This article was written by James Malervy and published by RCA
It is easy to feel overwhelmed and pessimistic when living through the challenges of addiction recovery. You may feel like you don’t have the strength or willpower to overcome your obstacles, and you might start to get caught up in negative thoughts and emotions like anger, self-doubt, or hopelessness. However, maintaining a sense of gratitude can help you stay focused on what is important and find strength in difficult times.
At its core, gratitude is about developing a state of openness and vulnerability. It allows you to appreciate what you have instead of dwelling on your difficulties. According to studies, gratitude and happiness are always strongly correlated. In one study, researchers asked one group to note the things they were grateful for. They then asked another group to write about the daily irritations or things that had displeased them. The third group was asked to write about the negative and positive events that affected them. After 10 weeks of study, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. They also worked out more and had fewer doctor visits than those who focused on what irritated or displeased them as well as the third group who wrote about the negative and positive events that affected them.
Other studies have also shown that practicing gratitude can lead to increased feelings of well-being and a more positive outlook in life. It can also be an incredibly powerful tool for growth and healing.
The Importance of Expressing Gratitude During your Recovery
Substance abuse takes a toll not just on your physical health but also on your mental and emotional well-being. One of the most important things you can do for yourself during recovery is to focus on rebuilding your self-esteem and developing a healthy sense of self-worth. Gratitude can play a big role in this process. Gratitude can:
Increase Feelings of Security and Connectedness
In the often-turbulent journey of addiction recovery, feelings of gratitude can play an important role in helping you feel secure and connected. On the one hand, gratitude arises from within, helping you focus on and appreciate your own experiences instead of projecting those experiences outwards onto others. By cultivating an attitude of gratitude for your inner resources and qualities, you give yourself a foundation of strength that can help you weather difficult times.
On the other hand, gratitude can also arise more outwardly towards others who have helped in your recovery process. By reaching out to friends, family members, mentors, professionals at treatment centers, or even strangers who have made a difference in your life, you can cultivate meaningful connections that foster feelings of safety and belonging. And ultimately, by fostering these feelings on both an internal and external level through gratitude practices, you create a powerful force that can give you the resilience you need to stay on the path toward lasting recovery.
Opens the Door to Positive Emotions
Gratitude opens the door to positive emotions and experiences that can nourish our minds and bodies. Simply taking a moment to count our blessings can lift our spirits and remind us of all that we have to appreciate in life.
Show Others You Don’t Take Things for Granted
Gratitude can show others that you do not take your second chance at life for granted. By expressing thankfulness for everything you have in your life, you can shift your mindset from focusing on what you lack to appreciating all the wonderful things you have going for you.
Encourages you to Keep Going
Expressing gratitude can also encourage you to strive for improvement, as it reminds you of what you have already achieved and demonstrates how much more you can accomplish. By practicing gratitude during recovery, you not only boost your resilience in times of hardship but also lay the foundation for long-term success in all areas of life.
Take on Challenges with a Positive Mindset
A grateful approach allows you to take on challenges with a positive mindset. For instance, rather than viewing relapse as a failure, you can see it as an opportunity to learn and grow. This perspective can help you stay motivated and committed to your recovery goals, even when times are tough.
How to Practice Gratitude in Recovery
Here are some tips for how you can start practicing gratitude in your recovery:
Keep a Gratitude Journal
One of the simplest and most effective ways to practice gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. Each day, take some time to write down a few things you are grateful for. It can be anything from the big (e.g., “I’m grateful for my sobriety”) to the small (e.g., “I’m grateful for a sunny day”).
Write Thank-You Notes
Another way to express gratitude is to write thank-you notes to the people who have made a difference in your life. Whether a friend, family member, mentor, teacher, higher power, or treatment professional, taking the time to express your appreciation can deepen your connection to that person and foster a sense of gratitude in both of you.
One of the best ways to feel grateful is to give back and help others. Whether volunteering, donating to a worthy cause, or simply lending a listening ear, giving back is a great way to practice gratitude in recovery. When we take the focus off of ourselves and our problems, we can see all of the ways we are fortunate and have so much to offer.
Focus on What you Have
In recovery, it’s easy to focus on all of the things you’ve lost: your health, job, relationships, etc. But if you shift your focus to what you do have, you can start seeing all of your life’s blessings. Recovery is a chance to start fresh and build a life that is even better than before. So, focus on what you have, and be grateful for the second chance you’ve been given.
Focus on the Best in Others Instead of the Worst
In any relationship, it’s easy to dwell on the negative and forget about all of the good. But if you take a step back and focus on the best in others, it can help you feel more grateful for the people in your life. Try to see the good in your friends, family, and co-workers, and let go of any resentment or anger you may be holding onto.
Make Gratitude a Daily Practice
Like anything else, gratitude takes practice. The more you do it, the easier it will become. So, commit yourself to practice gratitude daily; soon, it will become a natural part of your recovery journey.
Recovery is difficult, and maintaining a sense of gratitude can be crucial to a full and lasting recovery. By expressing thankfulness for everything you have in your life, you can begin to see the glass as half full rather than half empty. Additionally, gratitude has been linked with increased resilience, better sleep, and improved physical and mental health. So, if you’re looking for a way to boost your recovery, start by practicing gratitude.