Gratitude does not depend on what a person has or the material possessions they own. But it relies on the willingness to seek thanks for the things that mean the most to them. In this spirit of thanksgiving, we wanted to highlight how important gratitude in recovery can be for a successful journey.
Being thankful is a fundamental part of the holiday season, but it’s also a big part of living a sober life in addiction recovery. We’ve all felt gratitude in some way – whether it’s a moment of sunshine on what feels like the darkest day or for that person who helped us when we didn’t think we had the strength. If you or someone you love is in recovery, chances are gratitude is more of a daily than an annual recognition.
What is gratitude?
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways, gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. The actual definition of gratitude is a positive acknowledgment of a benefit that an individual has received. Gratitude allows us to recognize the good in our lives. Focusing and appreciating the good constantly reminds us of great things all around us. And many times we realize that the sources of good are very close by.
How does gratitude help?
Those suffering from substance abuse or addiction tend to show signs of depression, and are self-centered, thinking of their own needs. With gratitude comes a less selfish attitude and more satisfaction in their needs being met and they can focus their attention on others. Gratitude in recovery is a choice, but unfortunately, not one that comes naturally to everyone in addiction treatment. The thing about the disease of addiction is that it resides in our brain. Many times throughout recovery addicts will find themselves battling their old thoughts and ways of living, and searching for gratitude can become a difficult task at times.
Once an addict begins working on cultivating gratitude in recovery, they tend to develop a better mindset overall and have a much more positive perspective on life. Addiction recovery is a long and winding journey. There are moments when the recovery process will seem like a stroll in the park, at other times it will feel like a daunting expedition. This is why it is important to incorporate practices into your life that will help you along the way.
Viewing life through a lens of gratitude can benefit your life in a variety of ways. Even scientific studies have shown that gratitude has many positive effects.
Here are some big ways gratitude can benefit your life in recovery and beyond.
- Positive people tend to have less stress.
- Gratitude boosts physical health.
- Gratitude helps foster good relationships.
How do you cultivate gratitude in recovery?
If people feel grateful, it is going to benefit them in many ways. But with that being said, it isn’t always easy to muster up a genuine attitude of gratitude. However, there are steps that you can take in order to grow gratitude in recovery.
Keep a gratitude journal!
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” -Oprah Winfrey
Journaling can be a great way to keep the little things in mind. By writing down what you are grateful for on a daily basis, it creates a positive habit of looking for the good things. If you are faced with a troubling day, having something to reflect back on can help keep things in perspective. Try to pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings. Reflect on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you. Think big and small, and remember there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for!
Be grateful for sobriety!
Just getting sober is a massive accomplishment. Be thankful for your sobriety and be proud of yourself for obtaining it. Your life is on the up and up and there is no turning back! If we are grateful for being sober, it is more likely we will stay that way. We will focus more on being thankful for those that helped us and less on the negatives. It has to do with motivation.
By being grateful we will continue to work toward our goals in recovery, attending meetings, and being engaged with those that still struggle. It is when we take our sobriety for granted that we start getting into trouble. Each day is a gift and each day sober is a new chance to appreciate those things and people in our lives that bless us.
Write a thank you note, even if it’s to yourself!
You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.
Keep positive people in your circle of influence!
“Surround yourself with people who make you happy. People who make you laugh, who help you when you’re in need. People who genuinely care. They are the ones worth keeping in your life. Everyone else is just passing through.” -Karl Marx
People tend to be influenced by the people they spend time with. Surrounding yourself with positive people can help you maintain a positive outlook and view things in a similar light. Being around positive role models can also help you grow. Gratitude in recovery comes more naturally when you can see the bright side of situations. If someone is a positive influence on your life, it will make all the difference when you’re exploring yourself and growing into the person you aspire to be.
Don’t compare your life to others!
“A flower does not think about competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.” -Zen Shin
Another way to look at gratitude is from an opposite perspective, that people are unhappy because they want the things they do not have while failing to recognize all that they do have. Those that aren’t grateful for their own lives find themselves comparing their lives to those of others. When you find yourself with envy because you are comparing your circumstances to another’s, try to find something to be grateful for. In most cases, people deal with things you cannot see, so you should focus on your own struggles and triumphs.
Think about others first!
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” -C.S. Lewis
Self-absorption can be a huge problem for people in recovery. When people are addicted to alcohol or drugs, they will spend most of the time only thinking about their own needs. When these individuals become sober, they may continue to be preoccupied with themselves. Self-absorption makes life difficult but when people feel grateful they have less reason to be so selfish. They feel satisfied that their own needs are being met so they can now focus at least some of their attention on the needs of other people.
Are you ready to find gratitude in recovery?
By incorporating the above tips to bring gratitude into your daily life, you are setting yourself up for a long and healthy life in recovery. Addiction recovery is about more than simply avoiding substances. With a grateful mindset, you have the opportunity to lead a happy and fulfilling life free from addiction. However, if you are having trouble finding things to be grateful for and are slipping towards relapse, be sure to reach out to someone you trust as soon as possible.
Generating gratitude is a process similar to recovery – it can be threatened by negativity, resentment, and self-pity. It’s easy to regress back into old patterns when things don’t go your way. Do not be afraid to ask for help. In the meantime, make sure that you take a moment to ‘stop and smell the roses.’ Are you or your loved one struggling with gratitude in recovery? We’re here to talk.