Last Edited: 11/23/2021

Author: Melissa Knight Melissa Knight

Find Gratitude in Recovery

Gratitude is trending everywhere right now. It’s become very popular to embrace this practice, and many have said that it has transformed their lives, but does it work? What is it? How does it help, and how can you have more gratitude when going through the tough things – like overcoming an addiction?

What is Gratitude?

Practicing gratitude is when you take a moment to take note of things that are good in your life. If you don’t have time to notice all the good things, it can be effective to be thankful for a few things, like avoiding the trigger to walk into the liquor store on the home from a stressful day at work.

The practice of gratitude can be an effective way to minimize stress and anxiety, and stop feeling like everything that happens to you is bad. Gratitude is an excellent, proven way to “get out of your head,” about how hard life is and change the way you’re viewing your situations.

Does Gratitude Work?

As with all things that are a practice, you might not see life-changing results the first time you try it. Yes, you may feel better after you look around and decide that you’re grateful for a sunny day or for not getting pulled over when you were clearly speeding, but it’s unlikely that the first few times you will notice dramatic changes in your whole life. However, as is the case with any positive changes that you make in life, you’re likely to notice a difference over time.

Whether it works or not is how you perceive the shift in your thinking, and any situation you are trying to make better. 

Take overcoming an addiction. At first, you may start your gratitude practice with things like, “I am grateful that today was calm and I didn’t have to struggle with cravings.” Over time, though, you may begin to note all the aspects of your life that have improved because of your recovery. When you take the time to strongly recognize and appreciate your progress, you’re more likely to think of these positives when you begin to feel the urge to use or drink.

What can Gratitude do for You?

Having gratitude, or being thankful has a plethora of benefits for your physical health, your mental health, and your whole life in general.

  • Helps you to focus on what you have. Often, the things we need and want can overwhelm us and leave us feeling inferior, or unhappy. Additionally, a feeling of lack can create significant levels of stress. When you’re focused on needing to pay bills, or not knowing how you will pay for gas, water, electricity, etc., it can be really hard to enjoy the good things in your life. Being able to recognize that you were able to pay those bills and do have food to eat can ease some of the stress you’re feeling of not having enough.
  • Helps you to enjoy better sleep. This point has been proven by studies. When people kept a gratitude journal and wrote in it just three times each week, they began to sleep more and even enjoyed better quality sleep.
  • Reduces stress levels. If you’re feeling stressed out, it could have to do with your perspective. Practicing gratitude can help you to reduce your stress and allows you to see the good things that are happening in your life.
  • When it comes to overcoming addiction, it can keep you on track. Overcoming addiction is one of the most difficult things a person can go through. Some days, many people are, what they call, “white-knuckling it,” just to stay clean and sober. Practicing gratitude can help you to avoid relapse and remind yourself of the progress that you’ve made in your recovery journey so far.

Ways to Practice Gratitude

You may find that there is more than one way to incorporate gratitude into your life. Getting started is the hardest part, and with more practice, finding things to be thankful for and expressing it becomes a part of life.Try a few of these tips:

Start a gratitude journal. This is one of the easiest ways to get started practicing gratitude. It’s a favorite for many because it has a once-a-day appeal to it. Sitting down and writing about that which you are grateful for can take as much or as little time as you want it to. In the beginning, you’ll likely find that you’re grateful for things like food, shelter, and clothing. With time, however, you may find that you’re writing about deeper subjects, such as how you’re grateful that you were able to reach a goal, or for that person who smiled at you in the grocery store when you were feeling a bit down.

Take a moment when things feel tough to point out three things you’re feeling grateful for. This takes a bit more time, but it can be truly life-changing. When things in life are feeling especially difficult, or you’re just having a bad day, take a moment to point out three things you’re grateful for. It might seem silly to be grateful for that green light when you were late for work, or the phone call that stopped you from thinking about having a drink, but they are all good things that can change your perspective and help you see that life isn’t so bad.

Put it in a jar. Each day, add at least one thing you’re grateful for to the jar. When you have a moment of quiet, pull a few of the pieces of paper out and read them as a reminder.

Talk about it. If you’re able to tell people how grateful you are for things in your life by offering sincere thank yous, you’re helping to build strong, heartfelt relationships with others.

Meditate about it. Meditation is great for calming the mind and helping you to stay centered in the moment. It’s an excellent tool for stress reduction, but also for helping to stay strong in your recovery journey. When you add gratitude to your meditation, you’re clearing your mind of all the noise except for what you’re feeling thankful for. When you practice gratitude in this way, you’re clearing the negativity that often lives in your mind and making room for yourself to feel positive and peaceful.

Gratitude has so many benefits. From helping those in recovery from an addiction to offering healthy perks, it makes sense to give it a try.

Sources:

1.       Greatergoodberkeley. Edu – Gratitude

2.       Icaad.com – The Importance of Gratitude in Addiction Recovery

3.       Insider.com – How to Practice Gratitude

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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