A fist-on its-kind study conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Recovery Research Institute shows that self-administered positive psychology exercises can increase happiness for adults recovering from substance addiction.

Addiction scientists are increasingly moving beyond the traditional focus on reducing or eliminating substance use by advocating treatment protocols that encompass quality of life. Yet orchestrated positive experiences are rarely incorporated into treatment for those with substance use disorders,” says lead author Bettina B. Hoeppner, PhD, senior research scientist at the Recovery Research Institute.

The study consisted of assigning one in five text-based exercises that took an average of four minutes to complete to 500 individuals that reported current or previous substance use disorder, through a randomized on-line survey. Particularly, an exercise where participants selected a photo that captured a happy moment and described it by text (called Reliving Happy Moments) was reported as the one that resulted in the greatest gain in happiness after completing it.

An exercise where individuals described 2 experiences they appreciate from the previous day (called Savoring) showed the second highest gains in happiness. In following exercise (Rose, Thorn, Bud), the subjects wrote a highlight and a challenge from the preceding day and a pleasure they anticipated in the following day.

Oppositely, an exercise where participants had to list the challenges they had to face the previous day, led to significant losses in happiness.

Those exercises that resulted in the biggest happiness boosts may be promising tolls during treatment of people with substance abuse disorders, which may help achieving a long-term recovery, the authors believe.

These findings underscore the importance of offsetting the challenges of recovery with positive experiences,” says Hoeppner, an associate professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Recovery is hard, and for the effort to be sustainable, positive experiences need to be attainable along the way.”


Source: Science Daily