Negative emotional states (negativity) such as worry, anger, fear, hopelessness, loneliness, self-pity, self-hatred, envy, or boredom can trigger cravings and relapses. This is why you need to learn to manage negativity to stay in recovery.
Most people focus more on the negative than the positive, creating “dis-ease” and thus the conditions for relapse. Identify negativity when it arises and do something about it. Techniques to counter negativity include:
- Label thoughts and feelings as just thoughts and feelings you are having. Recognize a negative attitude for what it is—something you can change.
- Say “thank you” to the thought or feeling, asking what purpose it might serve you. Practice unconditional friendliness towards all internal experiences. Don’t hold onto them, however. Let them pass. Tune in to the Present and ask, “What does this moment ask of me?”
- Inquire and correct. Inquire into the roots of negative thoughts, asking if they are realistic or productive. Counter negative thoughts with reality-based thoughts. If someone criticizes you, put whatever truth there might be into a balanced perspective where you appreciate yourself and accept your faults. If self-hatred arises, remind yourself of your immeasurable value despite your imperfections. If you experience nonacceptance of some person or situation, accept the person exactly as they are or the situation just as it is.
- Practice gratitude, intentionally focusing on what is good in your life rather than what is bad.
- Talk. Call someone or talk to someone in person. Talk out your feelings. In doing so, explore how your negativity affects you and shift your attitude to a more balanced, positive perspective. Try to identify any distortions, such as black and white thinking, seeing only the negative in a situation, or taking something personally that is not about you.
- Act. Engage in positive, self-soothing, and fun activities. Take good care of yourself. Connect with others for guidance, reassurance, and support. Help someone. If you are bored, do something you enjoy. If you are lonely, pick up the phone and call someone. Reach out. Do something positive that will neutralize negativity. Get something done that will leave you feeling good.
- Regroup and recharge. Most negativity is rooted in fear and hopelessness. Get affirmation from affirming people. Reflect on past accomplishments. Notice that even the most “hopeless” people have succeeded in recovery through faithful persistence. Read inspiring spiritual or recovery literature. Remind yourself that failure gives the opportunity to learn and grow. Recommit to a positive expectation of recovery. Commit every morning to practice positivity throughout the day.
While you can’t always control your circumstances, you can control your attitude. Make these negativity-busters part of your trigger management plan to maintain a positive attitude. Remember, your positivity promotes positive action, which results in positive outcomes.