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National Gratitude Month: Use November for Improving Recovery

 National Gratitude Month: Use November for Improving Recovery

Author: Justin Mckibben

Being the month of THANKSgiving, not to mention the month of Veterans Day to show appreciation for the armed forces, it should come as no surprise that November is recognized by many as National Gratitude Month.

But we know that true gratitude is more than saying “thank you” for what others may do or the things we are fortunate enough to have. Gratitude gives us the ability to look past the negative parts of our situation, our lives or the world we live in and focus on appreciating all the good that we do have. Practicing daily gratitude allows us to create a more profound understanding and connection with ourselves, our loved ones and the world around us. Gratitude creates compassion and empathy; it helps us to be more involved and more self-aware.

But this writer believes that true gratitude takes action. So this month, in observance of National Gratitude Month, I encourage people to take action to share that gratitude with others.

The Practice of Being Grateful

Back in 2015, November was officially proclaimed National Gratitude Month throughout the US and Canada by National Day Calendar. The initial announcement for the observance comes from Stacey Grewal, an author, spiritual mentor and coach who advocated for the proclamation. Grewal stated,

“Gratitude is an essential ingredient of a happy, fulfilling life,”

Grewal herself has been proclaimed a “gratitude guru” who wrote the book Gratitude and Goals.

10 years ago in 2007, Robert Emmons began researching gratitude and found that expressing gratitude improves mental, physical and relational well-being. Practicing gratitude also impacts the overall experience of happiness. All this is typically not a momentary improvement. Many of these benefits turn out to be long-lasting.

Benefits of Gratitude

  • Improved physical, emotional, and social well-being
  • Greater optimism and happiness
  • Improved feelings of connection in times of loss or crisis
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Amplified energy levels
  • Strengthened heart
  • Improved immune system
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Improved emotional and academic intelligence
  • Extended aptitude for forgiveness
  • Decreased stress, anxiety, depression
  • Reduced headaches
  • Improved self-care and greater likelihood to exercise
  • Heightened sense of spirituality

There are even a number of events and activities to get involved with this month, including the 30 Day Gratitude Challenge where one can sign up for a daily email that suggests opportunities to practice gratitude in new and interesting ways.

But you don’t have to commit to any event or challenge to help promote gratitude.

Giving with Gratitude

Looking at the definition of gratitude on the all-knowing Google, we find it as:

“The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

Right there we see the inclusion of the concept that gratitude means to at least be willing to take some kind of action, i.e. showing appreciation and returning the kindness.

The way I express my understanding of gratitude is like this:

  • If I am grateful for my job, I show up and work hard
  • If I am grateful for my home, I respect it and honor it, along with anyone who may live there
  • Being grateful for those who have helped me, I help whoever I can when I can

My expression of gratitude means making every attempt possible to ensure I do not take the gifts I have for granted. We should not neglect the things or the people we have in our lives as if we know they will always be there. When we become complacent, our gratitude might slip away.

Recovery from addiction gives us so much more to do with that gratitude.

Grateful for Recovery

In recovery from drugs or alcohol, it can be especially important for many of us to stay grateful. In the recovery community, we hear people all the time talking about how grateful they are to be alive, or how grateful they are to have another chance at life or a fellowship of support in recovery. All of this is so important, but again it takes action.

If we are grateful for the opportunity to get better, we should not squander it with defiance and neglect.

If we are grateful to be alive, we should focus on living better lives and doing something meaning with our lives; even if to you that simply means being a better parent/spouse/child/sibling in your family.

Being grateful reminds us of the kindness of others and the strength that they gave us to get ourselves out of addiction. So we should live by example and help those who still need help, recovering or not. With all the benefits of gratitude we’ve mentioned, it only makes sense that someone in recovery from addiction would want to take advantage of National Gratitude Month as an excuse to exercise that part of themselves. Treating others as if you are already grateful for the opportunity is training for the mind, body, and spirit. For those working to overcome addiction, gratitude can be a

Share the Love for National Gratitude Month

If you want to get involved, it is pretty easy. Just be grateful every chance you get.

In the world, as it is right now we could use more love and gratitude. With so much going on in such divisive times, like the opioid crisis and overdose outbreak tearing apart so many lives, we should take every chance to bring our communities together.

Or if you want to help share the love and raise awareness, share this article with your friends and use #NationalGratitudeMonth on social media posts.

Have an amazing November! Remember to be grateful and to show that appreciation and kindness with action and goodwill toward others!

