9 Ways to Heal Depression Holistically

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“This was an article I stumbled upon from Natural News a few days back. Its written by Mike Bundrant who was able to compile this brilliantly inspiring list of ways to heal depression on the physical and psychological planes using holistic methods. Including reasoning that has been discussed within several strong sources, Bundrant explores the concepts of transforming mind and invigorating the body through 9 simple steps.” -Enjoy, Robyn

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As you pursue natural remedies for depression, it is important to understand that depression has both physical and psychological components.

To be happy, healthy and enthused about life, you must get both your mind and body balanced. Falling into a depressed state, however, only requires that one element of your body or mind is out of balance.

The following nine natural ways to combat depression are broken down into physical and psychological elements.

Healing psychological components of depression

1. A future worth embracing

Your perception of the future has a lot to do with your emotional state. An exciting future naturally produces feelings of enthusiasm. A blank future can produce feelings of uncertainty or anxiety. In fact, panic is often called a complete ‘future blowout.’ The future is gone, which means it all ends right here!

People who suffer with depression often report a seeing a future in which they do not want to participate.

This factor alone is enough to make anyone feel down. If you took the healthiest person and mentally installed an unacceptable future into her mind, she would immediately begin to feel discouraged and eventually depressed.

If your future is not what you want it to be, then it is imperative that you consider your options.

What are your goals?
Are you living someone else’s idea of the good life?
Do you feel you deserve to create the life you want?
What skills, training or education do you need to feel excited about your future?

You may wonder if depression causes you to perceive an uninspiring future or if an uninspiring future creates a depressed state. BOTH are true.

2. Relationships that fulfill

The evidence is in. Bad primary relationships correlate with high depression. It doesn’t appear to matter how good your physical health is. If you are in a stressful, unhappy relationship, you will be stressed and unhappy.

Being in great physical health does NOT mean that you make good decisions about people, money, business or other factors that also determine your quality of life and state of mind.

A happy mood goes with fulfilling relationships and vice-versa. Learn the relationship skills that support happiness. Don’t get stuck or cling to bad relationships! They wear on your psyche and your body.

Sometimes, in the throes of a painful relationship, you blame yourself and think you are broken. I did this for years. It was the untenable relationship that was the source of my angst. Yes, I was still participating in the problem, but when I finally ended that particular relationship, I was freed.

You can’t just blame others, but you should absolutely consider that feeling trapped in a relationship is depressing in its own right. Check out some of the little known reasons why people stay in bad relationships.

3. A friendly mind

It seems to be universal – the human tendency to self-condemn. Do you live with a critical voice inside their head that punishes you and warns you (irrationally) that you will fail?

Does it feel like no matter what you do or where you are, you ruin your mood with inner negativity and pessimism? This is your inner critic at work.

Healing that critical voice in your head requires making friends with it. This is a part of you that won’t rest until you come to terms with self-sabotage. Most people need help with this, but here is a video you can watch that offers a great little method to calm down your inner critic.

4. A present mind

Most people live inside their heads, with thoughts that meander in the past and the future. You worry about what might happen in the future. You obsess about what already happened in the past. You do anything but enter the here and now.

Interestingly, many people simply do not know how to enter the present moment. Getting to the Now is easily achieved by grounding yourself through sound. Best of all, you don’t need special equipment.

Your environment is filled with white noise. The hum of your computer, the sound of a blowing fan or running refrigerator, the smooth sounds of running water. All these and more are actually hidden portals into the present moment.

When you tune in exclusively to white noise, your brain responds in the most amazing manner. The brain’s Default Mode Network, responsible for self-referential, autopilot thinking, switches OFF. Then, your brain grounds itself in a new consciousness that is clear and peaceful.

This is has been proven through fMRI scans, which you can read about in the March 2010 issue ofScientific American magazine.

Natural remedies for physical depression

5. Vitamin D fights depression (and so much more)

Vitamin D is said to be one of the most underrated nutrients of all time. Vitamin D is a steroid hormone precursor. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, osteoporosis, and cancer. As you can tell, this is an essential vitamin the body needs to stay healthy.

In 2006 the CDC concluded that one fourth of the population is Vitamin D deficient. Canadian researchers have done 14 studies with 31,424 participants that all prove the strong correlation to Vitamin D and depression.

In 2006, a study on 80 elderly people showed that those who lacked Vitamin D were 11 times more prone to depression – a number that is shocking, considering most people would never link this vitamin to such a serious disorder.

Safe sun exposure may help raise Vitamin D levels. Being outside with no sunscreen can actually be good for your body. Of course, supplements can also be taken and are proven to help as well.

6. Omega 3 fatty acids

Researchers have noticed that a sharp rise in depression occurred as people consume less omega 3 fatty acids and more processed foods.

A Columbus University study analyzed 59 patients diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, 18 of which also suffered from Cormobid Anxiety Disorder.

Low levels of omega 3 prevailed among the study group, but were most pronounced in those suffering from anxiety and depression. Although is it not on the front line for treating depression, it is a way to attack it from another angle.

By treating a different area of the brain associated with depression, it can be an effective method for the right patient.

7. Sam-e

Sam-e is a naturally occurring compound found in almost every element in the body. It helps the immune system, maintains cell membranes, and produces and breakdown chemicals in the brain such as serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine.

Research indicates that Sam-e treatment is more effective than placebo in treating mild to moderate depression. It works more quickly and is just as effective as prescribed medications without the headaches, sleepiness, sexual dysfunction, and other side effects that occur.

Unfortunately. Sam-e cannot be found in food, but it can be prescribed in capsules if you consult with your healthcare provider.

8. Heavy metals – a rarely discussed cause of depression

Heavy metal toxicity can disturb brain chemistry, which can cause anxiety and depression, and can also weaken your immunity.

Heavy metals, such as mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, mad aluminum affect different chemicals in your brain that are associated with depression. Examples of these would be GABA, which contributes to anxiety and a dull intelligence, dopamine, which gives the brain energy and motivation, and acetylcholine, which makes the brain sharp and have good memory.

