These Three Happiness Exercises Could Help Promote Recovery From Substance Use Disorder

Maybe you can’t buy happiness, but can you practice it?

A team of researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital Recovery Research Institute conducted a study published in The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment that found positive psychology exercises could boost the happiness levels of those recovering from substance use disorders.

The team, led by Bettina B. Hoeppner, PhD, used an online survey to evaluate more than 500 adults managing substance use disorders . Participants were randomly assigned short writing exercises to see how the exercises affected their happiness levels.

Results indicated that the participants’ happiness levels increased after the following exercises:

“Reliving Happy Moments” sparked the largest increase in happiness, followed by “Savoring” and “Rose, Bud, Thorn,” respectively.

Alternatively, an exercise called “Thorn, Thorn, Thorn,” where participants were asked to write down three challenges, led to a decrease in happiness levels.

These results indicate that positive psychology exercises could be a useful tool to promote happiness during treatment, and could potentially support long-term recovery for those with substance use disorder.

“These findings underscore the importance of offsetting the challenges of recovery with positive experiences. Recovery is hard, and for the effort to be sustainable, positive experiences need to be attainable along the way.”

Bettina B. Hoeppner, PhD

About the Mass General Research Institute
Massachusetts General Hospital is home to the largest hospital-based research program in the United States. Research at Mass General takes place in over 30 departments, centers and institutes and is supported by federal and state funding, foundations, industry partners and philanthropic donations. Support our research.

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