Achieving and maintaining a state of good mental health is an important part of recovery from addiction. But if you’ve been struggling with a substance abuse disorder for a very long time, you may not know how to recognize the telltale signs of a healthy mind. If you’re like many recovering addicts, you may never have enjoyed particularly good mental health to begin with. You may also be suffering from a concurrent mental disorder, like depression or anxiety, with symptoms of its own that require treatment.
How can you tell when your addiction treatment program is paying off in the form of better mental health? While the absence of mental illness symptoms is one hallmark of a healthy mind, there’s a lot more to it than that. As your mental health improves, you’ll begin to see in yourself a range of positive feelings, traits and characteristics that indicate your ability to live life to the fullest, build strong relationships, engage in productive activities and face life’s challenges without resorting to substance abuse or other unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Do You Have Mental Illness Symptoms?
People who are experiencing good mental health generally do not experience abnormal or disordered thoughts, feelings or behaviors. If they do, they are actively engaged in psychiatric treatment and counseling to cope with them. Mental illness symptoms can include:
- Profound, lasting feelings of depression, anger or euphoria
- Thoughts of suicide
- Obsessive or compulsive behavior, like substance abuse or repeated hand-washing
Substance abuse disorders are a form of mental illness, but they often occur at the same time as other mental illnesses. When you enter a substance abuse treatment program, your mental health will be evaluated and your treatment team may determine that you need treatment for another mental illness. Taking a self-assessment test can give you a more detailed idea of what kinds of thoughts, feelings and behaviors are considered unhealthy. While only a psychiatrist can make a specific diagnosis and prescribe medication to treat mental illness, you can often rely on those who know you best to tell you if your behavior seems odd or if it’s causing problems in your life.
The Telltale Signs of Good Mental Health
Good mental health means far more than just the absence of mental illness symptoms. As your mental health improves, you’ll begin to develop positive attributes, such as:
- Feelings of contentment with your life in general
- Resilience in the face of adversity and stress
- An increased capacity for fun
- A greater zeal for life
- Deeper feelings of purpose and meaning
- An enhanced ability to build and maintain relationships
- The ability to balance work and recreation
- Adaptability and flexibility
- Improved self-esteem and self-confidence
It’s a common misconception that mentally healthy people never experience periods of stress, unhappiness or anxiety. In fact, everyone experiences these feelings. They’re a normal part of life. The difference for people in good mental health is that they have the emotional tools they need to cope with loss, trauma, disappointment, change, stress and adversity while still remaining optimistic, focused, adaptable and creative. The ability to face life’s troubles with a sense of optimism is what’s known as resilience.
Start Improving Your Mental Health Right Now
If you’re in recovery from addiction and can’t wait to heal emotionally and mentally, there’s good news you don’t have to. You can take action right now to start improving your mental health today.
The health of your mind is intrinsically linked to the health of your body, so, by caring for your physical health, you can also care for your mental health. You’ve already taken a big step in choosing to enter substance abuse treatment. You can build on this progress by:
- Sleeping seven to eight hours a night
- Getting out in the fresh air for 10 to 15 minutes a day
- Eating right
- Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day
You can also begin improving your mental health by caring for yourself emotionally. Try to make time and space in your life for the things you enjoy. It’s not indulgent to do things just because you enjoy them it’s necessary. Nurture yourself emotionally by appreciating nature, enjoying a creative pursuit, reading a book or talking to a friend. Volunteering can help build self-esteem and a sense of connection with the community. Learning new things can challenge you intellectually and help you grow as a person.
If you’re in the early stages of recovery from addiction, you may not know what good mental health looks or feels like. Nevertheless, it’s important that you achieve a healthy mental state in order to sustain your recovery over the long-term. Though improving your mental health may seem difficult at first, as time progresses and you build skills, maintaining a positive outlook will become as automatic as breathing.