Ridding the body of the excess heavy metals that harm vital brain chemistry involves balancing mineral antagonists. This dislodges the metals from the tissues into the blood with cheating agents that bind the metals in the blood and prevent them from being re-deposited elsewhere, so the kidneys can properly excrete them.

9. Amino acid therapy to balance brain chemistry

Depression and anxiety can occur when there is an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, and amino acids are the building blocks of neurotransmitters.

By giving the body specific therapeutic doses of amino acids, we are giving the body the raw materials it needs so it can feed the pathway of neurotransmitter production and balance out the chemicals in the brain.

For serotonin, 5-HTP or tryptophan can be used. For GABA, doses of GABA can be used. Both of these help soothe and calm the brain, which is helpful with depression, anxiety, and also insomnia.

Amino acid therapy is a method that was discovered in the early 1900’s and used up until the 1980’s when other methods, such as SSRI’s became more popular.

Amino acids can be used in place of antidepressants and don’t have the harsh side effects. With a doctor’s supervision, it is proven to be a powerful method in overcoming depression.

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Facing Bipolar Disorder the Ayurveda Way

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Q & A with Vasavi Kumar, Ayurvedic Healer and Personally Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder

In conversation with Vasavi Kumar:

If there is one word to describe Vasavi it is “vivacious”. Right through this interaction there wasn’t a moment where we couldn’t positively resonate with her thoughts and be touched by her view of life. She talks about “Facing up to Bipolar Disorder the Ayurveda way” from a first person’s perspective having experienced and attuned her outlook towards the ailment and life in general. Here are gems from our discussion to enable people suffering and people supporting, to realize, accept, and deal with Bipolar Disorder the natural humane way:

Q. Why is bipolar disorder considered a “disorder”? Does society look at it as a mental illness?

People who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder are often misunderstood because of the stigma that is attached to the label.
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depression is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels and the ability to carry out daily tasks. Does society look at it as a mental illness? Absolutely. The way that it is talked about in our society is rooted in the belief that there is something “wrong” with an individual if they have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. People who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder are often misunderstood because of the stigma that is attached to the label. It is not just bipolar disorder that is misunderstood, it is all mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.
There is a wide gap between people’s perception and understanding of bipolar disorder and the nature of the “illness” from a spiritual and Ayurvedic point of view. Western medicine’s approach to helping people who have been diagnosed as bipolar is one of suppressing emotion, rather than going to the root of the issue. Because of this one-sided and narrow approach to healing, it is no wonder that society deems those who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder as “crazy” and “insane.”

From an Ayurvedic perspective, bipolar disorder is an excess in Vata in the mind
From an Ayurvedic perspective, bipolar disorder is an excess in Vata in the mind, mimicking many of the manic symptoms (talkativeness, hyper-sexuality, excessive spending, racing thoughts) and an excess in Kapha, mimicking symptoms of depression (sadness, lethargy, lack of sexual energy) If one suppresses their emotions long enough there is a much higher probability of exploding and on the flip side experiencing periods of deep depression. That which is forced to be “contained” will eventually find an outlet to express itself. It is because of the lack of awareness of bipolar disorder and how it is diagnosed, the etiology, pathology, and treatment of a person who has this label that society continues to view this as an “illness.”
Q. Are the causes/triggers and frequency of episodes more physiological or psychological?

The key here is to examine ALL the areas of your life and see which areas feel out of balance.
The causes/triggers are both physiological and psychological. But it doesn’t stop there. You have to be willing to look at nutrition, environment, the type of media that is being consumed, the people that you are surrounding yourself with, exercise, spirituality, and vocation. Another factor that definitely needs to be considered are cultural differences. Having been raised in a strict Indian immigrant household there were a lot of “rules” which often times felt like a prison. Many people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder often experienced and witnessed the extreme highs and lows in their own families growing up. These extreme highs and lows can and will have an effect on how the individual deals with life and stressful events.
The problem with traditional Western medicine is that the “solution” is often to prescribe antipsychotic and/or mood stabilizers to a patient and call it a day. Of course there is encouragement to see a psychotherapist which definitely helps the person who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder to heal from any past pain and hurt. But often times what happens is that a newly diagnosed patient will be confronted with this label and then not know how to treat themselves on a holistic level, rather, simply take a pill as prescribed by their doctor. Taking a pill alone is not the answer. The key here is to examine ALL the areas of your life and see which areas feel out of balance. As humans we are naturally inclined to seek balance. Know that if you are one day feeling extremely “high” your mind and body will do whatever it takes to feel its counter opposite.

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Q. What works more? Medical intervention, spirituality, counseling or the social support system?

There are so many methods of healing if you have been diagnosed with a mental illness. There isn’t ONE specific route to your path of feeling well. Medication to begin with may feel like the only option when you are first diagnosed. And for some, taking these medications to suppress your highs and lows may help in reducing certain symptoms. However, the goal here is to be willing to explore your options.

I began practicing yoga, signed up for a women’s boot camp and really started to pay attention to what else I needed to feel better every day.
Having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2002, I initially began my healing process by taking a cocktail of prescription medication. I gained about 45 pounds and felt extremely lethargic and tired all the time. In 2005, I started to become curious about what more I could be doing to feel better. The truth was, the medication alone just was’t helping me. I started reading books on clean eating and delving into different ways to heal myself through food. From there, I began practicing yoga, signed up for a women’s boot camp and really started to pay attention to what else I needed to feel better every day. In addition to learning more about healing through food, I also continued to see my therapist on a weekly basis just so I had someone to vent to.
You don’t have to go through this alone.
When you get diagnosed with a mental illness, it is very easy to feel alone and different, like you don’t belong anywhere. That is why cultivating a tight support system is essential to treating yourself. You don’t have to go through this alone. If you do not have friends or family that live close by then finding a support group would be the next best step, as well as developing a spiritual practice. This is often overlooked, but the most intimate relationship you can have is with yourself and whatever you consider a “higher power.”
Q. Are there natural (alternative) remedies for bipolar disorder? Is there a permanent cure?

