Through the 1960s and 70s, Martin Seligman conducted research that provided the groundwork for the theory of learned helplessness in psychology. This research was connected to lower feelings of self-esteem and prolonged negative emotions associated with depression.
Despite his early studies, he became frustrated with psychology’s focus on negative emotions, mental illness, and abnormal psychology. Instead, he strived to focus on what he termed positive psychology. Through this study, he determined how focusing on a positive mindset directly impacted a person’s happiness. Through psychology interventions, a therapist can help bring positive change in people.
It is important to note that positive psychology was created to work in tandem with traditional psychology, not to replace it. No method of treatment works entirely in a vacuum, and as with other forms of addiction treatment and psychological interventions, positive psychology only works if the things that impact us negatively are addressed and managed as well.2
There are several reasons as to how substance abuse negatively impacts a person’s life including:
This level of life is where a person engages in activities and events that bring them happiness and joy regularly. These tend to be fleeting moments of happiness such as eating a favorite food, practicing a craft they enjoy, or listening to a favorite song.
This level emphasizes living up to character strengths and getting into a “flow state.” It involves spending time studying a new skill, mastering a trade, or spending hours learning about a topic that you are engaged in. An example of this method is a history professor researching the Crusades.
This level of life is measured by purpose and meaning. At this level, the focus is no longer just on bettering oneself but on applying one’s character strengths that have been honed into the service of others. By putting something that a person deems important above their desires, such as an environmental cause or social justice cause, a person can achieve the highest state of happiness.
Maintaining a positive attitude through psychological interventions is the best way to achieve recovery and a sober life.3 Many therapists will ask those that are going through recovery from substance abuse, alcohol dependency, or other forms of addiction treatment to keep a gratitude journal on a daily basis.
By keeping a focus on the positive things that are happening in their lives, a person will have a greater focus on gratitude and happiness. Focusing on these types of aspects will promote a healthy lifestyle and recovery from addiction. The emotions that a therapist will emphasize focus on are:3
Some of the most common forms of positive psychology that are used to help people who are undergoing addiction treatment are:
Building deep, personal, and meaningful connections with others that are going through the same experiences as yourself can help a person to overcome their addictions. This connection is why support groups are so beneficial to addiction recovery.
Maintaining and writing daily in a gratitude journal will help a person keep a focus on the good things that are happening in their lives and will help them learn how to focus on positive events rather than negative ones.
Learning new hobbies and activities to help distract oneself from the temptation of addiction is an extremely important step in recovery.
Today more than ever, people have a better understanding of the mechanisms and trauma that lead to addiction. The Addiction Recovery Movement focuses on fighting the stigma associated with addiction and emphasizes trauma-informed care when helping people in recovery.4
They strive to change public opinion and increase awareness as to the struggles that people face with addiction. In addition, they strive to provide greater support and treatment options to those who are seeking help and long-term recovery.