Rewarding recovery: how positive reinforcement can make feeling better, fun!

September 26, 2021

Recovery has been an important theme over the past year, as people across the world cope with the physical, mental and emotional fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. But long before the traumatic events of the past year, millions of people were struggling to find a way back to themselves and the routines that governed their lives, some with more success than others.

But the missing link in so many recovery programs is so simple, and yet so elusive: rewards. A theory as old as time itself and popularly described as the carrot in the-carrot-or-the-stick analogy, rewards are a tried and true way to encourage children to behave and pets to obey. So why aren’t we using this same method to make recovery easier and more enjoyable?

Understanding the recovery process and the science behind rewarding recovery is the key to ensuring every person trying to make a positive change has the tools to succeed.

What are the stages of recovery? 

It is commonly accepted that there are five stages of recovery, also known as ​​the stages of change or transtheoretical model. The steps aren’t linear, and the amount of time people remain in each is unique to each individual, but understanding what the stages are is the key to moving through them.

1. Precontemplation

Most people begin their journey towards recovery unable or unwilling to seek help, whether out of denial or in recognition of the positive side effects their habit of choice may have. Justifying the behavior or reacting defensively are common, and many people end up stuck in this stage, either because of a lack of knowledge about the alternatives or disappointment over failed recovery attempts in the past.

2. Contemplation

In this second stage, individuals are ready to begin to recover, but aren’t yet willing to let go of the benefits of their habit. This stage in particular is a critical time for intervention by family, friends and treatment facilities, as many people are on the cusp of making a change and just need some encouragement to do so.

3. Preparation

At this middle point in recovery, people are starting to feel strongly about their desire to quit a habit or behavior and may be taking steps on their own to do so. However, despite progress in the right direction, it’s just as common for people to abstain from their habits at this point as it is for them to relapse in some way, particularly if emotions are running high or they encounter triggers.

4. Action 

On the side of preparation is action, and most people in this stage will have made significant changes to their life to achieve recovery. It is common for longer periods of abstinence to be possible at this stage and for individuals to seek out professional help before or after any possible relapses to get back on track. The greatest indicator of the action stage is that individuals will have accomplished more than a cessation of the behavior, they will have made changes in many aspects of their life along the path towards recovery. 

5. Maintenance

The final stage in the recovery process is maintenance, and this phase can be as short as 6 months and as long as 5 years, depending on the individual’s experience. The goal at this point in the process is to prevent relapse through positive habits, such as exercise, attending support groups and engaging in other types of recreational activities. For the large majority of people, a commitment of at least two years is necessary to solidify these positive changes and break the cycle of destructive behaviors.

What does rewarding recovery mean?

Consistency is key, so Oberit rewards you for staying on track. Whether your journey involves logging your meals, writing down your intentions or exercising, do that task every day to reap the rewards in every way. Oberit has partnered with companies including Mocktail Club and Box Dog, so when you earn rewards, you can spend them on things like alcohol-free beverages and subscription boxes in the in-app marketplace.

Why does rewarding recovery work?

The human brain develops neural pathways that serve as the basis for our thoughts and behavioral habits. When we repeat a behavior over and over again, we develop a conditioned response that becomes deeply rooted and reinforces these pathways, encouraging us to continue, even if logically we are aware of the consequences of a certain habit or behavior.

But it is possible to rewire our brains and establish healthy responses to promote long-term change, and the most effective way to do so is through positive reinforcement. Studies have examined the link between rewards and behavioral change and have come to the conclusion that positive reinforcement can be highly effective.

In the field of behavior modification, it is widely accepted that positive reinforcement is far more successful than punishment, and in this way it is possible to close the gap and conclude that rewarding recovery is a positive and powerful way to promote healthy change.

How can Oberit help?

There is no debating that recovery is a challenging process, one that requires determination, patience and plenty of support from loved ones. But it is also true that, with a shift in perspective, making progress towards recovery can be fun and rewarding. Forming healthy, consistent habits, proven to reduce the likelihood of relapses, combined with frequent rewards to encourage the maintenance and improvement of these habits, is a proven way to get back on track and ensure every step of the journey is celebrated. Sometimes you need a little help, and that’s where the Oberit app comes in.

Visit to learn more or head over to the app store to download the app for free.

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