One “remedy” that I cannot emphasize enough is having a strict routine and structure to your daily life.
Personally, I have not found a “cure.” What I have found are practices and routines that help with the highs and lows. One “remedy” that I cannot emphasize enough is having a strict routine and structure to your daily life. This will help to balance an excess in Vata. There are many alternative remedies and Ayurveda is a great resource for those who have been newly diagnosed or wanting to find other methods to managing their moods. At the end of the day, we all have highs and lows. Those who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder just experience it on a extreme level.
One of the best Ayurveda practices that I have incorporated into my daily morning routine is Abhyangha (oil massage) using warm sesame oil. Oil has the guna (quality) of heaviness and of course oiliness which in turn has a very grounding and calming effect for my mind. I cannot recommend this enough to people who may have an aggravated Vata, especially during the Fall season(and year-round). I also make sure to have free time to spend with myself in nature, as well as creating a routine day to day so that I have both freedom and structure. Also, eating according to your dosha and season is critical if you are working towards a more balanced mental and emotional state. If you do not already know your dosha I have created a free “What’s Your Dosha” quiz which you can take here, along with an accompanying guidebook which you can buy here.

Q. Having experienced this first hand yourself, has the healing process made you what you are today spiritually?

For me personally, had I not been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I would have never embarked on the path of understanding myself on every level.
I wouldn’t be who I am today emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually had I not been given my bipolar label almost 13 years ago. I am who I am today because of my journey—from being diagnosed with what the doctors said would be “lifelong” and that I would need to be on medication for the rest of my life—to learning how to truly care for myself, and listen to and understand my mind, body and spirit. I also respect and honor whatever it has taken me to get here—even the myriad of prescription medication I was given when I was newly diagnosed.
Back then I didn’t appreciate or even fully grasp why I had to go through whatever I was going through. And often times, when we are deep into our healing process, we are blind to the gift that is actually being given to us. For me personally, had I not been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I would have never embarked on the path of understanding myself on every level. I wouldn’t have the compassion and understanding that I do today for anyone going through any sort of adversity or painful situation. I wouldn’t have the perspective on life that I have today. I wouldn’t be relentless in pursuit of my dreams and helping others do the same. I wouldn’t have made myself a priority. I would have taken my life and the lives of those around me for granted. I wouldn’t be a risk-taker. I wouldn’t have been as confident as I am today. I wouldn’t have learned to speak up and take charge of my life. So yes, the entire process has made me who I am today. And I invite any one reading this to start viewing their diagnosis or pain in their life as the greatest gift ever. Trust and believe that it is no mistake that whatever you are going through right now has a divine purpose.

Q. What advice would you give to the “support” system around people with bipolar disorder?

For the people who serve as “support” around your loved ones who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (or any mental illness)–get support yourself.
For the people who serve as “support” around your loved ones who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (or any mental illness)–get support yourself. Your role is exhausting and you need to make sure that you yourself are taken care of. That is the first step. You cannot fully support someone if you yourself are operating and functioning on “empty.” Fill your tank. Be sure to set up a schedule so that you can step away and just focus on yourself. Your role is a big one, and so in order to do what you need to do, you must put yourself as top priority even if it looks like spending the first 10 minutes of your morning enjoying a cup of coffee or tea, alone and in silence.
Second, ask more questions, judge less. You will never ever know what it is like to be in the shoes of the person you are supporting. If you are going to take on the role as a member of a support system then start to get curious and ask more questions. Often times, people in the support role think that they know what’s best. But they don’t. You have to still work hard to maintain, honor, and respect the dignity of the person that you are supporting. Just because your loved one may be diagnosed doesn’t mean that he/she loses all autonomy. At the end of the day, don’t you want your son/daughter/wife/husband, whoever has been diagnosed to be independent? Yes. I know you do. Therefore, it is imperative that you do not treat the person you are supporting as if they are incapable.

Third, get educated about bipolar disorder. Did you know that some of the most creative people of our time were diagnosed with a mental illness? Don’t just listen to what a psychiatrist tells you. Understand and learn about alternative healing methods. There are so many ways to heal. Why not understand more about them so you can be well versed and offer a more holistic option to the person you are supporting?

Lastly, never make the person you are supporting feel like they have something to be ashamed of. I will never forget what my mother said to me when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. We were standing on the corner of 57th and Lexington Avenue in New York City outside of the psychiatrist’s office. She said, “Never tell anyone about your illness.” In that moment I just remembered how ashamed I felt. For me, I was relieved that I finally had an answer to what felt like a lifelong “problem.” But for my mother she was more concerned with the opinions and perceptions of the Indian society. She had every right to be.

The fact of the matter is, there is still a stigma associated with mental illness. And as a mother she was simply protecting me. But, what I wish to impart to those who are in the support role– there is nothing to be ashamed of. We are all given “obstacles” to challenge us. Whether it may be in the form of an addiction, or a diagnosis, or a fear, everything that has been placed in our lives is there for a reason. The more we shame ourselves, the more our illness stays alive.

Thanks Vasavi for this mindful perspective on life. These insights will empower our readers to face and challenge obstacles in their lives and reconnect with their own SELF. Thank you once again !!

http://www.curejoy.com/content/facing-bipolar-disorder-ayurveda-way-qna-vasavi-kumar/

Boost Your Self Esteem

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“As the holidays come and go, so do the cookies, sweets and feasts. Leftovers fill the fridge and your stomach is full of fatty food. A lot of people gain weight during this time of year because of the celebrations. Its hard not to overeat when your around family that won’t judge you and food that tastes all to good. And just like most of the population in the U.S., we struggle body image issues. While with the new year comes our promises to stay fit and clean in 2014, we can make it a goal to feel better about ourselves in our own body. Working the steps help us cope with the low self-esteem that our addiction may have left us with as we reflect on
our past, but we can also apply these suggestions when letting go of our negative body image.  This is an article from the Healthy Weight Network about how to conquer your self esteem and body image issues.” -Shanti, Robyn

Low Self EsteemIt’s about you

You’re okay just as you are. You are a unique person, capable and loveable, with special talents and strengths, with inner wisdom and creativity – a human being of value. So accept and respect yourself now.Get comfortable with the real you, inside and out. Accept your size and shape, your feelings, yourself, unconditionally. Honor your character, talents and achievements.

