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Applying Positive Psychology in Recovery

Learn more about the history of positive psychology and how it can be a useful tool in your recovery.

What Is Positive Psychology?

Positive psychology is a branch of psychology that centers around positives instead of negatives. The focus is on the strengths and building up the good things in life instead of the negative struggles.1 This form of therapy focuses on the positive events and influences in a person’s life. It encourages individuals to pay closer attention to experiences that provide positive feelings while developing resilience and celebrating one’s strengths. This includes happiness, gratitude, compassion, and joy.2

Focusing on positive experiences helps people to live a more meaningful life. These strategies are used to manage mental health issues and improve a person’s outlook on life. 3

Positive Psychology

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History of Positive Psychology

Positive psychology was championed by Martin Seligman, who is considered to be the founding father of this field. There have been reports that Abraham Maslow used the term as early as the 1950s, but in 1998, Seligman introduced his theory to the American Psychological Association. His studies in the 1960s and 70s were on learned helplessness, pessimism, resilience, and optimism. Seligman determined that those who focused on the negative were likely to believe that they had no control over their lives and outcomes.4
The development of this theory focused on strengths, virtues, and well-being. The focus remains on how positive feelings relate to mental, emotional, and physical health.5

Uses of Positive Psychology

Positive psychology can help people develop new outlooks and seek new opportunities. Some areas that use this type of psychology include:6
  • Therapy and recovery:  These practices focus on improving happiness instead of decreasing sadness. It is about teaching individuals the skills to feel more fulfilled while thriving in spite of the illness or issues they have.
  • Education: It allows educators to set priorities and goals they want to achieve.
  • Self-help: Individuals can use the guidance of gratitude to improve happiness.
  • Stress management: Using mindfulness, gratitude, and achieving “flow” can help manage stress. “Flow” is the term for becoming absorbed in fulfilling or engaging work or activities. 
  • Workplace issues: Positive psychology can help a person cultivate meaningful relationships at work.
This approach can help therapists, teachers, coaches, and employers improve in many areas. These areas include motivation, productivity, self-esteem, and confidence. These strategies also help to decrease feelings of helplessness, pessimism, and hopelessness.7

The PERMA Model and Positive Psychology

The PERMA model helps to define and explain the theory’s meaning of well-being. It is an acronym for the characteristics of well-being as defined by Martin Seligman. This acronym stands for:
  • Positive emotions: This refers to engaging in experiences that cause positive emotions. 
  • Engagement: This means investing time in activities that provide a sense of engagement. Focus on enjoyable activities that you excel at.
  • Relationship: We rely on human connections to prosper and thrive. Positive relationships can give us a sense of purpose.
  • Meaning: Experiencing meaning is an important part of well-being. Engaging in meaningful activities provides a sense of purpose. This helps us to focus on something that is bigger than ourselves.
  • Accomplishments/Achievements: People flourish when they experience a sense of achievement and accomplishment. Striving to meet goals results in a sense of accomplishment.

Using the PERMA Model to Improve Happiness

The PERMA model provides a framework for understanding and improving well-being. To use this model to improve happiness and establish a positive outlook, focus on:
  • Doing more things that make you happy
  • Developing skills or hobbies that you’re passionate about
  • Building meaningful relationships
  • Looking for volunteer work, a career, or other activities that are meaningful to you
  • Finding a balance between achieving your goals and all other important aspects of your life
Positive psychology therapy

Applying Positive Psychology in Recovery

The typical view of addiction recovery is that it is a disease. Positive psychology takes the stance that addiction is a behavioral disorder. This theory sees recovery as an opportunity to empower the individual to overcome problems and move forward.8

The typical view in addiction recovery is focused on the negative, and there is a lot of discussion about the high possibility of relapse. Those in recovery are often told they will likely relapse. Focusing on the negatives can make the struggle more difficult. Instead, positive psychology teaches individuals to approach recovery with a positive attitude.

Activities in Addiction Recovery

Though it can be difficult, practicing gratitude and a more positive frame of mind can help. Positivity can help decrease stress, improve resilience, and increase distress tolerance. This all can be useful in preventing relapse in recovery. Activities used in addiction recovery are:
  • Meditation: Meditation can improve stress, anxiety, and quality of sleep.
  • Building connections: This is an important part of both recovery and well-being. Creating a gratitude letter or visit can help build meaningful connections.
  • Gratitude exercises: These exercises can help a person to identify and reflect on all the good things in their life.
  • Engaging activities: These activities are enjoyable, engaging, and something the individual excels at. It is often important to find productive and engaging activities to prevent relapse.

Addiction Recovery and Positive Psychology at Ripple Ranch Recovery

If you or someone you know is interested in receiving treatment, Ripple Ranch can help. Ripple Ranch Recovery is an addiction treatment center focused on providing high-quality care using evidence-based and holistic programs. We offer a wide range of treatment options that allow us to make your treatment as individualized and successful as possible.

Our positive psychology approach focuses on building individual strengths, meditation, gratitude, and assisting in finding engaging activities. With the help of our compassionate and professional healthcare staff, find out if this treatment is right for you.

Reach Out Today

Get addiction treatment now with Ripple Ranch Recovery. For more information on our treatment programs, contact us today at 830.494.4717 or