Many people seek treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) or other mental health conditions after they have hit rock bottom. It can be difficult to stay positive during recovery as there can be some incredible highs and lows. However, optimism has tremendous power to impact our recovery. The process of recovery is not easy, but it pays off when we trust the process.
The Impact of Optimism
Optimism generally means a sense of hope or confidence about the future. It is the belief that things will turn out well or that we will be able to handle whatever we are facing or will face in the future. Essentially, it is a positive outlook on life, processes, and situations.
There is a positive correlation between optimism and general well-being, both physically and mentally. Below are some of the ways optimism improves well-being and benefits recovery.
Increases Resiliency to Stress
Stress is a well-known risk factor for substance abuse and other unhealthy coping mechanisms. However, stress is a part of life. While we can mitigate it in certain situations, it will always be present to some degree. For many in recovery, stress can be a potential cause for relapse, and improving resilience to stress can be very helpful.
Studies have shown that optimism increases our ability to handle stress while pessimism decreases it. Researchers have found that those with a more optimistic point of view tend to see negative events as occurring less frequently than positive events. An optimistic viewpoint allows us to feel like we can avoid and prevent issues. Therefore, an optimistic view decreases overall stress by helping us see we can make choices internally and externally to feel different.
Decreases Risk of Depressive Feelings
Mental health conditions like depression or anxiety increase our risk of substance abuse and relapse. Many treatment programs incorporate dual diagnosis treatment to address other mental health concerns. Finding ways to address and cope with depression and anxiety is therefore an important piece of treatment and recovery.
An optimistic perspective can decrease overall feelings of depression and anxiety. One study found that promoting optimistic processing in pessimistic patients decreased depression symptoms. This shows that we do not have to have an innate feeling of optimism. We can learn how to see situations from a different perspective, and this intentional optimism can improve our mental health and recovery.
Improves Our Sense of Control
An optimistic view is not only about seeing the positive in a situation. It includes a sense of confidence in being able to find positive outcomes for ourselves. Many of us in recovery can get bogged down in the process. Optimism can help.
Those with a more optimistic outlook on situations feel like they can make changes and have control over an outcome. In recovery, it is important to feel like we are capable of taking the reins and living a life different from the one we lived before treatment.
The Truth About Recovery
Recovery is not a linear progression. It requires that we work through the many ins and outs that have led us to addiction. This work can sometimes feel like sifting sand. We may feel great one day and horrible the next. This can be disheartening and make us feel like the process isn’t working.
Change occurs slowly over time. While we want to feel a little better every day, that is often not the case. For many of us, if we look back six months ago or a year ago, we will see a difference in how we feel and what we are doing. However, if we look back to this morning or last night, we won’t. It is like watching the grass grow; if you stare at it, you won’t see it.
Trust the Process
In recovery, it is important to trust that you can get there. You will change if you give yourself and the process a chance. Remember, you are capable of making change, but that change does not occur overnight. Each step is important, even on bad days. Hard days can teach us valuable lessons, like how to deal with stress, how to breathe, and how to trust.
It will take time to learn to trust yourself and the process, but the first step is to try. As you work through the good and bad days, you will feel the true ups and downs of life. After a few months, take a pause and step back to look at where you have been. Looking back over your journal entries is a fantastic way to do this. You will see that you can change and that your process of recovery is happening and will continue to happen.
Having a positive outlook on recovery can be hard. There will be ups and downs that we have to deal with, and often the downs can feel disheartening. It is helpful to remember that recovery takes time, and the feelings you are experiencing now won’t last forever. Learning to feel hopeful and confident about our future and our ability to make a change can help us in the process of changing our lives. Optimism has been shown to be a mindset we can learn that helps us find lasting recovery. You don’t have to recover alone. If you or a loved one is struggling and in need of help, finding a trusted facility with licensed professionals is key. We at 449 Recovery believe in helping our clients towards long-term recovery with trusted therapeutic methods. Call (949) 435-7449 today to learn more about how we can help.
Dr. Warren Taff MD, graduated from the University of Birmingham, England School of Medicine, with a BA from Rutgers University. He then went on to UCLA School of Public Health in Los Angeles Health and Human Services and received an MPH. He also attended an internship in internal medicine, with the Veterans Administration. Dr. Taff’s residency includes General Psychiatry at USC, with elective residencies at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, Australia, and Royal College of Psychiatry. Board certifications include American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Dr. Taff has extensive experience in both psychiatry and addiction medicine, extending from 1979 to present. He has held professional titles that include Chief of Staff and Medical Directorship in both hospitals and private sectors.