No need to work on perfecting yourself. In fact, it can be self-defeating, and a big waste of time. Perfection is a myth. It doesn’t exist in the real world and it certainly doesn’t exist in human appearance. Many women who struggle with eating, weight and body image spend inordinate amounts of energy trying to change their appearance. They make their bodies their life’s work; they put their lives on hold “waiting to be thin.”

Instead of trying to meet society’s impossible standards of female beauty, give yourself affirmations on how special you really are. Find the peace and serenity of your life, buried though it may be under many layers. Accept this place where you are on your life’s journey and live with joy and relish.

  • Recognize that beauty, health and strength come in all sizes. Real beauty encompasses what’s inside, your zest for life, your fun-loving spirit, a smile that lights up your face, your compassion for others, says Carol Johnson, author of Self-Esteem Comes in all Sizes.It’s being friendly, generous and loving, having strength and courage, and respecting yourself just as you are — goals that we all can achieve.
  • Your body is okay. Your size is okay. The good news is that you can change how you feel about your body by changing your self-talk. If you are especially concerned over weight, understand that your body has an opinion of what it should weigh at this time in your life. It regulates weight around a setpoint that may be nearly impossible to change. Recognize how destructive the obsession to be thin is and how it harms the people you love, especially children. Your weight is not a measure of your self-worth. Accepting this can give you new freedom.Cat as Lion
  • Be size positive. Set an example of respect for size diversity. People naturally come in different sizes and builds, and that’s okay. If you are a large woman it’s especially important in our size-focused society to be a role model who radiates confidence, self-respect and friendliness for other adults and children who, sadly, may fear going out in public. Or, if you are a thin person, keeping thin through semi-starvation, remember this means an anorexic personality (anxiety, irritability, depression, inability to concentrate, social withdrawal, isolation from friends and family, preoccupation with food, loneliness, lack of compassion and generosity, self-centeredness), weak and brittle bones, and other serious health issues. Our society is currently obsessed with thinness, which hurts us all. When will this nation come to its senses, reject size prejudice, accept a wider range of shapes and sizes, and focus on health rather than weight? We each can do our part to bring about this healthful change.
  • Dress for successDress in ways that make you feel good, that make your own statement and, most of all, that fit now. Clean out your closet of clothes that don’t fit; clothes you can wear only during dieting bouts. Give away or store too-small clothing. This makes room for clothes you will enjoy wearing.
  • Want what you have – contentment. T he secret to happiness is not to get what you want, but to want what you have . Though much underrated today, contentment has long been valued in world religions and philosophy. Realizing the full measure of our abundance can bring true happiness.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Have you inventoried the richness of your life assets? Try it. Add to that inventory and each day write down three things you are grateful for in your gratitude journal. It can be humbling to realize the abundance of riches we have, and how much we take it for granted. The everyday joys of family, friends, home, community, country, health, work and the wonder of nature are all around us. Contemplating this can bring you deep serenity.
  • Learn and practice relaxation techniques. Relaxation relieves stress and enhances our lives. Stress overload is linked to many health problems, such as exhaustion, insomnia, headache, diarrhea, anxiety, restlessness, depression, abuse of alcohol, increased risk of heart attack and weakened immune system. Relaxing is like re-booting a stressed-out computer. Everything works better afterward.
  • Choose self-care. Set aside time every day for yourself. T ake time for self-care and healing. Invest in small things that enrich your life: listening to music, reading a novel, napping after lunch, laughing with your spouse or best friend, eating a nourishing meal, telephoning a friend, taking a stretch break at your desk, enjoying a sunset.
  • Live assertively. Assertiveness allows people to express their honest feelings and opinions comfortably, to be open and direct, without anxiety or guilt, and to obtain their personal rights without denying the rights of others. Assertive persons respect themselves, speak calmly and clearly, maintain eye contact, project their voices, and smile sincerely when they mean it. By contrast, responding to others in passive or aggressive ways involves manipulation that respects neither yourself nor them. (By the way, in lists like this, and of course, this one, read, consider and take what seems best for you at this time in your life – and leave the rest. That’s being assertive!)
  •  Strengthen your social support . Include pleasant and stimulating interaction with others in your day, every day. Maintain nourishing relationships with family and friends. Promote communication and sharing of feelings in appropriate ways. Encourage positive self-talk, praise and support for each other. Getting involved in volunteer work is an excellent way to increase your social network as you lend a helping hand and a helping heart.
  • Shape a healthy balance. You’ll feel better and have more energy when you develop healthy living habits that come so naturally and feel so normal you hardly think about them. Normalize your life by being regularly active and keeping yourself well nourished without dieting. Take care of your health, but don’t obsess over it or struggle for perfection. Find a satisfying balance of wellness and wholeness that works for you at this time in your life and helps you live the way you want.

The Problem with Christmas

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All the meetings I have been going lately have shown to prove that this time of year is incredibly stressful. Thoughts of past Christmas’, struggles with expenses and family can really trigger us to want to use. This is the time to be thankful, to be selfless and to spread love, not scream ‘fuck it’ and get wasted. We need to be there for our families, for each other and for ourselves.” -Happy Christmas Eve, Robyn

Presents

Most people know the holidays can be a period of emotional highs and lows. Loneliness,
anxiety, happiness and sadness are common feelings, sometimes experienced in startling succession. The bad news is the holiday blues can trigger relapse for people recovering from alcoholism and other drug addiction. The good news is the blues can be remedied by planning ahead.

Why do the blues hit during this otherwise festive season? Doing too much or too little and being separated from loved ones at this special time can lead to sadness during the holiday season. Many recovering people associate the holidays with memories of overindulgence, perhaps of big benders that resulted in relationship problems or great personal losses.

People experience feelings of melancholy, sadness and grief tied to holiday recollections. Unlike clinical depression, which is more severe and can last for months or years, those feelings are temporary.   Anyone experiencing major symptoms of depression, such as persistent sadness, anxiety, guilt or helplessness; changes in sleep patterns; and a reduction in energy and libido, should seek help from a mental health professional.

