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Adding to the “Wellbeing” Toolbox

A little less stress, a little more happiness

These are stressful times and that may be the understatement of the decade. It’s the one thing that we all can agree on. The world is under pressure. It has been especially challenging for those of us dealing with, or in recovery from, a substance use disorder (SUD) and/or a mental health (MH) issue.

Everyone acknowledges this reality.

However, it is equally important to recognize the family. Family members of people with SUD or MH challenges are pushed to their limits under normal circumstances. The added stress of the pandemic and the associated issues has pushed people beyond their limits. The pandemic stifled access to treatment and closed meetings, leaving families on their own. Family members had to “figure it out” with limited options and resources.

Family members must focus on their own recovery. This is a lesson typically learned over time. The natural tendency for the family member to protect their loved one can morph into enabling and rescuing. It is difficult for the family member to focus on anything other than the welfare of the person they love. It takes time to break these habits. The good news is millions of family members have broken the chain.

Millions are recovering.

Family members and individuals in recovery are to be celebrated. It takes courage to change. It’s a lifetime process. We never stop growing. We must focus on our mental wellbeing the same way we focus on our physical wellbeing.

This is a constant and intentional process oriented toward improved health and wellness.

There are tools specifically focused on stress reduction and we know that intentional activities, repeated consistently, will increase happiness and decrease stress.

Right now, we could all use a little less stress. And a little more happiness.

Introducing Positive Psychology

Positive psychology was developed in 1993 by Martin Seligman and colleagues. Via his own personal experience, Seligman became interested in the concept of subjective wellbeing or what is more commonly known as happiness.

There have always been a multitude of interventions to help the clinically depressed get better. However, there were few interventions to help someone who was “okay” live a fuller and more robust life. We could help people survive. But few things existed to help people thrive. Positive psychology developed as a discipline to fill this void. Since its inception in 1993, Positive Psychology (PP) has developed, tested and validated countless interventions that have been proven to improve quality of life, increase happiness, and decrease stress.

Proven Ways To Increase Happiness and Decrease Stress

There are countless PP interventions, and what follows are two of the more common PP interventions. The key is consistent application of these principles. As the saying goes: It works if you work it.

Three Good Things

Everyday, at the same time each day, write down three good things that happened to you that day. Commit to doing this for 30 days and commit to not repeating yourself. At the end of the 30 day period, you will have a list of 90 different “good things.” This is key. It forces you to notice the little things.

The first couple days you will say the standard stuff. Such as: I got a job, my kids are healthy, I’m healthy.

But as the days progress, you get past the obvious and you need to dig deeper. You are forced to notice not so obvious things. For example: I had a meeting on the other side of town and thought I was going to be late. But there was no traffic, and somehow I made it on time.

Positive psychology trades on many different scientific disciplines to guide the development of these interventions. One such area is neuroscience. This following intervention capitalizes on knowledge surrounding neural pathways and neuroplasticity.

You are wired to notice the negative. Human beings evolved to be hyper-vigilant and notice the danger. In the past, this was physical danger. The world was a dangerous place. Modern times have proven to be less threatening physically (overall) but more threatening psychologically.

Three Good Things forces you to pay attention to good things and notice the positive. If done consistently, this will permanently rewire a new neural pathway. Noticing the “good things” will become habitual.

The Free Three

Research is clear. The following activities are directly connected to improved mood and higher levels of life satisfaction.

1. Go outside for at least 15 minutes. Preferably in nature. But even a walk around the office building will help. GET OUTSIDE.

2. Laugh. Be intentional and take time to laugh. Watch funny videos of YouTube. Watch a funny movie. Spend time with people who make you laugh. LAUGH.

3. Listen to music. Preferably up-beat, high tempo music that pumps you up. But any music will do. LISTEN TO MUSIC.

This is called the FREE THREE to make a point.

These are easily accessible activities that are 100-percent free of charge. Therefore, we should be able to consistently engage in them. It may sound too simple, but the little things make a big difference.

The list of positive psychology interventions grows daily. These are just a couple simple examples of the action-oriented nature of positive psychology programming. Integrate these into your daily routine and watch the stress fade away. Money back guarantee.

For more information on Positive Psychology see: https://www. authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/

Rich Jones
Rich Jones, MA, MBA, LCAS, CCS, CEAP, SAP, c-EMDR, is an experienced therapist, clinician, and health care entrepreneur operating primarily in the behavioral health space. He is in long-term recovery from an opioid use/alcohol use disorder and a certified peer support specialist. He is passionate about providing quality care and supporting people in need. Rich is the EVP and Executive Director of Heritage CARES, a division of Heritage Health Solutions.

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