‘Five things to make you happier in recovery’ by Peapod

“Helping others is not only good for them and a good thing to do, it also makes us happier and healthier too. Giving also connects us to others, creating stronger communities and helping to build a happier society for everyone.”

“Helping others is not only good for them and a good thing to do, it also makes us happier and healthier too. Giving also connects us to others, creating stronger communities and helping to build a happier society for everyone.”

Happiness has become a science. You can study happiness and researchers have taken a look at the things that make us happy; they have surprisingly little to do with money.

So much so that some governments are looking at moving away from measuring success by focusing so much on gross domestic product (GDP).

A new initiative called Action for Happiness has suggested ten keys for happier living. There’s not much to argue about there.

I thought, how could you distil, blend and adapt these for recovery? Here’s my attempt:

1. We are happier when we relate to other people So get connected to recovery communities. Find the local mutual aid groups in your town or city – groups like AA, NA, CA and SMART and get involved. The research says that the more involved you get the better the quality of your recovery and the less likely you are to relapse.

Spend quality time with family and friends too.

2. We are happier when we help other people Action for Happiness says this on their website:

Helping others is not only good for them and a good thing to do, it also makes us happier and healthier too. Giving also connects us to others, creating stronger communities and helping to build a happier society for everyone.

And it’s not all about money – we can also give our time, ideas and energy. So if you want to feel good, do good!’

My suggestion: help someone at the start of their recovery journey by supporting and encouraging them, or help out a recovering friend who is having a hard time.

3. We are happier when we connect to things greater than ourselves Finding purpose and meaning in life is important to us. I can’t put it better than Action for Happiness does:

‘People who have meaning and purpose in their lives are happier, feel more in control and get more out of what they do. They also experience less stress, anxiety and depression.

But where do we find ‘meaning and purpose’. It might be our religious faith, being a parent or doing a job that makes a difference. The answers vary for each of us but they all involve being connected to something bigger than ourselves.’

So the science backs up finding a power greater than ourselves, though of course this does not need to be a religious power, just something that is outside of us.

What gives you meaning in your recovery?

4. We are happier when we find self-acceptance We spend a lot of time comparing ourselves with others and worrying about how we appear, what we say and how others perceive us. Wasted energy. Being gentle and kind to ourselves leads to more happiness.

Many of us are tortured by shame and guilt and self-doubt in addiction. Recovery is about letting go of that, being our own best friend and being grateful for who we are and what we have.

Being more comfortable in our own skin also helps us to accept others, warts and all.

5. We are happier when we have a positive attitude

More from Action for Happiness:

‘Positive emotions – like joy, gratitude, contentment, inspiration, and pride – are not just great at the time. Recent research shows that regularly experiencing them creates an ‘upward spiral’, helping to build our resources.

So although we need to be realistic about life’s ups and downs, it helps to focus on the good aspects of any situation – the glass half full rather than the glass half empty.’

In the 12-step programme, sponsors will often ask those they are working with to write a ‘gratitude list’ of things they are grateful with in life.

The language of recovery is a positive language and focusing on what’s going well in recovery rather than what’s not will lift us up.

Finishing on a positive Given the thrust of the blog, it seems appropriate to end with a suitable anecdote, which may or may not bring a smile to the lips. The most delicate-natured readers should go no further. This is a true story:

‘President de Gaulle decides to retire from public life and the American Ambassador and his wife put on a grand social function in his honour to mark the occasion.

All the appropriate dignitaries are invited to the ball and dinner. At the dinner table the Ambassador’s wife is placed next to Mm. de Gaulle and they exchange pleasantries between courses

“Your husband has been such a prominent public figure, such a presence on the French and International scene for so many years,” says the Ambassador’s wife. “How quiet retirement will seem in comparison. What are you most looking forward to in these retirement years?”

“Oh, that’s very straightforward… a penis,” Madame De Gaulle replies.

The Ambassador’s wife arches an eyebrow and looks at her cutlery for a long moment. A hush descends over the table. All the assembled dignitaries have heard her answer and no one knows quite what to say next.

“What did you say again?” the Ambassador’s wife eventually pipes up.

“A penis.”

Finally, De Gaulle leans over to his wife and puts everyone out of their misery: “Ma cherie! I believe zee Americans pronounce zat word, appiness.”’

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