Whether you’re in recovery or not, developing a holiday plan to help prevent the blues, one that will confront unpleasant memories before they threaten your holiday experience. Your plan should include improved self-care, enhanced support from others, and healthy ways to celebrate. Here are a few suggestions to achieve a happy, sober holiday season:

Good self-care is vital. Remember to slow down. Take some quiet time each day and work on an attitude of gratitude. Plan relaxation and meditation into your day, even for a few minutes, no matter how busy you are. Relax your standards and reduce overwhelming demands and responsibilities.

Don’t overindulge. Go easy on the holiday sweets and follow a balanced diet. Monitor your intake of caffeine, nicotine and sugar. Exercise regularly to help maintain your energy level amid a busier schedule. Don’t try to do too much. Get plenty of sleep. Fatigue is a stressor. Maintain some kind of schedule and plan ahead; don’t wait until the last minute to purchase gifts or prepare to entertain.

Enhance your support system. Holidays are a good time to reach out more frequently to your therapist, sponsor, spiritual advisor, or support group. If you’re in recovery, spend time with fellow recovering people. Let others help you realize your personal limits. Learn to say “no” in a way that is comfortable for you.

Find new ways to celebrate. Create some new symbols and rituals that will help redefine a joyful holiday season. You might host a holiday gathering for special recovering friends and/or attend celebrations of your Twelve Step group. Avoid isolation and spend time with people you like who are not substance users. Don’t expose yourself to unnecessary temptations, such as gatherings where alcohol is the center of entertainment. If there are people who have a negative influence on you, avoid them.

Focus on your recovery program. Holidays are also an important time to focus on your recovery program. For example, ask, “What am I working on in my program now?” Discuss this with your sponsor.

Release your resentments. Resentment has been described as allowing a person you dislike to live in your head, rent-free. Resentments that gain steam during the holidays can be disastrous for anyone, especially recovering people. The Big Book of “Alcoholics Anonymous” refers to resentment as the No. 1 offender, or the most common factor in failed sobriety.

Holidays may also be a time to evaluate your spirituality and find a personal way to draw support from the spirit of the season. Return the holidays to a spiritual base, and stress the power of unselfish giving.

Recovery is serious work, but it is also important to have fun. Laugh a little and a little more. Start seeing the humor in those things that annoy you. Take from the holiday season what is important for you and leave the rest.

The Power of Imagination

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“At times, our dreams may seem out of reach. The reality is that we are far from them— but only presently. Imaging is simply using your imagination to lift your mood and enhance your motivation for long-term sobriety. This is part of an article from Addiction-Recovery-Blog.com. You will find that imaging can do even more than I mentioned above, plus advise on how to start your own practice.” -Enjoy, Robyn

thinking

Imaging, in the purest sense, is a way of focusing your mind on positive alternatives. Whether you practice self-imaging through yoga or meditation or participate in a program of therapeutic imaging, the technique can be very effective.

Basically, imaging is a type of perception therapy that embraces the connection between your mind, body, spirit, and environment. It’s a psychotherapeutic approach that helps you replace faulty perceptions about who you are and who you want to be with new and more beneficial perceptions.

Issues Imaging Can Address

Depression and addiction are common co-occurring conditions. In fact, even without addiction, depression is a very common condition. It is estimated that more than 10 million Americans suffer from some form of depression. After treatment for drug and/or alcohol abuse, depression can wreak havoc on the recovering addict’s life and any future plans. The heart of depression is hopelessness, a feeling or perception that nothing good will ever happen. Imaging helps transform hopelessness into hope. And hope brings the promise of a brighter future.

Low self-esteem and low self-worth often plague recovering addicts in varying degrees. Sometimes the feelings are tucked away into the back of the mind, while at other times they completely take over the individual’s thoughts, sabotaging any attempts to plan a better life. The old ways of trying to bump up self-esteem by hanging out with others and doing things so other people will like us – even though those were undesirable friends and activities – no longer work, or we’ve been responsible enough to reject them, wisely realizing as a result of treatment that we can’t associate with those triggers. Imaging helps improve feelings of self-worth and self-esteem by treating the whole person. As the underlying faulty thinking is exposed, new perceptions are created that lead to more positive behaviors.

Intolerance and prejudice are seldom talked about as issues affecting recovering addicts, but think about the kinds of beliefs we’ve been brought up with or acquired over the years. Every time we rejected someone who didn’t share our need to binge or use, or laughed at the spiritual person who seemed so happy with their life, or lashed out at loved ones and friends who tried to encourage us to change – those were all forms of intolerance and prejudice. If not dealt with, they’ll resurface in other forms during recovery and put a serious strain on our future plans. Imaging can help people to be more accepting of others, to embrace the fact that we’re all equal, that we need each other, that we’re connected, and that we can help each other grow. This leads to better self-awareness, inner peace, and the ability to plan for the future.


After chronic abuse of alcohol or drugs, those in recovery often still bear some of the effects: poor physical condition, not eating properly, disturbed sleep patterns, or other self-destructive acts. Some replace one addiction with another. They may start smoking cigarettes when they never smoked before, eat compulsively, or engage in other addictive behaviors. Imaging helps you avoid this by devoting attention to improving fitness, practicing meditation, focusing on better breathing techniques, and learning better eating habits. With a healthier body, the mind and body connection is stronger, and planning for the future becomes a more viable possibility.

Many recovering addicts are beaten in spirit, even though they’ve completed treatment and are abstaining from drugs and alcohol. They don’t feel worthy of a good future. Their spirit is weighed down with the accumulation of guilt, shame, remorse, and the injustices they have done to others, real or imagined. Imaging realigns the spirit, helping the recovering addict gain an increased awareness that we all deserve to be happy, to be productive members of society, to go after our goals, and to be at peace. In short, imaging helps you to reaffirm your goodness of spirit, which fosters the ability to make plans for your brighter future.

meditation

How to Start Imaging

You can begin by meditating for a few minutes every day, morning and evening. While
many people may think meditation is some mystical process and shrug it off as nonsense, the truth is that it’s really as simple as closing your eyes and blocking out all thoughts, breathing in and out deeply, and concentrating every ounce of your being on the sound and rhythm of your breath. Do this for a period of five minutes. It’s also helpful to engage in this practice when you become overstressed or feel you can’t deal with a potential trigger or craving to drink or use.

