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Positive Psychology and Addiction Treatment

So you’re wanting help to stop drinking?

More traditional psychology focuses so much on the disease as an alcoholism recovery model—the negative, what people can’t do, their weaknesses and that sort of thing. It made sense to me that when you focus on the strengths of a person and the things that they are doing well, they can better overcome problems.

I think people with addictions tend to do a lot of blaming. They don’t take responsibility for their own behaviors, and they feel like the victims. Positive psychology gets people out of that and focusing on their strengths and visualizing themselves in a good way instead.

Positive psychology steers away from labeling and stresses giving responsibility back to the individual with the alcoholism recovery addiction. There is a theory called the “Broaden and Build Theory.” It explains that the more positive thoughts we have, the more we expand—our thinking expands, our creativity expands, our intelligence expands. And that is what positive psychology for alcoholism recovery focuses on.

The number one thing we talk about is your strengths—your signature strengths, what you have to offer. These aren’t accomplishments, they are things that make it so that you are able to accomplish. If people focus on their weaknesses, they get depressed and don’t feel like doing anything. Focusing on strengths, value systems, and meaning of life can do the opposite. Forgiveness is another big one.

Using gratitude is huge. There has been a lot of research about that. Next time you are suffering from a hangover, start to write down how you feel.  People who use gratitude are less depressed; they look at life differently. We talk a lot about positive journalling—getting out your negative things and putting positive thoughts back into your head by journalling.

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It is an entire attitude change. People who view the world in a negative way tend to bring negative things into their lives. The brain develops in an individual so much by the time they are eight years old. He learns how to talk, walk, ride a bike, but he also learns how to see life. Maybe he learns to see the world in negative light. Positive psychology therapy helps a patient to identify what the messages that define his actions are, and then to change the message if it is negative.

Make a list of all your strengths. Make a list of what you want to accomplish in your life. Make a list of your goals. Write these things down because if you don’t write it down it is not concrete to you. Then, focus on those goals. Ask other people to tell you things about yourself that they like. Look at your weaknesses. I believe that when people really like themselves, they don’t damage themselves. The first part of liking yourself is getting to know yourself. Do some inner reflection about who you are and what you want, separate from how others may define you.

The difference between an annual income of $5,000 and one of $50,000 is dramatic,” Gilbert says. “But going from $50,000 to $50 million will not dramatically affect happiness. It’s like eating pancakes: the first one is delicious, the second one is good, the third OK. By the fifth pancake, you’re at a point where an infinite number more pancakes will not satisfy you to any greater degree. But no one stops earning money or striving for more money after they reach $50,000.”

There is an answer and you have it within you.  Be patient and listen to your inner voice.