The article I adapted this from is about depression, but many of the mental tools presented are useful for overcoming behaviors....or for dealing with some of the issues underlying substance abuse.
Overcoming Depression and Finding Happiness
By Chuck T. Falcon, Mental Health Professional, Counseling Psychologist; Sensible Psychology Press
You can see the full article at this very useful web site:
Remember sadness is always temporary. This, too, shall pass.
Can't, If, When, and But never did anything.
Trials give you strength, sorrows give understanding and wisdom.
Depression involves sadness, pessimism, a preoccupation with personal problems, and perhaps feeling sorry for one's self, anguish, crying, and hopelessness. Four out of five cases of severe depression clear up without treatment within six to nine months, but half of the people with severe depression experience it again later. People often become depressed about marital, romantic, or family problems. Using alcohol or other drugs to improve your mood is especially risky because addictive substances often intensify pre-existing mood or personality problems.
Fortunately, we can control our thoughts and feelings much more than most people realize. With enough work and effort, you can change habitual thoughts and feelings. Some severely depressed people need medicines to control their depression, but most people can conquer depression by following the suggestions in this excerpt. If you feel severely depressed, most psychiatrists will use trial and error to find a drug that will help you.
Interests and activities are very important in mental health, contributing to self-esteem and happiness. They give satisfaction, help make you feel good about yourself, and keep your mind off problems and negative thoughts and emotions.
There are three main kinds of helpful interests and activities: pleasurable, constructive, and altruistic. Of course, pleasurable activities give us enjoyment. We may do them just for fun or relaxation. Constructive activities produce or accomplish something and give a sense of pride. Helping others is one of the best ways to lift yourself spiritually.
Of course, depressed people often find it very difficult to motivate themselves and often reject new interests and activities without trying them or after one attempt. But even happy people don't enjoy interests without first cultivating them. We often don't enjoy a new activity right away. Instead, it may take time to become accustomed to a new activity and for interest and pleasure to grow.
Negative thinking habits play a very important role in depression. Research shows depressed people tend to minimize their accomplishments, talents, and qualities. They tend to see themselves as inferior and incompetent‰Û¦.
Happy people experience failure, disappointment, rejection, negative emotions, pain, and great sorrows, too, just like depressed people. But happy people keep a positive attitude by gracefully accepting sadness and suffering as normal parts of life, while doing what they can about their problems. [D]epressed people often blame their problems on fate, bad luck, other people, circumstances, or their incompetence. They may passively resign themselves to problem situations and let the problems continue.
Reexamine your expectations or priorities in life and, if necessary, adjust them to suit reality better. Depressed people often think they can't be happy without certain things‰Û¦. You can eliminate such problems by changing your negative thinking and learning to accept the situation. Work on your personal problems, using small steps to make sure you avoid becoming overwhelmed. Work on only one or two simple things at a time, breaking large or complex problems into goals you can easily accomplish.
Don't let negative thought habits interfere with problem solving. Take a long, hard, honest look at yourself for personal problems, paying particular attention to repeating problems in your life. Change bad habits that keep you depressed. Work on replacing negative thoughts with positive thought alternatives every day in the ways described there.
Don't let negative thoughts about many activities block your improvement and interfere with your happiness. Replace these each time they occur with more positive, helpful thoughts. Depressed people tend to overlook and discount feelings of pleasure and accomplishment, both in trying new activities and in many other areas of life. Learn to recognize these feelings. Counter negative reactions with positive alternatives. .Repeat those activities that give you slight feelings of accomplishment or pleasure.
Good social skills and a good network of friendships ranging from casual to intimate ones help prevent depression after life stresses and speeds recovery from depression. Work on increasing the positive behaviors in your marriage. Research shows depressed people are more likely than other people to interact with their spouses and children in hostile or angry ways. Learn about and practice good communications skills.
Looking for a romance to save you from your loneliness and unhappiness is a rather desperate, needy search that alienates other people. Accept you may be single for a long time and get on with your life. With interests and activities and a good network of friends and acquaintances, your painful longing will cease. A common, very painful mistake in dating is to become completely engrossed in a person who shows little true concern for your needs and feelings. Your time and emotional energy are better spent developing interests, activities, ways of meeting people, and a more suitable love relationship.
If you don't know why you feel depressed, look for clues by comparing and contrasting your life now with a happier time in your life. Depressed people usually feel better when they keep busy (at work, cooking, visiting, etc.) and worse when idle (weekends, evenings, etc.).
The fastest way to change an emotion is often simply to act the way you want to feel. Act happy, smile regularly, act friendly toward other people, and participate in plenty of interests and activities‰Û¦.Work on improving nonverbal behaviors that convey depression.
People need a healthy balance between pleasure and work. A few depressed and overwhelmed people need to quit pushing themselves so hard, relax more, and eliminate some work activities, but most depressed people need more interests and activities. Exercise invigorates you, giving you more energy. Deep relaxation also helps combat depression and especially helps anxious depressed people. Relaxation helps people find peace within themselves. Learn about different kinds of relaxation techniques and meditation and put them to use in your life.
Certain kinds of written records help combat depression. Compile a journal or list of joyous experiences Make another list of your positive attributes.. Make a list of blessings you can be thankful for, too. Compile a collection of inspiring thoughts, quotes, poems, prayers, or affirmations. Affirmations are inspiring statements you write and then repeat throughout the day for self-improvement or emotional well-being.
Perhaps you reward yourself when you drown in negative thoughts or self-pity. Many depressed people eat, spend money excessively, abuse addictive substances, or have sex without love to feel better. Eliminate these and any other subtle rewards for depressive behavior. Work to make your social interactions more positive by showing warmth toward other people, taking an interest in them, developing and sharing interests and activities.
Don't worry about whether you are happy. Develop interests, activities, and friendships, be kind, help other people, strive to be virtuous, accept emotional pain, work on conquering your personal problems, and improve your thinking habits. These things will lead to happiness.