There are books you can borrow at the library or buy at a bookstore on meditation. You can also listen to CDs or DVDs that help calm your spirit and your random thoughts. Or you can participate in therapeutic imaging, a psychotherapeutic approach that is offered in some parts of the country. Ask your aftercare counselor or therapist for recommendations for such treatment or investigate holistic therapy or alternative therapy groups in your area.

Imaging Techniques

Imaging techniques vary but should consist of the following:

• Be open to new concepts
• Recognize that people are different and be accepting of everyone
• Be willing to change your perceptions about your future
• Explore ways to help change your perceptions
• Learn to investigate facts, rather than blindly accept things as true
• Admit that you can have a better future and that you deserve it
• Repeat positive imaging practices, such as daily reminders of self-worth, meditation, and other relaxation techniques
• Create new ways of handling your daily situations, especially stressful ones
• Recognize that what works for another may not work for you – you are an individual with unique needs
• Be open to lifting and awakening your spirit, your inner being, your true self

Whether you participate in a group, structured counseling, or do it by yourself, imaging in any of the above forms can help you to create a future that you desire. The best thing about the future is that it is always available before us. We can be the architect of tomorrow – by laying the groundwork today through imaging.

How Mental Illness and Addiction Influence Each Other

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Many addicts struggle with mental disorders. I myself struggle with bipolar one and it is the cause of much of my use (read my journals for more personal accounts). Using drugs to defeat things like that or depression and anxiety most often make things worse. It can further offset the symptoms despite the immediate satisfaction. Its important to see a psychologist, being as honest as you can, to seek proper treatment. I have found that treating my illness with prescription drugs has controlled my mental/emotional state far better than any illegal substance I have ever used. The effects are long-term and with the help of medial professionals, I am able to stay sober and sane.” – Love, Robyn

There is a complex relationship between addiction, such as alcoholism, and mental illness. Treatment needs to focus on both conditions at the same time, once the right diagnoses have been made. 

The complexities of mental illness are often compounded by drug and alcohol abuse, making it a challenge to get the right diagnoses and treatment for both.

Drug Abuse and Mental Illness: A “Complex Dance”
“Mental illness and alcoholism or drug abuse interact in a complex dance, “says James Garbutt, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and research scientist at UNC’s Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies. “Mental illnesses can increase the risk for alcoholism or drug abuse, sometimes because of self-medicating. On the other hand, alcoholism can lead to significant anxiety and depression that may appear indistinguishable from a mental illness. Finally, one disorder can be worse than the other.”

According to Stephen Gilman, MD, an addiction psychiatrist at New York University in New York City, “Alcoholism and drug abuse addictions and other psychiatric disorders often occur at the same time. However, they are distinct disorders that must be treated as such in order to get a good outcome for the patient.”

Rorschach Test Smoke

Drug Abuse and Mental Illness: Likely Conditions
Certain mental conditions are frequently associated with alcohol and drug dependency. They include:

  • Depression. In some cases, individuals may start to abuse a substance to mask the symptoms of depression. Female substance abusers are particularly likely to have depression, but it also occurs in male substance abusers.
  • Bipolar disorder. Those with bipolar disorder — a condition that causes alternating cycles of depression and an abnormally elevated mood — may attempt to smooth out mood swings with alcohol.
  • Anxiety. Alcohol abuse is more common in both men and women with anxiety disorders.
  • Schizophrenia. Psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions, may lead to substance abuse as a way to ease the distress that these symptoms can cause.

Those with a mental disorder may also be less inhibited and more likely to show risk-taking behavior — like buying and using illegal drugs or drinking to excess — that could quickly lead to alcohol or drug abuse. “Individuals with a mental disorder could have impaired judgment and consume higher amounts of a drug or alcohol, says Dr. Garbutt.”

Drug Abuse and Mental Illness: Underlying Causes 
There are also other factors that could explain the frequent simultaneous occurrence of addiction and mental illness, including:

  • Genetics. Genetic factors seem to account for some of the co-morbidity (having both disorders at the same time) of substance abuse and mental disorders. Studies comparing identical and fraternal twins found more instances of having two disorders among the identical twins, indicating that genetics likely play some role.
  • Chemical deficiency. Neuro-chemical factors were also found to be a common thread when mental disorders and addiction occur together. A reduction in the amount of serotonin, a chemical critical to brain functioning, may be the reason that alcoholism and anxiety disorders coincide so often. There is also evidence that addiction and mental disorders are associated with the dysfunction of a group of brain chemicals called monoamine oxidases.
  • Shared environment. Studies surrounding twins also showed that environment plays a major role in having both a substance abuse problem and another mental disorder.

Drug Abuse and Mental Illness: What Is the Exact Relationship?
The answer is not entirely clear, but the connection works both ways. People with alcohol and drug addictions tend to develop mental illnesses. People with certain mental illnesses tend to develop substance abuse problems.

“Fifty percent of those with an addictive disorder will have a psychiatric disorder. And for those who have a psychiatric disorder, about 20 percent have an addiction problem,” says Dr. Gilman.

That number is even higher in those with certain mental conditions. “A variety of mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder, antisocial personality disorder [characterized by a lack of empathy toward other people], anxiety, sleep disorders, or depression, increase the risk of addiction. Those with the highest risk of addiction have bipolar disorder or schizophrenia — up to 50 percent [of people with these conditions] can have an addiction,” says Garbutt.

Researchers don’t yet know exactly why people with these particular disorders are at an increased risk for addiction, says Garbutt, but it has been noted that:

  • Abruptly stopping alcohol intake can lead to withdrawal symptoms — including hallucinations — that may look just like schizophrenic symptoms.
  • Alcoholism and drug abuse can cause changes in the brain, sometimes leading to changes in personality and mental disorders.
  • Alcoholics of both genders frequently suffer depression and anxiety disorders, while men are more likely to exhibit antisocial personality disorder than non-abusers of alcohol.

