Content reviewed by Nicholas G. Glines, Executive Director at New Hope Ranch

The idea of joy is often misinterpreted, and many people confuse pleasure with joy. Further, if you are in recovery, your past substance use was undoubtedly more about pleasure than actual joy. Therefore, during recovery, you might continue to chase pleasure rather than build a life of joy.

Additionally, it can be much more challenging to fill the void when pleasure from substance use is gone. The risk of trying to fill this void can lead to relapse. It is essential to understand what actual joy is and how to cultivate it in your life of recovery.

Joy and Your Brain

When you engage in experiences and situations that you perceive as satisfying, your brain becomes conditioned to believe that such experiences equate to joy. Soon, this idea of joy becomes the norm for what you want to experience to reduce anxiety and stress and boost your mood. Therefore, if you use substances to bring “joy,” what you are actually doing is chemically manipulating and conditioning your brain to believe this is joy. However, this is not an accurate nor healthy way to experience or sustain joy.

The reality is that joy can be difficult to access when you are under the weight of addiction. It becomes about pleasure when it should associate with healthy experiences that make you feel safe and connected.

After achieving sobriety, negative emotions and worry associated with your past substance use can linger and consume your natural state of joy. You may even carry negative thoughts on a routine basis. However, working toward creating moments in a healthy way will help your brain understand the true meaning of joy.

Cultivating Joy in Addiction Recovery

When it comes to joy, finding lasting success requires doing things that create pleasant feelings to replace the time spent on addictive behaviors. Attaining this level of joy helps you experience pleasure without consequences.

You can begin by looking at activities to rediscover healthier rewards. Think of this as rewiring your brain to think about and experience joy differently. Therapies such as CBT and DBT help you correct negative thoughts and habits to create healthy thinking patterns. Therapy helps you connect with activities you once enjoyed. Some activities may include:

The pursuit of joy requires that you try new activities on a regular basis. Doing so will allow you to gauge how the activity makes you feel. You will often discover that you are having more fun and feel more engaged in what you are doing.

Learn to Manage Triggers in Addiction Recovery

Triggers will always surface to challenge recovery. Further, some experiences you participate in may act as a reminder of the past, such as interacting with people you used substances with. Recovery is about re-establishing the relationship with yourself and others. It is essential to understand the what and why of your triggers that cause you to want to use substances. As mentioned, CBT and DBT are beneficial therapies that help you address the root of your addiction. Other coping mechanisms that allow you to confront your triggers include:

These methods channel your attention to the present moment, allowing you to focus on your surroundings. Minding your surrounding is an effective way to examine what is happening around you that feeds your impulse. Is it a certain song playing in the background? News on the television? A recent text from a former friend? There are a number of variables that incite triggers, and knowing how to stop and take in your surroundings will help you identify the source.

What Is Lasting Joy?

Addiction is an impulse and, therefore, an entrapment. It is almost impossible to pursue joy while under the weight of addiction. True and lasting joy requires you to stop pursuing something external as a source of happiness. In most cases, this means shifting your perspective to inhibit a positive outlook and eliminating negative thoughts that don’t lend growth in recovery. Joy is found in the simple things, like having a friend to discuss movies with, walking a dog and even accomplishing another day of sobriety.

Commit to Recovery

You deserve lasting joy. Recovery is an opportunity to tap into new pathways and adventures. Different therapies coupled with healthy activities will help you endure the challenges and reap the rewards. Remember how much your recovery matters. When you shift your perspective to become open and positive, your mind will be able to re-connect or rediscover what brought it joy before addiction took hold.

At New Hope Ranch, our models of treatment help you develop skills that will encourage living life to the fullest. Our 49-acre ranch in Manor, Texas, offers breathtaking views and opportunities to develop skills to confront life’s most difficult challenges. Our services continue to support and strengthen the recovery community, and your story and voice help create opportunities for the community as a whole. To find out more, contact us today by calling (737) 600-8565.