohol may seem like a challenge. Addicts often use drugs or alcohol to bring happiness or chase away their negative feelings, so finding that happiness authentically sometimes seems impossible.
Happiness may not come naturally to you, but you can learn to find joy in your life during and after recovery. Simple changes to the way you think and approach life can make it easier to keep a positive outlook both during and after rehab and increase your chances of success.
Happiness is a difficult emotion to define. Each person has a different perspective and a different idea of exactly what it means to be happy. No matter how you define happiness, remember it isn’t a constant state. You don’t one day arrive at happiness and stay there indefinitely. Just like recovery, happiness is a process, and it’s something you can engage in no matter what else is going on in your life.
For that reason, it’s important not to delay your happiness. So often we say, “I’ll be happy when I lose 50 pounds,” or “I’ll let myself feel happy when I finish treatment.” Unfortunately, we often realize happiness wasn’t waiting there for us when we lost the weight. Why? Because happiness comes from within. It comes from the way you choose to live your life every day.
Stop delaying your happiness, and instead, find happiness during every step of the process. Allow yourself to feel happiness even when you are going through a difficult time. It is perfectly acceptable and highly encouraged to find happiness every day, even during addiction treatment. If you wait for happiness until you meet certain requirements or achieve certain goals, you will likely never truly find it.
Take a Holistic Approach
Addiction throws off the balance in your life. You focus solely on the addiction and let everything else fall to the wayside: physical fitness, relationships, spirituality, career goals, etc. That imbalance often creates stress, making it difficult to experience the pleasures in life. Bringing a sense of balance into the equation invites happiness into your life.
How do you find balance? This is often a struggle for anyone. It takes a mindful approach to ensure you address all of your needs. Note how you are using your energy. Are you putting all of your energy into one aspect of your life? Perhaps you’ve thrown yourself into a spiritual practice, but you’re ignoring your body’s physical needs. Maybe you exercise like crazy, but you haven’t started rebuilding relationships with your loved ones. Nurture your mind, body and spirit to get yourself back into a more balanced state.
Choose Positive Energy
Approaching recovery with a positive attitude can have a profound impact on your overall success and your happiness. Positive thinking creates a foundation for happiness. Positivity won’t stop negative things from happening, but it will give you a healthy way to approach those challenges.
Taking a positive approach to recovery and life in general may benefit you in more ways than just increased happiness. A positive attitude may have the following benefits:
- Lower risk of depression
- Reduced stress levels
- Improved well-being
- Lower risk of death caused by cardiovascular disease
- Increased coping skills in challenging situations
- Resistance to common cold
- Longer life span
Those benefits may happen due to decreased stress levels when you approach life with positivity. Stress causes many negative health effects, so minimizing stress by focusing on the positive side of situations may help improve your overall health. When you feel less stress and improve how you feel overall, happiness tends to follow.
Many of the benefits of positivity support your recovery. Feeling better overall may help you stay on track when recovery feels difficult. Positivity gives you a healthy way to cope with difficult times.
If you struggle with positive thinking, try these tips to push aside negativity:
- Identify negativity triggers in your life: Are there certain aspects of your life that tend to increase negativity? Focus your energy on reframing your thoughts on that aspect to a more positive tone. In some cases, removing negative situations or negative people from your life can help you feel more happiness.
- Laugh even during difficult times: Recovery is a serious part of your life, but that doesn’t mean you have to maintain a serious demeanor at all times. Let yourself laugh, smile and enjoy a little humor each day. A solid dose of laughter can boost your overall mood and help you approach your day in a positive, happy manner.
- Seek positivity in other people: Spend time around other people who practice positivity. It is much easier to have a positive outlook when you surround yourself with people who are supportive and positive. People who complain, point out your flaws or make you doubt your ability to succeed in recovery suck away your happiness and increase your stress levels. It is much more challenging to keep yourself positive when you are surrounded by negativity.
- Practice being positive: If you naturally gravitate toward a pessimistic view on life, practice positivity until it becomes easier to naturally see the glass as half full. Focus on a positive mantra that has meaning to you or your situation. Repeat that mantra to calm yourself and push your thinking into a positive state. Monitor your attitude throughout the day. If you feel yourself leaning toward negativity, try to determine the cause of those feelings. Seek out something positive in your day, even if it is a small, simple thing.
- Reframe your outlook when you feel negative: When you notice yourself focusing on the negative or giving yourself negative feedback, reframe your way of thinking. Instead of telling yourself, “This is too difficult. I’ll never succeed,” tell yourself, “I just need to approach it from a different way and take one step at a time.” If you constantly tell yourself you fail at everything, remind yourself of your successes.