It’s been said that healing can come from the places you least expect it. Make sure to appreciate the opportunity. For those who are looking for something to be grateful for, it starts with the fact you are still here. If you are suffering or lost, maybe its time for a new foundation. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

4 Easy Ways of Helping Others in Addiction Recovery

4 Easy Ways of Helping Others in Addiction Recovery

Author: Justin Mckibben

Studying Compassionate Goals

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology actually states that compassionate goals we set are about

“- striving to help others and avoiding selfish behavior” for example, “making a positive difference in someone else’s life.”

Researchers here measured how participating in self-image goals and compassionate goals had an impact on symptoms of depression and anxiety, along with their conflict with others.

This study concluded that its results suggest there is a very real relevance of self-image and compassionate goals for the interpersonal maintenance of issues like depression and anxiety.

Principally, the results held some pros and cons for people with anxiety. The downfall is that trying to boost self-image by avoiding vulnerability backfires, leaving people more depressed and anxious. This can create a difficult cycle to escape from emotionally.

The good news is that by focusing on helping others, we make everyone involved, including ourselves, feel better. This is because showing compassion through action doesn’t just relieve our anxiety or depression in the moment, but it helps us build our relationships, which can reduce anxiety and depression as they grow stronger and healthier. It is a win-win. In recovery from drugs or alcohol, we should take all the wins we can get.

4 Ways to Help Others that Help Us

If you want to utilize acts of kindness to help you grow in your recovery, there are plenty of ways to do it. Here are just 4 examples of things you can do to help others that will help you.

  1. Making constructive comments to others

”Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity.”

-Yehuda Berg

That statement is no exaggeration. If the pen is mightier than the sword, the spoken word is truly the undisputed champion.

In recovery use your words to help others. Make constructive comments that serve to build others up, while pointing out their strengths and celebrating their successes. This helps us develop a habit of focusing on the good in one another and ultimately in our communities and our lives. It can also build up our relationships to give us strong support.

  1. Having compassion for others’ mistakes

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes”

-Oscar Wilde

For a lot of people, it is already hard enough to accept their mistakes. Most of us are our worst critics. No one likes people pointing out their shortcomings. We all make mistakes. Try to be compassionate about it when others slip up.

Why is it important to show companion when someone else makes a mistake? Because not only does giving someone an empathetic response make them feel better, it also reinforces our relationship with them. It shows those around you that you are understanding and humble enough to support someone through their mistake without shaming them or holding it over their head.

In recovery, this means a lot because it is important to remember that we are also a work in progress. We have our own faults, and if we want to build a new life we have to move on from the old. Compassion can even help others show you the same support when it’s your turn to mess up.

  1. Don’t be self-centered

“A selfish man is a thief”

-Jose Marti

In most recovery fellowships there is an emphasis on avoiding the self-centered behavior. Being self-centered is never really beneficial in the long-term, even if it helps you with some level of instant gratification. In addiction recovery, being so self-involved can be counter-productive to healthy growth.

Surely it is ok to take care of yourself and honor yourself. But being self-centered makes it less about self-care and more about self-seeking and being inconsiderate.

In fact, high levels of depression and anxiety tend to make us turn inward and focus on ourselves even more. The worse we feel the more isolated we become. Being considerate of others and finding a way to help them can actually relieve anxiety and depression by turning that energy outward.

In recovery, we should think of others as we improve ourselves. When we realize we must make choices and take action to benefit people other than ourselves, our compassion gives us perspective.

  1. Avoiding harming others

“If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.”

-Dalai Lama

Last but certainly not least, we can easily help ourselves and others by not causing harm. If you can’t make someone’s life better, at least don’t make it worse. You don’t have to necessarily go out of your way and do random acts of kindness, but at least don’t do random harm to others.

And this kind of compassion is pretty much just common courtesy. It can be active on a small scale and still impact you in recovery. You can throw your trash in a garbage can so someone else doesn’t have to sweep it up later. You could put away your shopping cart at the grocery store, or even use that crazy ‘turn-signal’ thing everyone keeps talking about when you’re driving.

While these seem like silly examples, for some people it goes a long way to just be considerate with the little things. It helps build character slowly but surely, while also giving us a sense of our impact on other people. If we can learn to so how our small kindnesses add up, maybe we will be more aware of the power in our bigger decisions.

Compassion in Addiction Recovery

It might not always be easy, but the important choices often aren’t easy. In addiction recovery, we should try to work on ourselves as often as we can, especially for the benefit of others. If our actions can make a positive effect and help someone else, while helping us stay clean and sober, we are on the right track.

But how do we start on that path?