Drug Abuse and Mental Illness: Treating Two Sets of Symptoms
According to Gilman, “It is very important, but often difficult, to distinguish which symptoms are psychiatric and which are addictive. A person must be substance-free for a period of at least two weeks in order to tease apart the various symptoms.”

“Clinically speaking, you have to treat the addiction and the psychological symptoms at the same time. Misdiagnosis, and therefore under-treatment, is common, such as when an alcohol addiction is masking bipolar disorder,” says Garbutt.

Garbutt and Gilman both believe that treating an addiction and a mental illness at the same time is possible, and when you treat them together you can begin the process of unraveling the underlying causes of each.

By Linda Foster, MA from Everyday Health
Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH

Take Twelve

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This is about the time we begin to ask if she is still alive…

And she is!

And now we ask if she is still sober..

She is!

But is she still sane?

It appears so…

What a happy day! She spent three hours in total driving to and from the unbearably busy mall to get her computer fixed and while it does turn on, there are fuzzy technicoloured lines that remind her of tripping… no matter.

She has spent the past few weeks unpacking, painting and decorating her rooms in her new house. Her mom was kind enough to give her two little rooms to use as a massage room and a bedroom. She’s had fun placing all her nick-hacks and art work on her walls. But thats boring stuff! We don’t care about the day to day, we are curious about her head.

Smoking

She woke up— everyday seemed to be the same. Time was dragging on. It seemed like it was taking forever to get things done. Would she ever find a sense of normalcy again? She felt guilty for not going to the gym, for eating poorly and waking up only minutes from noon. She grabbed a bottle of water and went out on the back porch and find her mom rocking in a wicker chair with a cigarette hanging from her mouth. She sat down next to her and lit one up for herself.

“It’s like we’re here decorating someone else’s house and we’re going to go home when its all over,” her mom spoke softly.

“Yeah.”

“Theres just so much to do. The trip down here was so hard. So stressful. Everything is… so stressful.” A tear fell down her face.

“I know. Its a lot. I’m struggling too. I’ve tried not to let it out.” Her mom looked up at her as she said this, cocking her head to side suggesting to tell her more. “Its unpacking all my things… It all comes rushing back. I left it all behind when I came down here earlier to stay with Grandma and Grandpa. Living out of a bag for a month, it was like an escape.. But now its all back. Every little thing reminds me where I’ve been. What I’ve done. How I’ve hurt everyone…” She hesitated and continued, “I found a letter that Daddy wrote to me and hid in one of my travel documents before I left for India. He had so much faith… but so much fear. I could tell. It broke my heart.” She burst into tears. Together they sat crying.

“You know we love you. No matter what, we will always be here for you.”

Her throat knots as she writes this and recollects this moment of weakness. It’s always in the back of her mind but every second of every day she pushes it out. She has learnt to recognize when she is about to slip and quickly resists those feelings. She doesn’t want to break down. She does’t want to fall into depression and get lost in the past. But she remembers it all. The letters she opened on the plane to France from her parents, her sister. They left so much love in those few pages. So much hope for her future. She let them all down.koorg

She ventured into the depths of the messages that were sent from her parents while she was in India.

Tears are rolling down her face now. She could tell when she was going crazier and crazier. She can see the dates. The times. Those words. Those lies.

I have been catching up with time, got lost in koorg for those few days hanging out with my friend pooja —3/22, 10:52am (11:22pm India-time)

‘Getting lost in Koorg.’ Koorg was where it began. The unraveling of her mind. She remembers the trip that set it off. Physical and mental.

Right now its too hard to write about. Maybe later, she thinks as she tries to shove it off. She’ll probably post it, password protected, on her blog soon. Stay tunes I guess. 

 

Must Read: Fall to Pieces, A Memoir of Drugs, Rock’n’Roll and Mental Illness by Mary Porsberg

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FallToPieces

Synopsis:

In March 2007, twenty-four hours after Mary Weiland dragged her husband Scott’s pricey rock-star wardrobe onto their driveway and torched it, she was locked up in a mental hospital. Watching all this were her frightened extended family, a conflicted husband wrestling with demons of his own, and a tabloid industry gone gleeful at the “Bonfire in Toluca Lake!”
To the outside world, Weiland had led what seemed to be an enviable life. A successful international model in the nineties, she married her longtime sweetheart—famed lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots and, later, Velvet Revolver, Scott Weiland—in 2000. Mary was the sane one, went the story—it was the tempestuous, unpredictable Scott who was crazy. In her gripping memoir Fall to Pieces, Mary Weiland reveals that the truth is somewhere in between.

From her earliest days in San Diego, Weiland displayed signs of trouble: a black depression that sometimes left her immobile for days, a temper that sent her into wild rages she didn’t understand, an overdose. But her fierce determination to “have more” led to early success as a model. At sixteen, she fell in love at first sight with Scott Weiland, then an aspiring musician who was hired to drive her to and from modeling gigs. Slowly, her casual relationship with beer and pot grew into an affair with cocaine and heroin that rivaled her love for Scott, who was addicted as well. From rehab to rehab, from breakup to reconciliation to eventual marriage, the couple fought their way back, welcomed the babies they’d dreamed of, and hoped their struggles were behind them. Then came the bonfire breakdown and the full onset of Mary’s bipolar disorder, a widely misunderstood and misdiagnosed mental illness that affects more than five million Americans and had been, in fact, stalking Mary Weiland since her teens.

With refreshing candor, innate comic timing, and earned wisdom, Weiland recounts the extreme highs and lows of her life, including an unforgettable love affair with the man she always knew she’d marry, the careers and rock tours that took them around the world, and her fight to finally come to grips with the addictions that could have killed her. In her journey to understand and manage her bipolar disorder, she takes the reader on a wild ride into the dark and back into the light

Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

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“When I first got diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder,  I was in denial. For months after hearing doctor after doctor telling me the same thing I would still hide my meds, take drugs and do anything to prove I wasn’t crazy. But the hospital visits and psych ward continued to prove I was wrong. I was crazy.

