Not all triggers are bad.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

puppy makes you feel good

Puppy loves you!
Positive triggers.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Sometimes you need to get triggered.

The concept of “triggers,” things that you might see, hear, feel or do that could set off a change in thinking, feeling and behavior is an established part of the way of thinking in the recovery field. People learn something called “relapse prevention” in an effort to avoid having things set off a craving for drugs, alcohol or a return of depressive symptoms.

Just avoiding negative triggers is not enough for many people. You need some things in your life that trigger positive behaviors and emotions also.

Psychologists use the word “prime” instead of trigger for part of what we are talking about here. The concept is that seeing or experiencing something can “prime” your brain for a particular emotional response. Once primed it is easier to experience that feeling.

An example of a negative “prime” or trigger.

You walk into the house and see pictures of your ex. There are some broken things from your last fight. Lots of reminders of your disastrous relationship. The result? You are triggered to feel depressed or even to drink and use.

An example of a positive “prime” or trigger.

What if you redecorated that place? Put those old photos away. Go somewhere new with a friend and replace those photos with some new pictures. Same place, but this new environment, a few new things, some happy-making pictures can set off a positive mood.

Below is a list of things that might be positive triggers for you.

Things that make you feel loved are positive triggers.

What says love to you? Is that restricted to a sexual partner? Think about things that have made you feel loved in the past. Mementos from a friendship, reminders of parents, children or things that you have done for yourself to express self-love. Consider buying yourself a gift. Something you will see each time you come through that door that says I care about myself.

For some people, this happy trigger can be a pet. What says unconditional love like the greeting a pet gives you when you come home? Don’t have or haven’t had a pet? Look for a picture of that animal you want to have someday. Put that pet substitute in a prominent place. Tell yourself and the animal picture each time you see it that one day this will be yours.

For others, your love trigger would be a souvenir you bought for yourself or pictures of a place you plan to take yourself someday.

Have you started a new hobby? Put out reminders of this new part of your life so that when you walk through the door you feel at home and loved.

Boost your self-confidence.

Look for things that bring up memories of feeling good about yourself. Did you win a contest once? This does not need to be some grand accomplishment. Small doses of self-esteem mount up.

Nothing builds self-esteem as quickly as doing something for another with no expectation of receiving anything in return. What if you volunteered to help someone else? Would that help you feel good about yourself?

Trigger happiness.

What makes you feel happy? What puts a smile on your face? Rent some funny movies. Put up pictures of funny sayings. Write out your favorite jokes and post them in prominent places.

Have you seen a picture online that makes you smile? Make it your wallpaper or print out a copy and post it where you will see it often.

Cute cat videos get a lot of looks because they help us feel good about things. Bookmark those happy videos. When you feel down revisit the positive things you have experienced.

Have people in your life that trigger feeling good.

Evaluate your friends and the people who you spend time with. Do they help you feel good about yourself? If not start renovating your friendships. You may want a picture of a religious figure, you know the one I mean.

Was there someone whose life you admired? Find or draw a picture of them and put it up where it can trigger your inspiration.  Work on making new positive friends. Deepen friendships with others that trigger your positive emotions.

Smells are great memory triggers.

Is there a scent from your past that reminds you of happy times? Cinnamon at Christmas or flowers in springtime. Scents are strong memory cures. Herbs have been used for centuries because of the positive emotions they create. Get yourself a lavender or sage plant. Try some potpourri or some strongly scented cooking. Whatever scents trigger you in a positive way, work on having them with you more often.

Replace those negative triggers with a positive one.

As you work on your recovery be alert for the things that trigger negative feelings. Does something make you depressed, anxious or remind you of bad times? What makes you want to drink or use? Work on exchanging those triggers for positive ones that will support your recovery and happiness.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Free things that make you happy

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Happiness.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Can free things really make you happy?

We hear that money can’t buy happiness but we all know that a lack of money can bring you down.

Turns out that happy people are more successful in life, but success, especially money, does not by itself make you happy.

Here are some things that are free but can greatly improve your happiness if only you would use them.

Going outside increases happiness.

Spending more time outside, in nature makes people happy. The beach, the mountains, almost any place but the city makes most people feel happy. Despite all our desires to have bigger houses and more things, being away from those things man makes has turned out to make people happy in study after study.

Plan a trip to the country. Visit a local park or just walk along some local streets. Make sure you pay attention to the trees, the birds, and the flowers to increase your happiness.

The ideal happy temperature is 57 degrees Fahrenheit.

Strengthen happiness by getting more exercise.

Walking can improve your mood as well as, sometimes more than, most medications. A goal of many treatments for depression is to get people to the point that they are able to get up and get moving.

Exercise does not need to be strenuous to make you happy. Just simple moving around can begin the process. Consider taking up yoga. Look for events that get you moving. Sharing that exercise with other people can increase the happiness benefits.

Get more sleep for more happiness.

Most of us are chronically sleep deprived. Not enough sleep results in depression, poor memory, and impaired learning abilities. Sleep is not a bank account where you make a deposit one night a week and then live off that sleep all week. Think of sleep more like food you need to eat a healthy diet every day rather than bingeing on food.

There is one form of depression in which people eat and spend too much time trying to sleep, that is not because of too much sleep. What happens is that when depressed you may find it difficult to get out of bed and do anything. If you are in bed a lot of hours and still feel tired try getting up and doing something and see if your mood doesn’t improve.

Socialize more for more happiness.

Spending time with family and friends should not cost you. If it is, take another look at that relationship. The more time you spend with others the more likely you are to create a happy life.

Friends can give your happiness a real boost. Don’t have many friends you can spend time with? Get involved in something and you will make new friends. Most friendships begin around shared activates. You make friends at school, your place of religious practice or the places you do your sports and hobbies.  Join a group, take up a new activity, look for ways to meet new people and in the process, you can make some new friends.

Let go of the past to increase your happiness.

Holding on to the past, ruminating about those things that made you unhappy in the past is a sure way to prevent happiness in the present. Let the past go and you will see improvements in the now.

Hard to stop thinking about the negative? Train your brain to avoid those repetitive memories. When your thoughts head down a bad street, tell your mind to knock that off. Make a conscious effort to stay in the now and focus on the positive. What you look for expands. Look for happiness.

Happiness is contagious – get infected.

Being around happy people makes you happy. Read funny things, watch happy videos and laugh all you can. Share those cute-cat-videos with your social media friends. Spread wanton happiness wherever you go.

Slow your pace down and savor the happiness you do find.

Become a happiness watcher.

Happiness is all around you but may go unnoticed if you are not on the lookout. Just like people watch for birds and find them, you need to be on the lookout for happiness and throughout your day you are likely to see small snippets of happy all around you.

Get a pet to share your happiness.

This may not be totally free but it is certainly reasonably priced for most people. Having an animal in your life makes us all feel a little more loved. Get a dog, a cat or some other creature and see if your happiness does not improve.

The size or breed does not appear to make a difference. You do need to think ahead though because while you may get a pet for little or no outlay over their life they will require some food and other expenditures.

Doing something for someone else can make you happy.

Being of service can boost your happiness. Recovering people know that happiness is one of those things you need to give away to keep. Anytime you have done something for another, not for what you will get out of them but for the sheer pleasure of being helpful, you will become happier.

A warning. Do not do for others expecting them to appreciate you. Things done because you want others to like you will leave you feeling cheated when others do not appreciate what you have done as much as you expected. Things done for the pleasure of doing them always pay dividends.

There is my list of mostly free ways to increase your happiness in the place you find yourself. Being happy where you are has some side effects. You may find yourself more energetic and productive and your life may start to change for the better.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.