If you want to begin a new journey that will help you build the life you deserve, while helping those you love most, there is help. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Why Shaming People with Addiction Doesn’t Really Work

Why Shaming People with Addiction Doesn’t Really Work

Author: Justin Mckibben

Does anyone else remember that episode in Game of Thrones when Cersei Lannister (played by the amazing Lena Headey) was marched naked through the streets of King’s Landing for the “walk of atonement”? During this public ritual punishment, the Queen Mother is followed by Septa Unella, who rings a bell to attract the attention of the crowd while repeatedly crying out “Shame!” to encourage the people to leer and jeer at Cersei.

Remember how well that worked out… for everyone… especially Septa Unella?

Well, in case you are one of those people who have never watched this show and have no clue what I’m talking about… SHAME!

But seriously, the thought of it drives home a big point about how people try to use shame and disgrace to modify the behaviors they disapprove of. People in modern times, outside of the 7 kingdoms, will say stuff like “shame on you” or “you should be ashamed of yourself” in an attempt to deter someone from doing something they do not agree with. Sometimes, with good intentions, parents use this tactic as an alternative to physical punishment. Other times people will use shame to manipulate and control others.

But does shame really work? In the case of shaming people with addiction, it doesn’t seem to go far at all.

Shame VS Guilt

One thing people first have to understand is the difference between shame and guilt. Some would say that someone who has no shame is someone who lacks humility or a conscience. People may say that if you don’t feel ashamed, you must think you are too good for others or have no consideration of others. However, that is not necessarily the case.

When someone feels guilt, that is something from within that compels us to see the fault in our own actions. Guilt is based on your own view of something you have said or done that has been harmful to others. It is the consciences way of keeping us in check. Guilt and shame are not the same thing.

Shame is how we experience the disapproval of others. It is the adverse emotional response to being singled out and judged by others for being wrong or doing wrong. So guilt tells us that we know something we are doing is wrong, but shame is the outside world telling us it is wrong even if we don’t feel that inside.

To sum it up:

Acting with clear knowledge that a behavior is unacceptable is what typically inspires feelings of guilt. Thus, it is associated with a specific behavior and is not likely associated with psychological distress such as depression.

Shame can relate specifically to one’s entire self. It says “I am wrong” instead of “my choice was wrong”. This can put people at risk of developing unhealthy conditions like:

Why Shaming Doesn’t Work

Shaming someone into changing is manipulating their fear or social isolation or criticism to control their behavior. Our connection to each other is so crucial for out well-being, both psychologically and physically, that it can often be used against us. For some people the level of social rejection from shaming will scare them into avoiding that emotional punishment. Yet there is still an issue with this method at its core.

It’s like in that movie Inception, when Leonardo DiCaprio taught us all how to dream within a dream (I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately). At one point they talk about how an idea implanted in the mind won’t take if the mind knows it wasn’t organic; if it didn’t come from within.

Shame can be like that. If you tell someone that they should be ashamed of themselves for using drugs, they might stop because they need the social connection. However, if they do not themselves see that their drug use is harming themselves and others, then shaming them will drive them into hiding to avoid persecution.

For many who suffer with substance use disorder the addiction itself has an extreme emotional attachment of some kind. If the individual is motivated enough to use drugs, or believes they are capable of control without consequence, the shame will only result in them hiding their problems even more and further isolating themselves.

Shame and Stigma and the Self

The shame of the stigma of addiction can be counterproductive to an addict getting help. Ultimately, shame can drive stigma and further damage the individual’s chances of personal development. People can internalize shame and sabotage their self-worth, which often causes people to care less about their own safety.

If their choices are being dictated by anxiety then the destructive habits can increase as the shame drives them to remove themselves from those who disapprove of them. This isn’t only true for addiction. Shame can influence other adverse actions, such as:

Shaming people with addiction or people with mental health disorders is only supporting the stigma that make them feel separated from us. Telling an addict to be ashamed of themselves for their addiction may force them to do something, but this strategy is vastly ineffective when compared to compassion and support.

Research has shown shame is especially damaging when inflicted by someone who the individual is deeply connected to. Parents, family members, spouses and loved ones who shame each other create lasting imprints on one another. That strong emotional leverage can create an even deeper divide between us and the ones we love by diminishing our self-worth.

So shaming our loved ones who struggle with addiction may be less likely to inspire them to get help and more likely to scare them away from asking us for help when they need it.

No Pain No Shame

So to clarify, shaming someone may seem like it gets the job done, but in reality it is not effective at motivating healthy behaviors. In fact, shaming someone creates social withdrawal and undermines self-esteem. For someone struggling with substance use disorder, there is probably already enough feelings of disconnect of self-defeatism without being shamed.