“But being bipolar doesn’t mean your crazy. The more I learn about my disorder (reading articles, books and even digging into my past) I notice that I am not alone. I notice that these moments of clear insanity have a purpose, they have a name. There are reasons to me madness and now I finally have an opportunity to treat it.

“Its important that we are knowledgable about our (or your loved ones) diagnosis because it gives us the power and courage to live with it. This is an article I have found very helpful to myself as I live with bipolar and co-occurring addiction. It’s informative and concise, clearly describing the highs and lows of bipolar disorder.” -Love, Robyn

bipolar

Bipolar disorder, once commonly known as manic depression, is a serious mental disorder that is characterized by sudden and intense shifts in mood, behavior and energy levels. Like substance abuse, bipolar disorder poses a risk to the individual’s physical and emotional well-being. Those afflicted with bipolar disorder have a higher rate of relationship problems, economic instability, accidental injuries and suicide than the general population. They are also significantly more likely to develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol. According to statistics presented by the American Journal of Managed Care:

  • About 56 percent of individuals with bipolar who participated in a national study had experienced drug or alcohol addiction during their lifetime.
  • Approximately 46 percent of that group had abused alcohol or were addicted to alcohol.
  • About 41 percent had abused drugs or were addicted to drugs.
  • Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among bipolar individuals.

If you are struggling with bipolar disorder and with a drug or alcohol problem, you may have a Dual Diagnosis of bipolar disorder and substance abuse. Having a Dual Diagnosis, or a co-occurring disorder, can make recovery more challenging. Bipolar individuals may experience periods of intense depression alternating with episodes of heightened activity and an exaggerated sense of self-importance. This emotional instability can interfere with your recovery program, making it difficult to comply with the guidelines of your treatment plan.

Dual Diagnosis rehabilitation programs are designed to meet the needs of clients who are faced with this complex psychiatric condition. Staffed by specially trained and credentialed mental health professionals and addiction specialists, these centers offer care that integrates the best treatment strategies for bipolar disorder with the most effective treatments for addiction.

How Are Bipolar and Addiction Related?

There is no easy explanation for the high rate of substance abuse and chemical dependence among bipolar individuals. One reason for this phenomenon is that a large percentage of individuals attempt to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol in an effort to numb the painful symptoms of their bipolar disorder. Symptoms of bipolar disorder such as anxiety, pain, depression and sleeplessness are so alarming, that many individuals will turn to drugs and alcohol as a means for offsetting the discomfort, if only for a little while. On the other hand, the National Institute of Mental Health notes that drinking and using drugs may trigger depressed or manic moods in someone with bipolar disorder.

Age and gender may play a part in the relationship between bipolar and addiction. According to the journal, Bipolar Disorder and substance abuse is more common in young males than in other population groups.

Young men are more likely than females or older men to take dangerous risks or to act on serious self-destructive impulses. In elderly individuals with bipolar disorder, the incidence of substance abuse is much lower.

Clinical researchers believe that brain chemistry may influence both bipolar disorder and substance abuse. People with bipolar disorder often have abnormal levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, according to WebMD. These chemicals affect vital functions like appetite, metabolism, sleep and your body’s response to stress. They also affect mood and emotions. Heavy use of drugs or alcohol can interfere with the way your brain processes these chemicals, causing emotional instability, erratic energy levels and depression. People with bipolar disorder may turn to drugs or alcohol out of an unconscious need to stabilize their moods. Unfortunately, substance abuse has the opposite effect, making the symptoms of bipolar disorder worse.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

We all go through intense episodes of sadness, elation, anger or despair. But for someone who meets the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder, these episodes are all-consuming and uncontrollable. There are four major types of mood episodes that characterize bipolar disorder: mania, hypomania, depression and mixed episodes — each of which has a set of unique symptoms:

Symptoms of Mania

Mania is the “high” end of the mood spectrum for bipolar individuals. Symptoms may include:

  • Moments of tremendous optimism and significant pessimism
  • Grandiose feelings
  • Rapid talking
  • Little sleep
  • Impaired judgment, irrational behavior
  • Delusional behavior
  • Hallucinations

Symptoms of Hypomania

Symptoms are similar to those found in manic behavior but less intense. Hypomanic individuals are usually capable of managing their day-to-day lives, but they experience a higher than usual level of happiness, irritability or energy. You may feel that you’re capable of taking on more responsibility, or that you need less sleep. People in your life may find that you’re more talkative or sociable. You may also be more prone to engage in risk-taking behaviors, like substance abuse. Hypomanic periods are extremely productive for some people, and because psychotic symptoms do not occur in hypomania, it might seem that you don’t really have a problem.

Symptoms of Depression

At the “low” end of the bipolar spectrum is depression, an emotional state that is often characterized by sadness, tearfulness and despair. Depression in bipolar disorder may last for days or weeks, depending on your mood cycle. These periods are dangerous for Dual Diagnosis individuals, who have a higher risk of self-injury and suicide when they’re using drugs and alcohol during a low period. When you’re depressed, you may experience:

  • Hopeless feelings
  • Loss of interest in things that used to make you happy
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Self-loathing
  • Suicidal thoughts

Symptoms of Mixed Episodes

The symptoms of bipolar disorder aren’t always clearly defined. In a mixed episode, behaviors reflect a combination of mania and depression. For example, you may have suicidal feelings and a loss of interest in your daily activities, combined with racing thoughts, pressured speech and a loss of sleep.
You may feel the urge to drink or take drugs in an attempt to balance out these unpredictable mood swings, but intoxication is only a temporary fix that won’t provide permanent relief. To achieve a full recovery, you need professional treatment that helps you stabilize your moods as you deal with the cravings and destructive impulses that characterize addiction.

 

Positive Thinking

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“While too much positive thinking— as in sitting on a pink cloud—  can turn toxic, it is crucial in recovery from addiction. This article outlines everything from unlimited benefits to cautions. You can follow the links to other articles on hippyhealing.wordpress.com to find more information on certain topics as well as one of my favourite positive thinking tools; gravitation journaling.” -Enjoy, Robyn

positive thinking

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 set-fulfilling 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.

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.