Practicing Gratitude in Recovery

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Practicing Gratitude in Recovery

Cultivating a sense of gratitude is important for everyone’s mental health, but it’s especially powerful if you are in recovery. Practicing gratitude allows you to focus on what you do have instead of what you do not have. This practice can help foster a positive mindset as well as an appreciation for your life despite any flaws. An important aspect of gratitude is accepting that things might not be perfect and that there may be obstacles that arise in the future. Gratitude also involves the understanding that we have the ability and the strength to overcome these obstacles. Practicing gratitude might not come easily, especially if you have gone through challenging times. Regardless, it is possible to take specific intentional steps to make gratitude more of a daily habit.

Gratitude for One’s Recovery

Recovery is a major life-changing event that can be associated with a lot of strong emotions. While you may be able to acknowledge that your life has improved since you made the decision to get sober, you might struggle with taking the time to consider the specific positive outcomes that have come from your new way of life. It can be helpful to think of the physical, psychological, and social benefits associated with recovery. While these personal gains are unique to each person, some common examples include:

#1. Physical 

  • More energy and peace
  • Improved blood pressure and heart rate
  • Better sleep quality
  • Consistent, healthy weight
  • More interest in health and fitness
  • Less digestive issues

#2. Psychological

  • Lessened thoughts of the guilt or shame that was once associated with addiction
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Increased optimism for the day ahead
  • More mentally equipped to handle stressful situations
  • Experiences of real joy, not any elation that was once found from substance use

#3. Social

  • No longer withdrawing from others
  • Relationships with friends and family will improve
  • A greater sense of compassion and forgiveness towards others
  • Increased interest in meeting new people and trying new things

Understanding Why Gratitude Is So Important

An important aspect of recovery is looking into yourself, identifying negative thought patterns, and learning how to change them. Everyone faces challenges, and it is easy to fall into the habit of self-pity when trouble arises. You may ask yourself, “why is my life harder than everyone else’s?” Perhaps you also wonder, “why can’t something good happen to me?” The truth is that everyone has hardships and in many cases, people do not share these with others. If it ever seems as if the grass is greener on the other side, it often is not.

It is possible to retrain your brain to think differently. This practice involves being very conscious of your thought patterns and being able to intercept negative or self-pitying thoughts whenever they arise. Instead of allowing these thoughts to spiral out of control and lead to anxiety or depression, learn to replace them with something positive that you are grateful for. Some days, it may be harder than others to think of something. On those occasions, it is okay to stick to the basics. Maybe you are grateful that you woke up to live another day and that you have air in your lungs and shelter over your head.

Making Gratitude a Habit

If practicing gratitude is new to you, there are some steps you can take to make it more of a habit:

  • Keep a gratitude journal and write down three things that you are grateful for each day.
  • Focus on appreciating the small things in life that you may have always overlooked before.
  • Express your gratitude for others, not only your friends and family but the grocer, the barista, the mailman, etc. 
  • Slow down and take in your surroundings. Acknowledge the sound of the rain pouring, a bird chirping, or the colors in the sunset. 
  • Take the time to give back to others, including those who are less fortunate than you.
  • Consider acting as a mentor or sponsor for someone just starting their recovery journey.

With these habits at hand, gratitude will naturally manifest in your life without you even having to think much about it. It will become second nature for you to appreciate all of the beautiful things in your life.

Remember that developing a natural sense of gratitude might not happen overnight. You may have to fake it until you make it for a little while. Eventually, finding gratitude for things big and small will become second nature to you, and you will find that you are a happier person because of it. 

Gratitude is important for everyone’s mental health, but especially for those who are on their recovery journey. Gratitude allows a person to focus on what they do have instead of what they don’t have, leading them to embrace a better overall attitude towards life. While many people know that their life has changed for the better since they got sober, they might not consider each individual benefit that has come out of their recovery. It can help to start by thinking about the physical, psychological, and social benefits associated with recovery. You can make gratitude more of a daily habit by keeping a gratitude journal, expressing your gratitude towards others, taking the time to appreciate the small things in life, and giving back to others. If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder, our team at The Kimberly Center can help. Call (855) 452-3683 today. 

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