Again, this doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with someone about how their behavior is impacting you. Setting boundaries and being honest is still important, but doing so in a compassionate way is more conducive to encouraging someone to do the right thing for the right reasons.

If we want to avoid hurting one another, we should avoid trying to shame each other into doing what we want. Shaming people with addiction isn’t going to heal their affliction. Making them feel separate and alone will not inspire the kind of change that creates stronger bonds. Focusing on celebrating good deeds can help a lot more than dwelling on every bad one and holding it over someone’s head.

Nurturing recovery is more powerful than shaming addiction.

Having a family member who has suffered can be harder on you than you know. Too many people don’t know how to get the help they need for their loved ones, and too many of our loved ones suffer for too long because they are afraid of the affects that the ones they care about most will face. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Advocates Speak Out: Mental Illness is Not a Halloween Costume 

Advocates Speak Out: Mental Illness is Not a Halloween Costume 

Author: Shernide Delva

Boo! Halloween is around the corner, which means it is that time of the year where people try to go above and beyond with their costume choices.  Of course, there are the usual go-to Halloween costumes we’ve all grown accustomed to seeing. You know what they are: the ghost, the mummy, the “sexy firefighter.”   Costumes like these are pretty harmless and non-offensive.

However,  every year at this time, alongside the vampires, and flesh-eating zombies are the mental hospital patients. You have seen those too. The serial killer, the psychopath, and the “mental institution escapee” are popular choices.  Although costumes like these are familiar, we often don’t think about how those costumes could offend those with mental illnesses. Are costumes like these only further perpetuating the stereotypes?

If you’re like most, you probably thought nothing of these mental illness costumes. However, many have come forward to spread awareness of how these costumes further promote stigma. Now, there is a movement towards informing the public that costumes like these are not harmless.

The Negative Portrayal of Mental Illness

The media already portrays mental illness in such a negative way, and mental illness costumes only further validate those stereotypes.  For those with mental illnesses, they often feel ostracized because of the negative portrayal their disease receives.

Recently, an amusement-park attraction called “Fear VR: 5150” shut down because it centered on an “insane asylum cum horror show.” Several people who struggled with mental illness, or had a loved one struggle with it, found the attraction to be insensitive and inappropriate.

Now, the conversation is shifting towards Halloween costumes.  Mental-illness stigmas are all around us, especially in television and movies. People with psychosis are routinely portrayed as serial killers, or worse.  Just a brief search online and you will see costumes playing on all sorts of mental illness stereotypes. It is likely there will be at least one serial killer, or straitjacket child ringing your doorbell this Halloween.

Advocates Want the Costumes to Stop

So with all the efforts lately to break the stereotypes of mental illness, should there be more of an emphasis on Halloween costumes? Advocates firmly believe so. In recent weeks, there have been numerous arguments made.

Lindsay Holmes, the editor of the Huffington Post, said,

“Mental Illness is a Health Condition, Not Halloween Entertainment.”

Furthermore, writer Colby Iktowitz said in the Washington Post

“Halloween attractions use mental illness to scare us. ”

Iktowitz went on to explain the important reasons why mental illness costumes and attractions should cease to exist.  Iktowitz says the message these costumes send isn’t subtle: People with mental illness are to be feared.

While many of us will read this article and think, “what’s a big deal?” The reality is that for many, costumes like these are incredibly hurtful because they mimic real scenarios they have endured. Pete Earley, an author, and advocate has stood up against these costumes and attractions.

“I realize that some think our protests are political correctness run amok,” he said, “but when you know people who are afraid of seeking treatment because they don’t want to be seen as ‘loonies,’ you understand just how harmful these costumes can be.”

The stigmas surrounding mental illness do not come from the words. They come from how the general public perceives those words. Words like bipolar, schizophrenic and psychopath conjure images in our mind because of how movies and costumes depict them to us.

Showing Support Towards Others

Ultimately, it’s the mass fear of mental illness driven by the public that prevents millions of people from seeking treatment for their condition. Without treatment, their condition worsens, and the scarier the disease can indeed become.

The good news is those with mental illness can recover, or improve with proper treatment and support. For those of us lucky enough to not struggle with mental illnesses, perhaps it might be helpful not to portray them in such a scary light.  It is just a thought. Personally, I’ve become so accustomed to seeing these costumes; it ‘s hard to see how offensive they can be. However, by looking at things from multiple points of view, it allows for better understanding and compassion for others.

