According to studies, the average person’s brain processes anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 thoughts per day. Unfortunately, the majority of these thoughts are negative for most people and have a profound impact on their overall health and ability to stay on the road to recovery. Many researchers are finding a direct correlation between remaining positive and living a healthier, more well-balanced life. This research and erudition is all well and good, and you might have heard your counselor or doctor tell you to “remain positive,” but this is easier said than done. Learn how to retrain your brain into producing more positive thoughts and how this can benefit your ability to remain sober, as well as have a healthier life in general.
How to Stay Positive
The first step to banishing the majority of negative thoughts is to realize they do serve a purpose, such as determining potentially disastrous outcomes from a plan of action. The key is to pinpoint when those negative thoughts become counterproductive. This normally isn’t an easy process, as many have trained themselves to react poorly to situations or found the need to constantly conjure up negative thoughts about themselves and others. Awareness of your thought process and ability to replace negative attitudes with positive patterns is the most effective way to retrain your brain into having a better outlook on life.
Why Staying Positive Works
Most people would label themselves as either an optimist or a pessimist; according to the Mayo Clinic, this can have a weighty impact on your health and general well-being. You might feel a sense of empowerment when speaking with your doctors, psychologists and rehabilitation counselor; but when faced with your own reflection in the mirror, these feelings of self-worth can fade quickly. This is where the power of positive, or constructive, thinking becomes beneficial. The Mayo Clinic asserts that remaining optimistic and concentrating on positive thoughts will benefit your life, and in turn your recovery, in many ways, including:
- Lowered depression rates
- Lowered stress levels
- A feeling of psychological wellness
- Increased coping skills during times of stress and sadness
- Increased longevity and the ability to even fight off the common cold
In the end, researchers aren’t completely sure why remaining positive can produce such unparalleled health benefits. One theory is the correlation between positivity and the ability to handle difficult situations, which in turn can reduce stress.
Tips to Remain Positive
You’ve had countless doctors, nurses, counselors, friends and family members place their hands lovingly on your shoulder and say the magic words, “stay positive!” Once again, this is all well and good, but just how exactly do you remain constructive rather than self-defeating? Here are a few ways to re-energize your body, mind and spirit through the strength of positivity:
- Make a List – Write down a list of traits you admire about yourself. They can be as simple as your ability to cook the perfect bowl of pasta or the way you make your daughter smile first thing in the morning. Make this list an ongoing project; each time you’re feeling defeated or feel negative thoughts about your recovery and addiction creeping into your brain, pull out the list and remember your good points.
- Surround Yourself with Happy People –Positive energy breeds constructive thoughts and there’s no better way to inject a little happiness into your life than by surrounding yourself with optimistic people. When you need support, or are finding the prospect of sobriety difficult, speak to a friend or family member that reminds you why a life without drugs and alcohol is worth living.
- Get Moving – Nothing will banish the negative thoughts from your mind more quickly than getting out and getting active with your friends and family. Start a weekly game of touch football with your work friends or play tennis with your sister.
- Redefine Your Idea of Success –Many negative thoughts and attitudes are bred from the idea you didn’t achieve a certain goal, or that you even slipped and participated in an unwanted, negative behavior. Instead of having a defeatist attitude, redefine success and how to achieve it. For example, instead seeing the near-perfect completion of a task as a failure, consider it a merely imperfect success.
- Remain Grateful – In the end, gratitude is truly the most blessed gift anyone can offer themselves and others. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, or the failures in your life, remain grateful for your health, well-being and the people in your life.
Once you find a new positive outlook on life, you’ll be amazed at how many of the other aspects of your life will seem to fall into perfect alignment. For instance, the Mayo Clinic suggests that many positive people in general live a healthier lifestyle through eating right and exercising; that could also be another crucial aspect of your recovery plan.
Image by Shambhavi Singh from Flickr’s Creative Commons