Joy training for the addictive brain? Yes, it’s possible I’m happy to say. I was at my brother Lee’s 12 Step N.A. meeting when he got his 1 year chip. Yeah Lee!! There were 100 people in the room celebrating each other for their hard work to stay sober from 1 year to 28 years. It was amazing to see and feel the hope, love and JOY in the room.
Addicts and those of us in the addiction field know that negativity, stress and fear are part of addiction and that recovery includes good coping skills. Relapse prevention’s is about coping skills and dealing with negativity is primary.
Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness says that the brain’s thinking naturally skews to the negative. “The brain is velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive.”
The brain has a “negativity bias” and that’s good for survival. Those happy, joyful, la la people apparently didn’t make it because they didn’t see and respond to the dangers of life.
BUT, this negativity bias makes it harder to find JOY in our adult lives. Not kids – kids ARE happy for the most part. It’s sad to say, but we grown ups have to WORK at JOY.
Twenty-five years ago I went on a quest for JOY when I recognized my own tendency to react to stress, be run by anxiety and negativity. That led me to The Course In Miracles. Another time.
The other truism is that “what fires together, wires together.” To counter the natural negativity of the brain and CREATE more JOY it takes practice, practice, practice.
Here’s a simple practice that if you’ll do over the next 30 days will lower stress and anxiety and increase happiness. (*Abbreviated from Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson)
Take In The Good
1) Notice what you’re thinking or feeling without changing anything. Notice your body. Breathe and begin to relax.
2) Think about a strength you have or recognize protections such as a friend nearby. Notice that you’re all right, right now.
3) Bring to mind one or more things you’re grateful for or glad about. Think about something that makes you happy.
4) Think about one or more people (or a pet) who care about you. Feel appreciated, liked or loved. Be aware of your own warmth and caring for others.
5) Let this sense of peace or contentment weave together and rest. Imagine moving through your day with this sense.
Practice for 30 days a 3 or 4 times a day for 20-30 seconds at a time. Brain research shows that this type of practice counters the negativity bias of the brain and increases feelings of contentment, peace – even JOY.
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Lynn Telford-Sahl, M.A. Psychology, Certified Addiction Counselor, National Speaker & Author of Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom, writes the blog for addictionmodesto.com from her 25 years experience and research in the addiction field.