Recovery

With mental health, recovery means different things to different people. What’s important is building a meaningful life – whatever that means to you.

*Last updated: 15 September 2021

What is recovery?

When it comes to mental illness, recovery can mean different things. For some people, it will mean no longer having symptoms of their mental health condition. For others, it will mean managing their symptoms, regaining control of their life and learning new ways to live the life they want.

Recovery is often described as a process, meaning it isn’t always straightforward. You might have days (or weeks, or months) where you feel well and times when your symptoms return. If you’ve discovered techniques and treatments that work for you, you’re likely to feel more confident and less overwhelmed by your symptoms.

When it comes to your recovery, think about what’s important for you and what a meaningful life would look like.

What might help with my recovery?

There are different things that may help and no right or wrong way to recover. Some research suggests that key factors on the road to recovery include:

  • good relationships
  • satisfying work
  • personal growth
  • the right living environment.

Setting goals may help you recover. Think about what’s important to you: whether that’s making new friends, having a routine or finding voluntary work. Consider making SMART goals. SMART stands for:

  • Specific – be clear about what you want to do (for example, do yoga once a week for the next six months)
  • Meaningful – if your goal is important to you, you’re more likely to stick with it (yoga makes me feel less tense and more focused)
  • Achievable – is your goal something you can do? (I have the time and energy to do a weekly class)
  • Realistic – is your goal appropriate for you? (I’ve exercised once a week before and I know I can do it again)
  • Time-limited – set a date for when you want to achieve your goal to keep you focused.

Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t reach your goal. Maybe you need more time to achieve it, or maybe it wasn’t right for you right now.

Whatever it is that’s important to your recovery, remember you don’t have to figure things out on your own. Support from others – whether that’s your GP, friends, family or professionals involved in your care – can make recovery easier.

What support is available?

You may want to start by talking to your GP about your options: whether that’s medication, therapy or other kinds of help such as support groups or complementary therapies. You could try peer support,  talking therapy or mindfulness.

Recovery colleges are available in most areas as part of the NHS. They offer free courses on different aspects of mental health to help you manage your symptoms and become an expert in your own recovery and self-care. People with lived experience of mental health conditions are involved in developing the courses. Search online to see if there’s a recovery college in your area or speak to your GP.

Think about all the other things that affect your mental health too: debt, poor housing, trauma or long-term physical health conditions, for example. Our pages on these have more information on how to get help.

Further resources and information

A Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) is a tool you can use to stay well and make your life your own. It teaches you how to use some key concepts of recovery – hope, personal responsibility, education, self-advocacy and support – in your daily life. Their website has a WRAP app you can download.

If you find it helpful to read about other people’s recovery journeys, Mind, Time to Change and the Scottish Recovery Network have personal stories.

Rethink’s page on recovery has more examples of things that may help you recover.