Gratitude plays a big role in the recovery process. Rehab gives you a second chance in life. You get to experience a sober life again with the support of everyone on your treatment team. You get the chance to set new goals and rebuild relationships with loved ones. When you celebrate those amazing experiences, you feed your sense of gratitude and learn to focus on the positive, happy parts of your life. The negative aspects tend to not seem as impactful.
When practicing gratitude, nothing is too small. Looking for those small details in your life that make you feel grateful helps you shift your thinking to a more positive light. Enjoy the way the sunlight shines through your window. Marvel at the rainbow stretching across the sky. Cherish a phone call from an old friend. Celebrate each day you go without using drugs or alcohol.
A gratitude journal is a concrete way to practice finding things to be grateful for in your life. Set aside time each day to jot down new things that generate feelings of gratitude. Add photos or draw sketches to capture those experiences that make you feel grateful. On days you struggle to see the good in life, pull out your gratitude journal to remind yourself of the positive influences in your life.
Let Go of the Negative
Addiction rehab often focuses on simplifying life. That usually means letting go of things that are not helpful to us. Releasing negativity in your life helps you focus on the happiness that exists. Often, we let negative emotions get in the way. We become so obsessed with those issues that stir up negative feelings that we don’t even notice the pleasurable aspects of life.
Addiction comes with a lot of potential for negativity, but shedding those mental traps can help you find happiness and success in the process. Reflect on your tendencies to see if you need to let go of these potentially negative aspects:
- The past: Addiction often leads to decisions that cause damage in your life. Those decisions might cause a decline in health or legal issues for you, and they may also result in some failed relationships. It’s natural to relive every decision you’ve made in the past, but it doesn’t help you move forward. You can’t undo those decisions, but you can choose to make healthier decisions every day of your recovery. Acknowledge the mistakes you have made and forgive yourself for those past decisions. Once you find peace in those past actions, you can focus on the present and the happiness that is waiting for you.
- Perfection: Rehab gives you a chance to start over, but your second chance doesn’t have to be perfect. You are allowed to make mistakes or struggle with decisions. Striving for perfection sets you up to feel stressed. Perfection is unattainable. Sure, you want to make better decisions. You want to avoid future mistakes while staying on the path to recovery, but expecting perfection is not realistic. It puts unnecessary pressure on you that can rob you of happiness and interfere with positive decision-making. Worrying about messing up can make you avoid making decisions at all. Let go of the need to attain perfection.
- Blame: Blaming yourself, blaming other people — it doesn’t matter who you blame or why. Assigning guilt to anyone is a sure way to suck the happiness out of life. When you blame others for your addiction, you hold on to bitterness and resentment. You give away your power to recover and move on, and you often stay stuck in the past. You also rob yourself of owning up to your mistakes and moving on toward a healthier life. Constantly blaming yourself is not helpful, either. Accept your responsibility, and then let it go without reliving the blame game every day.
- Resistance to change: Change is a scary prospect for anyone. Treatment for an addiction involves a large amount of change to the way you have been living. You can no longer turn to your substance of choice as you are used to doing. Instead of fighting the change, however, embrace it. Focus more on what you gain from the positive changes that happen during recovery instead of what you give up by quitting your addiction.
- Negative self-talk: Self-esteem and addiction recovery go hand-in-hand. Negative self-talk chips away at your confidence, leaving you feeling bad about yourself. Those negative things you tell yourself take away your ability to experience happiness. You feel as if you don’t deserve happiness. When you catch yourself engaging in negative self-talk, stop immediately and send yourself a positive message instead.
Substance abuse affects everyone in your life, from your loved ones and friends to your coworkers. Your addiction likely caused some strain on at least a few of those relationships. Recovery is the perfect time to work on rebuilding or strengthening those relationships.
In addition to repairing damage, building relationships increases your support network to make your recovery easier to handle. You need your family and close friends by your side to successfully work through the recovery process.
Social connections have a strong impact on your overall well-being. When you connect with others, your body releases a hormone called oxytocin, which gives you a sense of pleasure with reduced anxiety. Those connections can also help lower the stress hormone called cortisol. All that reduced anxiety and stress opens up space for happiness in your life. Spending time with loved ones also lets you enjoy positive interactions that rejuvenate your soul and make you smile.
Showing affection within your relationships can also help you find happiness. Hugging and other forms of contact help boost your serotonin levels, giving you an increased sense of happiness. Physical affection doesn’t have to be romantic in nature. Sharing a hug or even a pat on the back can make both parties feel better. Don’t be afraid to reach out for a hug to give yourself a boost of happiness.
