Developing Gratitude in Addiction Recovery

Gratitude. It’s not a big word, but when it comes to overcoming addiction it often carries the weight of recovery on its shoulders. Think about the last time you felt truly grateful. Did it make you feel happy? Did it make you want to make others feel happy? How long has it been since you felt a deep sense of gratitude?

It is often a lack of gratitude or general discontentment with the state of your life — or your current circumstances — that paves the way for addiction. Failing to develop gratitude during recovery will almost certainly place you on a path to relapse into addiction. Once you hone your skills of gratefulness in rehab, you can use them for real benefits that are far greater than what meets the eye.

Gratitude comes with some remarkable benefits:

  • Improves self-esteem. In a 2014 study that appeared in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, athletes who were grateful had better self-esteem.
  • Makes you appear successful. A recent Fast Company article cited a 2012 survey conducted by the John Templeton Foundation, which determined that 94 percent of the women and 96 percent of the men who participated in the study perceived grateful bosses as being more successful.
  • Provides a healthier heart. A 2015 study revealed that heart damage was generally lower among people with higher levels of gratitude. These higher gratitude scores also correlated to better mood, less inflammation, and better sleep — all of which can worsen heart failure symptoms.

A 2015 study revealed that heart damage was generally lower among people with higher levels of gratitude.

  • Improves resilience and mental strength. In 2003 the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reported about a study that named gratitude as a major factor for resilience in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks on the U.S., citing that thankfulness can get you through the darkest days of your life.

Why Is Gratitude Vital to Addiction Recovery?

Gratitude is not a single thought. It is a state of mind that takes over the entire body, mind, soul, and spirit. It’s a way of thinking. It’s a mindset. Once you create a habit of gratitude, it becomes a way of life, and your world can change in an instant.

Gratitude is not a single thought. It is a state of mind that takes over the entire body, mind, soul, and spirit.

According to Harvard Health, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” These are all things that are crucial for successful recovery from addiction. You will need to learn to cherish truly positive experiences, deal with adversity, and build stronger relationships. Stronger relationships will strengthen you and provide support to get you through those rough patches as they come.

Someone who is seeking recovery for addiction has faced struggles on a daily basis, and you must also work through factors to develop your sense of gratitude. Other benefits of developing gratitude in addiction recovery, according to Psychology Today, include:

  • Promotes better physical health. Gratitude can lower blood pressure, boost immune health, and make you less susceptible to aches and pains.
  • Encourages you to pay things forward. People who have gratitude also have compassionate generous spirits and feel compelled to reach out and help others.
  • Strengthens relationships with other people. Being thankful creates better appreciation and stronger connections with friends, family, and partners. Partners who feel appreciated often feel greater satisfaction in their relationships.
  • Facilitates contentment. The best way to feel satisfied with your life is to practice thoughts of gratitude. In turn, it helps to reduce depression and anxiety while improving your mood with feelings of joy, pleasure, and similar positive emotions.

The best way to feel satisfied with your life is to practice thoughts of gratitude.

One statistic states that people who keep gratitude journals have reduced dietary fat intakes up to 25 percent lower than those who do not, and they also have 23 percent lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol. The author notes that daily practices of gratitude can actually reduce the effects of aging on the brain.

People who keep gratitude journals have reduced dietary fat intakes up to 25% lower than those who do not, and they also have 23% lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol.

Another study in Psychology Today determined that writing a daily gratitude journal for 15 minutes before going to bed in the evening helped students fall asleep faster and sleep longer than students who did not keep a journal.

Gratitude helps you accomplish all of the following things that will aid in your efforts to recover from your addiction:

  • Have a happier outlook
  • Reduce stress
  • Eat healthier foods (an indication that you’re making healthier choices)
  • Sleep longer and with better quality of sleep

Gratitude is powerful. It can aid you in your efforts to overcome addiction and regain your personal joy in living. The more good things you fill your life with, the less space you have left over for negative thoughts, deeds, or actions.

How Can You Develop Lasting Gratitude?

Lasting gratitude is a gift that truly keeps on giving. It might not be your natural disposition. It can take some time and effort to master gratefulness, but with a truly grateful heart the world becomes your oyster and your pearl.

The simplest way to begin developing your gratitude is by taking it one step at a time. Many people recommend creating a gratitude list while in rehab.

Why Write a Gratitude List While in Rehab?

For many people, the days leading to rehab are some of the lowest points in their lives. These days are arguably the toughest times to find anything to be grateful about, but they are the best times to hone the skills of a grateful heart and find appreciation for even the little things.

Remember, it’s all about taking first steps. Start simple. Be grateful to be in recovery. Experience appreciation down to your core. Don’t take it for granted. There are worse places you could be, and rehab tends to lead to another great thing for which to be grateful: your sobriety. Once you crawl, walk, and run down the road to recovery – you will be grateful to be sober.

Be grateful to be in recovery.

You will learn that living life sober is fun. It’s exciting. It’s a new adventure. As you learn to express gratitude, you will continue to experience its many benefits, such as:

  • You begin to see more things in the world around you for which to be grateful
  • You become less focused on what you don’t have
  • You develop better relationships with the people in your life
  • You lose your resentment of other people
  • You become more understanding and empathetic toward the needs of others
  • You become far less focused on yourself and more focused on what is going on in the world around you
  • You begin to feel less pain and bitterness

You may not notice them, but your days are filled with a bounty of blessings — some big, some small. They are there if you look for them. The act of simply making a list of your blessings while in addiction recovery is extremely powerful. It helps you to recognize and appreciate your gifts. Imagine what great things will happen once you take bigger steps toward developing a grateful heart.