What do you think? Should people be more considerate of their costume choices when it comes to mental illnesses?

Halloween is a time for fun and a time to portray all sorts of characters. Still, for those with mental illnesses, their condition does not just go away once November 1st hits. Treatment is critical, and fear should never stop a person from seeking treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling, please reach out and get help. Call toll-free now. We want to help.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Why I’m a Hug Dealer: The Helping Power of Hugs

Why I’m a Hug Dealer

Author: Justin Mckibben

We’ve all heard that oh-so-clever cliché that has been used by generic T-shirt makers and plastered on ironic bumper-stickers… “HUGS NOT DRUGS.” You may have heard it so often that it has become a bit irritating. Some guy at your favorite coffee shop who collects random graphic shirts with witty quotes probably wears that one like he invented it. But realistically, the concept of a “friendly neighborhood HUG dealer” is probably a lot more valuable than it sounds.

The truth is that when you take into account the impact of physiology on your sociology and psychology, it makes a lot more sense for most people. When examining the physical science behind our response to hugs, it should be obvious that dealing out hugs like it’s your business do well for our mental health.

Skin deep…

Ok, so remember in science class how they explained your skin is the largest organ of your body? Ok, show off, I don’t! But still, it is. While skin keeps a lot of the bad stuff out, it also takes in a lot. Skin collects external data from the world around us and sends it to the brain for processing. The most effect body parts for picking up precise pieces of sensory measurements are:

  • Finger tips
  • Soles of our feet
  • Lips

Now knowing that, it makes sense that a hug provides us with a bevy of complex responses neurologically. A hug creates a reaction in the brain that is sent through our sensitive nerve endings, giving us a good feeling.

Cortisol

Research has told us that stress causes our body to produce a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol actually slows down the healing process while create something like cliff-note memories in the mind. These cliff-notes will be stored in relation to circumstances to teach us how to avoid that same stress in the future.

Another thing Cortisol does when we experience social rejection is make us more willing to make friends and establish connections. For example, if people are in stressful situation as a group, they often bond through their shared peril. When a natural disaster occurs communities unite, and we probably have Cortisol to thank for that. Stress creates an environment where we will seek comfort and protection through one another.

Oxytocin

Then through empathy we react in a supportive nature when someone we know is stressed. Naturally many people will offer a hug of support and compassion, thus igniting the body’s natural means of a “high” through Oxytocin!

Oxytocin itself is a neurochemical that has a few positive effects on an individual, including:

  • Building trust
  • Dissolving short-term memory
  • Warm, fuzzy feeling

Researchers have even discovered that Oxytocin can speed the physical healing of wounds!

So when you offer someone in pain a hug it not only gets the Oxytocin pumping to keep those good feelings going, but it also helps the body disconnect from the memory of painful stimulus. Giving a hug not only jump-starts the body’s ability to heal, but protects it form creating harmful associations to circumstances.

2 Birds, 1 Hug

The big thing about being a “hug dealer” is that it is actually killing two birds with one stone- or two burdens with one hug.

How? Simple; doing good makes us feel good.

If you are an empathetic creature then you instinctively want to help heal someone who is hurting. When we see someone in great pain we intuitively put ourselves in their shoes and feel what they feel. Feeling their pain can get into our heart and soul. So we hug them to heal us both at once without even knowing it.

All together we can gather from this information that being a “hug dealer” makes an impact on the lives of both parties, and usually doesn’t result in indescribable misery or criminal charges… well, at least just don’t hug strangers without permission.

  1. A hug promotes social connections
  2. A hug relieves stress
  3. A hug helps build trust
  4. A hug promotes empathy
  5. A hug disrupts unhealthy memories of association
  6. A hug helps active the healing process

There are so many reasons why we are wired to find comfort and healing in a welcoming and supportive embrace. It communicates to us both directly and subconsciously that we are not alone and we do not need to suffer.

That’s why I am a “hug dealer,” because I see the value in offering comfort and connection to people in pain. I’ve known pain in my life; I know the value of a personal connection. Creating love and compassion in that kind of connection is the cheapest high I have ever known. Everyone should be a “hug dealer,” not just for others, but for their own good. It just feels good to embrace another person, especially when they need it most. Our bodies are just build that way, and we should take more advantage of it than we do. Look at the world around you- at your relationships and at your community- wouldn’t a hug once in a while help?

Come on, bring it in… first one is free!

Empathy, compassion and connection are much needed in the world today as a whole. For the addict, it may seem like something so far forgotten. In reality, connection is one of our deepest needs and can be the greatest natural high. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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