Often when we think of substance use or mental health treatment, we may only think of treating the causes and symptoms associated with the illness. Truthfully, this is only a small aspect of treatment. Wellness, which focuses on physical health and mental health, plays an important role in rehabilitation and recovery.
There are eight dimensions of wellness that cover several aspects of life:
While addressing all of these is critical in mental health or addiction treatment, we’re going to focus on emotional wellness. Your emotional wellness plays a pivotal role in your everyday life as well as your recovery. Understand what this type of wellness is and how it can play such an important role in mental health or substance use treatment.
More Than Just Being Happy
It may seem on the surface that emotional wellness is only about being happy when in fact, it’s about much more. This dimension of wellness is about awareness of your behaviors, habits, feelings, moods and thoughts/thought processes. Are these factors helping or hindering your treatment and recovery, or perhaps causing you to hesitate to seek treatment at all?
How Wellness Impacts Addiction and Recovery
Emotional wellness can be difficult to face for individuals with mental health or substance use disorders. Emotional disconnect may lead someone to seek unhealthy coping mechanisms or refuse professional help. Rather than recognizing negative emotions and where they come from, individuals may choose to continue negative behaviors as a way to avoid painful emotions.
The danger with this emotional response is you’re only muffling and numbing your emotions; they’ll still be there in the long term. Avoidance can hinder many aspects of your life, including socially, professionally, and personally.
Part of treatment and recovery is learning how to practice emotional wellness. Note that this practice is difficult and takes time to learn. Emotional wellness helps you realize it’s okay to feel however you’re feeling without thinking you have to escape. Through counseling and therapy, you can develop a plan when negative emotions arise. How can you acknowledge these emotions and turn them into positive action? How can you use these emotions to achieve your goals?
Strength in emotional wellness can impact other areas of your life, including social relationships and decision-making. For example, emotional wellness can help you say “no” to people, places, and other triggers that lead to negative behaviors without feeling guilty. It can also help you improve your relationships and know when it’s time to let friends go.
Finally, emotional wellness plays an important role in self forgiveness and respect. For individuals with mental health or substance use disorders, this can often be the most difficult part of recovery. Facing feelings of guilt and knowing how to move forward is a crucial step in improving emotional wellness.
Treating the Whole Person
Treating the illness is just one part of treatment. You’ve got to address your mental and emotional well-being just as much as you focus on your physical well-being. This means addressing the underlying thoughts and emotions. Failure to do so will likely lead to self-destruction. Successful recovery comes from balancing both mind and body.
Once you start to work on your emotional wellness, be patient with yourself. It can take some time to not only pinpoint those harmful habits and thought processes, but “deprogram” them as well. This work doesn’t happen overnight. Cultivating emotional wellness is an ongoing part of recovery.