Watching Your Body Language

watching your body language

Body language is just as important in communication as the words a person speaks. Whether a person is standing straight up and looking slightly down to appear imposing, crossing their arms to guard themselves in uncomfortable situations, or in a relaxed posture with their arms loosely by their sides can say as much about what a person is thinking and feeling like the words they speak. 


For those in recovery, paying attention to their body language while they speak or in any kind of social situation can indicate their transformation through the recovery process or highlight areas where they may need to set new goals. Friends or loved ones supporting a person in recovery can also benefit from paying attention to this body language to ensure that each conversation is open and effective. Body language can provide a glimpse into a person’s genuine emotions and convey a much more raw and honest depiction of how a person feels. However, it can also be an authentic way to measure an individual’s transformation as they move from feeling reserved or nervous about discovering their voice and agency in life. 

Body Language and Addiction

While there is no particular body language that can determine whether or not a person is suffering from an addiction of any kind, paying attention to body language can still be helpful in identifying the need for change. For example, if a person who is typically outgoing or social suddenly begins to speak in a softer tone or hang their head in an atypical way, then it may be time to have a conversation about the changes or stresses they are experiencing. While it may not be directly indicative of addiction, it can instead alert others to a growing emotional need that has to be addressed. Not only can this help a person begin to confront their emotional turmoils earlier, but it can also help prevent addiction from developing as a coping mechanism in the first place. 

The Meaning of Body Language

A person can convey a good deal of information about their thoughts or intent before they even open their mouths. Avoiding eye contact, for example, can imply shame, guilt or fear, while keeping one’s arms crossed or positioning one’s body facing away from whoever is speaking to them are defensive stances. For those in recovery, noticing these habits in themselves can point to deeper feelings of guilt about their past or indicate that there are additional stresses that still need to be worked through to help prevent a relapse. 

It is common to experience shame, guilt and fear throughout the recovery process. Bottling these emotions up can only reduce the effectiveness of one’s recovery program. However, body language is the first indicator that these emotions will manifest themselves and that there isn’t a safe, healthy way to prevent them from surfacing. Noticing oneself retreating inwards or that one’s body language is becoming more closed-off can indicate the need for a conversation to help discover the sources of any additional stress in one’s life. They are the first, subconscious ways of communicating that adjustments may need to be made.

Keeping Clear Communication

Body language and its ability to convey meaning without using words can expand one’s options when communicating. While it can help make a person’s spoken words more clear, it is also possible to communicate almost entirely with one’s body, helping a person “speak” in a way that may be more comfortable for them during particularly trying times. However, it is always an integral part of communication, and paying attention to one’s body language and the body language of others is essential in maintaining clear and open communication. 

Suppose a support person notices that another’s body language is becoming more reserved or that they are avoiding eye contact all of a sudden. In that case, it is okay to bring up these observations in verbal conversation. Doing so can lead to a more impactful exchange, and showcase to those in recovery that they are being seen and heard, even if they don’t open their mouths. This kind of unconditional support can be compelling and can open an array of dialogues. 

The First Glimpse to Transformation

Body language can also reflect the progress that a person is making. Those in recovery may begin to subconsciously open up their bodies in conversations to show their new-found comfort or confidence. Standing up straight, maintaining eye contact or moving one’s arms expressively when speaking are all indicators of one’s progress through recovery. Body language is simply another way of speaking and is an important part of interpersonal exchange. Paying attention to body language through the recovery process, from beginning to end, can highlight the true extent of a person’s transformations during a recovery program. 


Paying attention to your body language is just one aspect of learning how to express yourself and communicate through the recovery process. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction or a co-occurring mental health disorder and are ready to embrace new ways to help you communicate these complex feelings, Brighton Recovery Center can help you. We offer services for any stage of recovery, from detox and sober living to an intensive outpatient program and alumni support. Our large, beautiful campus is created around a robust, interconnected community of professionals and peers all focused on recovery and continuously exploring new ways to communicate their success and progress. Each program can be further personalized to help you find your best practices in recovery. For more information on how we can develop a recovery program that is right for you or to speak to a caring, trained professional about your unique situation, call us today at  (844) 479-7035.

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