Many different things can contribute to the state of your addiction. Some may support your recovery, while others may push you right back into the cycle of addiction all over again.

One of the most influential factors that affect the state of addiction is your mind. The thought patterns you reinforce can affect your emotions, decisions, and behavior.

What Are Thought Patterns?

The brain is always rewiring itself. This is the idea behind neuroplasticity. When you engage in a specific behavior, the neurological pathways involved in that behavior are strengthened. Similarly, when you have not engaged in a specific behavior for a while, the neurological pathways involved begin to weaken.

Thought patterns are a type of repeated behavior that involves certain ways of thinking. Just as performing a specific action can become a habit, certain ways of thinking become habitual. For example, some people engage in positive thought patterns that push them forward, reminding them of their abilities. Others have a degrading internal monologue, setting them up for failure.

The most common thought patterns we engage with produce repeated activity in our neurological pathways. As is the case for other habits, thought patterns are reinforced as they continue to be expressed. Each time a negative thought presents itself, and we allow it to take control of our actions, the thought pattern is reinforced and encouraged to happen again.

Fortunately, the same mechanism of neuroplasticity that enables negative thought patterns to reinforce themselves can help us rewire our brains toward more positive patterns.

Neuroplasticity as a Recovery Tool

Neuroplasticity is the ability of your brain to alter its responses to different stimuli. This shows that our brain is not a hardwired system.

By consciously implementing and practicing new habits, we can utilize neuroplasticity for recovery from addiction. Many of these habits will revolve around tangible behaviors. For example, we might develop healthier sleeping habits or go outside more often for nature therapy. However, we should not neglect the importance of engaging with healthier thought patterns.

Neuroplasticity can be used to reinforce a positive mentality. When we experience potential triggers that could trigger us to feel discouraged, we can choose to think positively and remind ourselves of our progress so far. If a situation makes us feel stressed, we can take a few minutes to breathe and remind ourselves of our ability to feel calm.

These alternative responses, over time, become new habits. They can begin to rewire the brain’s previous automatic reactions.

The Effects of Thought

Utilizing neuroplasticity to rewire our thought patterns can positively affect the recovery process. Disrupting the neural pathways that reinforce the use of substances and replacing them with alternative actions can eventually diminish the desire to engage in substance use. Using some simple practices, you can alter your negative thought patterns and avoid reinforcing the cycle of addiction.

Allowing negative thought patterns to continue can increase your potential for relapsing. Coping with these negative emotions can be difficult. You may fall into your reinforced response of using a substance to cope with these emotions. This cycle continues to allow negative thoughts to grow. Overcoming this cycle of negative thinking can help you stay away from the addictive cycle.

Changing Negative Thought Patterns

When negative thoughts arise, there are two ways you can consciously choose to respond to them. You can either allow them to control you or replace them with more positive thoughts. 

Changing a thinking pattern may require you to look deeply at the negative thoughts that arose first. You can then remind yourself of the evidence against them. Use statements that you believe in to dismiss what is untrue about the thoughts. For example, negative thoughts may tell you that you will always be a failure and remind you of the times you’ve failed. You can talk back to those thoughts by reminding yourself of your progress and your ability to continue getting better.

Try to recognize negative thought patterns for what they are. They are distortions of our emotional pain. From prior experiences, our mind jumps to negative conclusions as a protective factor, saving us from making the same mistake again. While this natural fear response may seem to be good, it is contradictory in many ways. By allowing negative emotions to keep you stuck in old patterns, you are hindering yourself from succeeding in your recovery journey.

Recognizing these distortive thought patterns can help you more clearly understand the reality of your abilities. Your mind will likely convince you that you are not able to achieve success when in all reality, success is right there in front of you. Work on altering these thought patterns and implementing senses of self-love and gratitude to reinforce your positive attributes of yourself.

This may take a great deal of practice to accomplish. However, working toward greater positivity in your thinking can benefit you immensely long before positivity begins to feel natural.

Avoid Jumping to Conclusions

In many situations, you may automatically imagine the worst situation possible. Our mind tends to jump to conclusions, which are often highly unlikely to occur. Taking a second to assess the validity of your assumptions can allow you to look at situations realistically. This moment of processing can reinforce realistic thought patterns in situations of high stress.

Allow yourself to think of situations in concepts of fluidity. When we think of things as black or white, we may miss the bigger picture. By thinking of the full scenario, we can decipher which emotions are a construct of our mind and which are essential to feeling. At times, you may have to recognize the truth behind your negative thoughts, as they may signal something that needs to be addressed. Differentiating these patterns from reinforced distortions of reality is essential in rewiring your neural responses and creating a healthy balance within your mind.

Thought patterns are often overlooked in the field of recovery. However, they are an important aspect of overcoming addiction. Our thought patterns with substance use disorder are often reinforced to portray negative images of ourselves, influencing the use of substances to override these emotions. These thought patterns can lead us to doubt our abilities to succeed in recovery, pushing us back into the cycle of addiction. Rewiring these thoughts, you can shift your mind toward a state of greater positivity. This positive mindset can encourage you to continue recovery and avoid reaching relapsing to cope with your emotions. To learn more about the effects of thought patterns, reach out to Dream Recovery at (949) 732-1960.

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