Approaching the new year creates the opportunity for reflection and change. While many people create resolutions to improve themselves, creating a new way of thinking can be far more powerful now and into the future. Rather than simply making a list of goals or resolutions, you can help your clients to discover new thinking for a new year.
Positive Reframing for the New Year
The new year gives clients a clean slate to write their stories on. This is the perfect opportunity to leave old habits and thought patterns behind and learn how to positively reframe thoughts to bring about lasting change in their lives. This is especially important for clients with drug or alcohol addiction and co-occurring mental illness, as negative thoughts are more common with these specific challenges.
The negative thought patterns of adolescents with substance abuse or mental health diagnoses can be difficult to change. These teens may feel broken, flawed, hopeless, and so much more. Teaching clients to reframe their thoughts can be the first step to creating a basic awareness of how their thinking impacts their minds and actions.
Helping Clients Catch Negative Thinking
Talking about what negative thoughts are is not enough; teens need to learn to catch their negative thoughts in order to change them. Most of the time, they are not even aware of the negative self-talk reel that is so frequently playing in their minds. Giving them tools to help them notice their negative thoughts can help them see just how often they tell themselves negative things.
Some ideas for helping teens become aware of negative thinking include:
- Wearing a rubber band on the wrist and snapping it each time a negative thought occurs
- A journal or log to mark down the number of or even specific negative thoughts throughout the day
- Put a marble, bead, or other object in a jar each time there is a negative thought and notice how full the jar gets each day
- Use a phone or app to keep track of how many or even types of negative thoughts
Teaching the Power of Affirmations
Affirmations can be a hard sell to teens. Placing value on saying positive things to themselves can be difficult and is certainly not popular. However, there are ways to teach teens to use positive affirmations in ways that make sense to them, including:
- Listening to affirmations on an app on their phone
- Creating personalized affirmations in their reminders on their phone
- Using positive memes that resonate with them
- Find YouTube affirmation videos they like
- Using an affirmation journal, focusing on one per day and adding one each day
Whichever way works best for your client, allowing them to explore the power of replacing negative thoughts with positive affirmations can help them overcome any issues they had previously. Demonstrating the difference in how they felt before and how they feel when using affirmations teaches them the value of positive thoughts.
How Can You Teach Adolescents Positive Self-Talk?
Positive self-talk is the natural opposite of negative thinking. Teaching clients to have an optimistic inner monologue can seem unnatural at first. However, in developing new thinking, positive self-talk is the next step away from where they began. Having learned to notice negative thoughts and then use positive affirmations to train their minds to think positively, creating their own self-talk that is specific to them can help take them that much further into new ways of thinking.
Creating that positive monologue that is personalized to them is a process. Adolescents need to be motivated to create a level of optimism that will help them through positive and negative situations. Talking themselves through a situation where they are down or feel like they have fallen requires confidence in themselves in addition to positive thinking. Using motivational interviewing can help them to learn the process of becoming self-efficacious in problem-solving. Teaching them the value of positive self-talk will help them to have the desire to develop those skills.
Creating Habits That Go Well Beyond the New Year
Working with clients to change their thinking gives them tools that can extend well beyond the new year and become long-term habits. Changing thinking can change lives by helping adolescents to find and maintain recovery and mental wellness. Taking them from the thoughts such as broken, flawed, and hopeless to self-talk that they are confident, in control, and balanced can be a gamechanger. Creating new habits about the way clients think about themselves can give them the power to change the direction of their lives now and in the future.
The new year gives clients the opportunity to learn new ways of thinking. By teaching clients to positively reframe thoughts, to notice when they have negative thoughts, and by teaching them not only the power of affirmations but also how to develop their own optimistic self-talk, you can give them the power to change their lives permanently. At Sustain Recovery, we are acutely aware of the damage of negative thinking on those with substance abuse and mental health diagnoses. We understand that these behaviors are not the problem but rather the teens’ solutions to the underlying problems of negative thinking, pain, and trauma. Our Irvine, California, extended residential treatment programs strive to help teens find success in their journey toward recovery. Call us at (949) 407-9052 to find out how we work to reintegrate teens back into their lives gradually and connect them with the people and services they need for long-term success in their recovery.