For years, self-help gurus, life coaches and others have preached the power of positive thinking. Now, a new report from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s Butler Center for Research provides empirical evidence that cultivating positive emotions can increase the chances of recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.
Positive psychology (PP) is a science of positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions. An emerging science, it focuses on improving quality of life and prevent mental and physical illness that can develop when life seems stressful. depleting and overwhelming.
PP uses empirical research to determine factors and actions that lead to individual well-being, positive outlook, and thriving communities. Research in the treatment of addiction and PP focuses beyond reducing dysfunctional behaviors to creating meaningful and positive experiences that lead to a positive life.
One research study tested the impact of gratitude on positive affect and alcohol use. Individuals who were undergoing outpatient treatment for alcohol use disorder participated in a mixed-methods randomized control intervention for 14 days. Every day, participants were required to write three good things (TGT) that happened in a day and why they happened.
Data collected in daily web surveys and post-treatment interviews showed positive effects. Immediately following the 14-day intervention, negative affect decreased, while unactivated positive affect (e.g., feeling calm) increased significantly in the TGT group as compared to the control group.
According to the Butler Center report, this study suggests that incorporating gratitude into those diagnosed with AUD may have a positive impact on recovery. “Frequent moments of gratitude are beneficial for lasting recovery,” the researchers note.
Another study suggests that simply talking about PPT components can promote recovery. A small sample of 10 at-risk adolescents with issues of substance misuse were given eight weekly interventions of group work and discussion around various principle themes of positive psychology (e.g., positive emotions, gratitude, optimism, strengths).
Four survey measures were used to test subjective happiness, orientation to life, positive and negative affect, and alcohol dependence. There was an increase in subjective happiness, optimism, and positive emotions between the beginning and 14-weeks post intervention and a decrease in drinking behavior compared to the control group with no intervention.The positive intervention group showed an increase in happiness and a decrease in drinking behavior overall.
Research in addiction prevention has indicated that certain human strengths may help prevent mental illness and problematic behaviors. PP strives to reinforce these strengths, which include traits like learned optimism – the ability to dispute self-defeating and catastrophic thoughts.
The report also notes that building buffering strengths such as courage and perseverance, increasing optimism and hope, raising self-esteem, and increasing confidence in the ability to problem solve and achieve goals are “therapeutic factors that promote recovery.”