Looking at addiction through the lens of positive psychology
Throughout most of the history of psychology and psychological treatment, the focus has been on identifying the deficits and problems associated with the human psyche and providing ways to compensate for these deficits. This has been a very important avenue of research as it has helped identify ways to understand and approach mental disorders and problems, including addiction. However, until recently, there has been limited research and focus among the scientific community on the positive aspects of human existence, such as strength, love, and happiness. Positive psychology has risen as the science of happiness that explains how we can become happier and more satisfied through different practices and to explain the positive aspects of our existence.
Positive psychology is focused on different topics. Some of the most popular ones are things like kindness, gratitude, resilience, meaning, and others. These are things that can be applied to improve a person’s quality of life and happiness. The goal of positive psychology is to identify what makes people live better lives and how to extend that knowledge into practice.
For people who are struggling with addiction (and those that do not), positive psychology can provide a set of very useful tools for improving their quality of life and achieve a higher well-being. Positive psychology is focused on reinforcing the individual’s own strengths and building up resources that promote resilience. Let’s take a look at some of the common practices recommended by positive psychology. While these practices do not substitute a formal treatment but can serve as effective complements to it.
- Gratitude has been strongly linked to well-being, happiness, and high life satisfaction. The practice of gratitude involves putting conscious effort into noting the good things in our lives and expressing appreciation for them. The most recommended and easy way of introducing more gratitude is through a gratitude journal. This practice involves finding several things to appreciate every day and jotting them down in a journal.
- The second common recommended practice within positive psychology is kindness. Kindness is fairly self-explanatory. It involves engaging in positive acts that improve other people’s lives in significant or small ways. A sample practice for this strength involves random acts of kindness. These involve a commitment to doing good acts, small and big, for someone else every day for a certain period of time. This can enhance our well-being, make us feel more connected to others, and also make us feel like we have control of our lives and can make a positive impact on the world that surrounds us.
- Self-compassion is the practice of kindness directed at the self. For people with addiction, this can be an essential element of their well-being, as it allows for people to treat themselves with more compassion and care. One example of a practice of self-compassion is writing a letter to yourself that reminds you of the things that you appreciate about yourself and the ways in which you make a commitment to be less critical towards your actions and decisions.
- Optimism is another practice associated with happiness. Optimism doesn’t mean naivete or rose-tinted glasses but instead a mindset that is rooted in hope. This mindset promotes resilience because people who are optimistic remember that things will work out or that bad things are just temporary. The mindset of optimism can be cultivated through different practices. For example, a practice of optimism is the visualization of different things in the future, for instance, one’s best self. Visualization involves focusing on what the positive things in the future will be like and imagining them vividly and in detail, bringing the senses into the visualization as well.
Positive psychology should not be approached as a main form of treatment, however, it provides useful and easy practices that can enhance our well-being. In the case of addiction, it might be difficult to think about happiness or strength, but reinforcing these aspects allows us to obtain a greater quality of life and work on building up our resources. This can be very valuable, as it reminds us that we always have the chance to be happier and more resilient and that we don’t just have deficits, we have also strengths that we can enhance.
If you or someone you love needs help, please reach out to Austin Sober Living! One of our professionals will be glad to get you sorted with outstanding recovery services!