Although gratitude takes center stage during the Thanksgiving holiday, reminding yourself of what you’re most grateful for should be a year-round practice. Gratitude helps build the resilience you’ll need to tackle the challenges you’ll face on the road to recovery.
The Benefits of Gratitude
Gratitude does not minimize the struggles a person experiences. As a person in recovery, you’ve been through hard times. However, gratitude reminds us of the following:
- Difficult days are only temporary.
- Even when things seem bleak, there is much to be thankful for.
- We have the power to choose to see the good in a difficult situation.
- We are all part of a larger, interconnected world.
People who practice gratitude regularly report a wide range of beneficial changes to their mental health that contribute to greater resilience. For example:
- They have fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- They enjoy strong relationships with friends and family.
- They are less afraid to ask for help when they need it.
- When faced with challenging problems in their lives, they are more likely to see the potential for learning and growth.
Serenity, Gratitude, and Recovery
If you’ve been attending Alcoholics Anonymous or another 12-Step program, you’ve probably noticed that serenity and gratitude are viewed as the two most important ingredients for lasting sobriety. Members of 12-Step groups are regularly encouraged to share some of the reasons they’re grateful for their recovery, including:
- Improved health
- Stronger relationships with spouses, children, and other family members
- Making new friends
- Discovering new hobbies or special interests
- Greater financial stability
- Returning to school or pursuing new career opportunities
- A sense of purpose and hope for the future
- A chance to explore their spirituality
How to Incorporate Gratitude into Your Life
Developing a more grateful heart doesn’t need to be a time-consuming or complex process. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Focus on the details. In the toughest days, it’s easy to feel like you don’t have much to be grateful for. When this happens, direct your attention to the small things that bring you comfort or make you smile. The blessings of laughing at a funny joke from a friend, dancing to your favorite song, enjoying a fresh-baked pastry from a local bakery, or relaxing with a good book at the end of a long day are worthy of recognition. Over time, training yourself to fully appreciate these simple pleasures will result in a more positive life outlook.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Journaling offers a number of benefits for people in recovery, such as providing a way to process complex feelings and creating a concrete reminder of the progress you’ve made in your recovery journey. Taking the time to record what you’re grateful for each day can help keep you focused on continuing to move forward with your recovery goals.
- Make it a family affair. If you’re a parent, ask each member of your family to share something they’re grateful for when you are enjoying a meal together. Or, if you’d prefer, you can purchase a large container and have each person write a gratitude note on a small piece of paper. Reading the messages at the end of the week, month, or year can be a fun activity that reminds you of all you have to be thankful for.
- Show your appreciation. Don’t fall into the trap of taking your loved ones for granted. Be generous with your time, attention, and compliments, so your friends and family know exactly what they mean to you.
- Give back. Helping others provides a concrete reminder of your blessings. Make it a goal to do one random act of kindness each day, such as helping an elderly person carry their groceries or paying for a stranger’s coffee. Volunteering at a local nonprofit organization can also be a wonderful way to increase feelings of gratitude, especially when the cause is one that’s close to your heart.
- Practice self-care. People in recovery from substance use disorders often struggle with feelings of guilt, shame, and low self-esteem. This can make it hard for them to feel as though they “deserve” the positive things that have happened in their lives. Making time for regular self-care can be a good reminder that you are worthy of love and respect as you continue working towards building a better life for yourself.
Recovery Is a Time of New Beginnings
At St. Joseph Institute for Addiction, we believe recovery is possible for anyone who desires it. As part of our Pennsylvania holistic drug and alcohol addiction treatment program, we encourage our clients to regularly reflect on the ways in which recovery has changed their lives for the better. Contact us today to learn how our experienced staff can help you build the foundation for a brighter future.