Take Care of Your Physical Health
Many people with addictions fail to take care of themselves physically. You spend so much time obsessing over your addiction that things like exercise and healthy eating no longer fit into your schedule. You might also experience interrupted sleep patterns that affect your physical health.
Recovery is the perfect time to get back on track with physical activity. Regular exercise improves your physical health, which in turn boosts your happiness. You also gain a sense of accomplishment from the changes and physical goals you meet. Addiction treatment programs typically incorporate exercise and physical activity.
How does exercise relate to your happiness? Physical activity causes the release of endorphins in the body. These powerful chemicals work with receptors in the brain to minimize pain perception and cause a positive and almost euphoric feeling in the body. An intense workout can leave you feeling energized and ready to tackle life with a positive attitude.
Exercise also comes with many other benefits that ultimately improve how you feel and potentially lead to greater happiness. Some of the benefits include:
- Strengthened heart, bones and muscles
- Decreased stress levels to improve your overall mental state
- Improved self-esteem, which lead to positive self-talk to support happiness
- Greater energy levels
- Fit and healthy appearance, which may help you feel better about yourself
- Improved sleep habits to give you a rested feeling, making it easier to stay positive
- Decreased feeling of anxiety and depression
Exercise comes in many forms. Find an activity that fits your personality and gets you excited so you will continue doing it on a regular basis. Consider physical limitations, interests and goals when choosing a program. For example, if you want to tone muscles, incorporate a strong strength-training component into your workouts. Joining an exercise class can help you stick with your physical exercise plan by giving you a support system. If traditional exercise doesn’t appeal to you, try swimming, dance classes or other recreational activities that get you moving.
Nutrition and sleep are also important factors in maintaining your physical health. Nourish your recovering body with healthy foods to provide the nutrients needed to support health and happiness. Those nutritious foods give your body the energy necessary to push yourself during exercise, which creates those positive feelings.
Getting enough sleep each night helps you feel rested, energized and ready to face the day. If you feel tired, it is much more difficult to maintain an upbeat outlook.
Like happiness, spirituality is a challenging concept to define. Some people associate the word with religion, but the definition of spirituality extends well beyond church services and religious practices. Spirituality encompasses those practices that help you connect with something larger than yourself. It’s a way of seeking out a meaningful existence while recognizing there are powers greater than you working in the world. While spiritual practices may help you better discover who you are and what your purpose is in life, they often help you connect to things outside yourself.
Addiction often removes spirituality from your life. You feel disconnected from others and the world around you. You may feel you lack purpose in your life. Instead of continuing to grow as a person, you focus only on your addiction.
Exploring your spiritual side during and after addiction treatment helps you reestablish those connections. Spiritual practices may help give you a sense of meaning in your life — something that many recovering addicts struggle to find after giving up an addiction. Spirituality can help you feel happier and more content with your life.
Activities that help boost your spiritual health include:
- Prayer or other religious practices based on your beliefs
- Daily meditation
- Connecting with nature
- Practicing gratitude
- Artistic activities
Explore Your Interests
Addiction consumes a great deal of your time and attention. Once you enter rehab and start the recovery process, you need new ways to fill your time and draw your attention. Trying new experiences and exploring activities that interest you can bring you a sense of fulfillment and happiness. Nurturing your interests gives you a productive way to channel your emotions and stress. It helps you build that balance in your life that helps maintain positive feelings.
If you are currently in a rehab program, take advantage of the various activities offered by the facility. Recreation is an important part of your recovery. Not only does it encourage you to find enjoyment in the recovery process, but it provides a break from the routine of treatment. You may discover a new interest that brings a sense of meaning or fulfillment to your life.
If you have already completed your rehab program, seek out those recreational opportunities on your own. Here are some ideas for exploring interests:
- Join a group with a common interest, such a writing club, cosplay group or running club
- Sign up for classes on a topic that interests you
- Explore artistic endeavors on your own — you don’t need to create masterpieces to successfully create art
- Volunteer your time for an organization close to your heart
- Learn a foreign language
- Try a hobby you have always been interested in
- Test out an adventure sport
- Check out the hobbies and activities your friends and loved ones enjoy
Contact 12 Keys today if you’re ready to begin your journey toward a healthy, sober, happier life. We offer a well-rounded selection of activities and treatment options, with individualized treatment plans based on assessments and treatment team reviews. Don’t delay your happiness any longer.