Thinking Positive in Early Recovery

Thinking positive in early recovery is crucial because it influences the way you experience the world. If you think negatively, you will see the world in a negative light. You may walk around with a dark cloud over your head and enter into relationships without the best intentions. Negative thinking can even set you up for failure in your recovery. If you can’t find happiness, you may think that you have no future, therefore, going back to drugs and alcohol is acceptable.

Positive thinking isn’t a cure-all for everything, but it does improve our physical, mental and spiritual well being. It’s a great asset to have in life, particularly when you’re faced with challenges that require massive change such as recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction. But how do you think positively when you’re going through so much physically and emotionally?

A Flood of Emotions After Treatment

Let’s say that you’ve just returned home from treatment where you’ve spent the last 30+ days between detox and treatment. You’ve taken the time to get clean, learn about yourself and explore some of the underlying reasons for your addiction. Perhaps you are now being treated for a mental illness such as anxiety or depression. Things are looking up in your life, but it’s also a new life – new territory.

It’s common to feel lost and overwhelmed after at this point in the game. Actually, just about every emotion is acceptable and understandable. Some recovering addicts have a lot of anger to work through. They may be mad they were forced into rehab and now have to change their life. It’s challenging to find new friends, new hobbies and new ways of dealing with problems, especially when you’re vulnerable.

Others are on a temporary cloud nine. They’re clean, sober and free. Though this may seem to be the preferred way to feel after treatment, it’s an equally dangerous feeling. Recovering addicts are fragile, and it’s important that they treat themselves as such. When recovering addicts have too much confidence in their treatment, they tend to get lazy and are more likely to relapse.

Benefits of Positive Thinking

You may identify with these feelings, or you may feel entirely different. But no matter how you’re feeling today, it’s extremely helpful to think on a positive note. Here are some motivations for thinking positively.

  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Better able to handle stress
  • Healthier relationships
  • Improves the quality of life
  • Increase in energy
  • More likely to achieve goals
  • Boosted immune system
  • Less stress and inflammation in the body
  • Longer lifespan

How can you improve your thinking if negative thoughts and emotions keep floating your way?


One of the best things you can do for yourself is to believe in yourself. If you believe you have the ability to achieve a goal, this is called self-efficacy. The higher your self-efficacy, the more likely you are to complete the goal. This may not come easy at first, but there are ways that you can increase feelings of self-efficacy.

By actively working at your goals, one of them is bound to happen. This raises your self-efficacy. It’s best to write out your goals and break them down into small, manageable goals so that you can celebrate your progress, even if it’s small. Sometimes going after one large goal can be too vague and cause you to give up.

Also, if you surround yourself with positive influences who reach their goals, this can also increase your self-efficacy. Why? If they can do it, so can you.

Gratitude Journal

It’s helpful to keep a gratitude journal when working to develop a more positive attitude. A gratitude journal forces you to sit down and list the things that are good in your life. Your family, your home, your part-time job, your health and even the ability to get out of bed are all things to be grateful for. Focusing on the things that are going right in your life is a great way to shape a positive attitude for the day.

If you’re having trouble getting yourself to think positively, put happy thoughts into your head through inspirational movies, books, and audio tapes. The more you listen to this type of material, the more you will start to connect to it and believe it. It’s possible that you may be too close up right now, but more practice with these tools will lead you to open up.

Practice Meditation

Meditation is a wonderful way to disconnect from the world without losing touch with it. Meditation can also help you spot negative thinking patterns and stop them before they cause mischief in your life.

Surround Yourself with Positive People

If you spend time with negative people, it’s understandable that you will become negative too. Plus, these types of friends can be emotionally draining to spend time with, when really, your social network should be uplifting. Stick with friends and family who are positive; your self-help groups will have a special set of friends.

Help Others

Helping others is a productive way to develop a better outlook on life. You will feel needed and useful when you help others, plus it’s advantageous to come out of your shell and see the many lives that are out there. If you realize that not everyone has a home to sleep in or food on the table, you’ll realize the true good in your life.

Thinking positively doesn’t always come easy – or naturally. This is especially true when you’re going through a difficult time in your life. But this does not mean that positive thinking isn’t possible. All it means is that you have to work harder to think positively and lowering the negativity in your life. Though it takes some work, positive thinking costs no money, requires no special tools and offers lifelong benefits.

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