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Life & Addiction: Focus on the Positive

By: Carol Morriscey

Rumination—the pattern of focusing on the negative

Happy young woman, smiling as she learns to focus on the positive during drug rehab, improving her addiction treatment outcomes. Replaying a mistake over and over in your head, or endlessly rehashing the details of a conversation are common responses when something goes wrong. As humans, we have evolved to disproportionately focus on the negative. In the past, when we were faced with life-threatening situations on a daily basis, this tendency allowed us to survive. However, in modern day life, excessive focus on negative events no longer contributes to survival, but more often contributes to feelings of depression and anxiety or exacerbates substance use and drug addiction.

Positivity is Helpful in Daily Life, Drug Rehab and Addiction Recovery

Although we may naturally fixate on the bad things that have happened, this can be very damaging. Alternatively, if we make an active effort to place more focus on the positive things that happen, some pretty incredible things can happen! Positivity can boost immunity, improve your overall health, and lower stress and anxiety.

Further, addictions are often perpetuated by negative thought patterns. For example, using a drug after promising yourself you wouldn’t, often leads to thoughts of failure and self-depreciation, and the drug may be used again to dampen these feelings. However, if the length of time one remained sober, or the amount of tenacity required to resist the drug many times before was focused on instead, further drug use might not result. Therefore, finding a way to focus on the positive can help in daily life, as well as during drug rehab and recovery from drug addiction.

A man and his son, after drug rehab, as he focuses on the positive. How to Move Past the Negative and Focus on the Positive

Taking conscious action in your life will allow you to stop ruminating on the negative, and focus on the positive. Ironically, the first step in this process is to acknowledge the negative event. Pushing it out of your mind, without dealing with it first, will increase the likelihood of rumination at a later time. Objectively assess the situation, ensuring a negative bias is not colouring your interpretation. Then, find the positive in the situation. For example, what lessons have your learned or what future opportunities has this created? If you’re unable to find the positive in the situation, accept that you can’t change what has happened.

If you find yourself ruminating, employ an alternative activity or thought process. Ideally, you’ll replace rumination with a healthier and more constructive response. This may include a yoga practice, a conversation with a supportive friend, or a creative activity, such as painting or drawing. Eventually, when faced with negative events, your automatic reaction will become your chosen healthier alternative to rumination, leading to a happier and healthier, addiction-free life.

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National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers International Security for Traumatic Stress Studies The Canadian Positive Psychology Association The Association for Addiction Professionals