Blessings are there if you look for them.

The Power of a Gratitude Journal

A gratitude list is a single list. You write it once — though you can always add to it — and look at it to encourage your recovery. A gratitude journal, in contrast, is something you do daily. It doesn’t have to be a major daily undertaking, but it should be done daily. The following tips will help you gain greater meaning from your gratitude journal:

  • Make it part of your bedtime routine. Studies have indicated that writing in a gratitude journal approximately 15 minutes before bedtime can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep at night and improve the overall quality of sleep you receive.
  • Keep it simple. Your journal doesn’t need to be deep in order to be effective. If you make it too complicated, it could have the opposite of its desired effect.
  • Make it brief. You only need to list five or ten things you’re grateful for in your life. You don’t have to go into great detail or write a novel about each. A simple bullet list will do.
  • Keep it real. Only include things for which you are truly grateful and not the things you think you should be grateful for. You need to feel the gratitude in order for it to be an effective tool.

You need to feel the gratitude in order for it to be an effective tool.

Of course, there are no hard rules for your gratitude journal. In order for the journal to be effective, it has to be something you can easily maintain. Keeping your journal simple and brief will help you make it a routine.

Benefits of Having Gratitude in Recovery

When it comes to recovery, there are many benefits of gratitude to keep in mind. The biggest one is that it allows you to focus on getting better without the interference of bitterness, petty thoughts, and jealousies that often hamper recovery.

When you’re focused on all the reasons you have to be grateful, you have little room left for the things you don’t possess or the ways you feel the world has wronged you. Humans, by their very nature, have a tendency to take the good things in their life for granted. Practicing gratitude prevents a view of looking at a half full glass as half empty.

When you're focused on all the reasons you have to be grateful, you have little room left for the things you don't possess or the ways you feel the world has wronged you.

Beyond that, you can turn to your gratitude list and gratitude journal for inspiration, encouragement, and a gentle reminder that you have come a long way, even when you feel like you have so far to go.

Reviewing your journal or list also helps you keep things in perspective and not take your recovery for granted. Not everyone gets to experience recovery. It helps to focus on positive things in your life, because they remind you of everything for which you’re grateful. The more you are grateful, the more you begin to see reasons for gratitude all around you.

It’s like playing a sport, a video game, or a musical instrument. The more you practice thankfulness, the better you become at being thankful. In the case of rehab, being thankful helps you stay positive and on target. It takes away the negative thoughts and deeds that sabotage your rehab efforts, and it reminds you of how much you have to lose if you don’t stand firm in your commitment to addiction recovery.

A grateful heart is one that is open to other people and ideas. It allows you to move beyond yourself in order to relate better with other people — and their flaws — so you can make new friends and renew relationships with old friends who can aid you in your commitment to recover fully from your addiction.

Experiencing gratitude is only half the battle. Expressing gratitude is the other half.

How Can You Express Your Gratitude?

Besides keeping a gratitude journal, the practices below will help you express your gratitude in meaningful ways that can help you through your recovery from addiction:

  • Take time out of every day to appreciate the little things.

Take time out of every day to appreciate the little things.

  • Learn to focus on the truly important things in life.
  • Let people know how important they are to you and how much you appreciate them.
  • Embrace positive people, thoughts, ideas, and actions.
  • Be mindful of negative thoughts and eliminate them before they take hold.
  • Give back. As your capacity for gratitude grows, so will your desire to help others.
  • Create works of art to share beauty with the world.
  • Thank people in person.
  • Write thank you notes.
  • Focus on what you have rather than what you don’t have.
  • Create a gratitude blog.
  • Change your world one small step at a time.

If you aren’t into pencil and paper journaling and these ideas aren’t quite grabbing your attention, consider trying an app called Gratitude Journey. This app makes it easy to use technology to create a visual or list-style gratitude journal as you go about your day via iPhone, iPod, or iPad.

Inspirational Quotes About Gratitude

These quotes may help you gain a new attitude about gratitude. They may give you new perspective as to how gratitude can help you transform your thinking and your world:

  • “Trade your expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly.” – Tony Robbins
  • “Gratitude is the open door to abundance.” – Buddha
  • “As we express our gratitude we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy
  • “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
  • “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero
  • “If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.” – Gerald Good
  • “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
  • “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” – Willie Nelson
  • “Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” – Maya Angelou
  • “The more you recognize and express gratitude for the things you have, the more things you will have to express gratitude for.” – Zig Ziglar
  • “A grateful mind is a great mind which eventually attracts to itself great things.” – Plato
  • “Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” – Alphonse Karr
  • “There’s no happier person than a truly thankful, content person.” – Joyce Meyer
  • “It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” – David Steindl-Rast

"It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful" - David Steindl-Rast

These quotes may inspire you to take your first steps in a journey of gratefulness and appreciation that will change your life and make you a happier, healthier, more joyful person for the effort. Take one or more of these quotes that speaks to you and write it down. Place it on a mirror or tape it to your coffee cup for a morning gratitude reminder.

Now Is the Perfect Time to Seek Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

Gratitude is only one of the tools involved in successfully recovering from addiction. You’re going to need a team on your side to help you through various aspects of recovery and rehabilitation from addiction.

The staff at 12 Keys Rehab understands all too well that no two people or addictions are alike. That is why we work with you to identify your unique needs and develop a path to recovery that’s specific to you.

Our treatment methods involve a combination of nutrition, fitness, and personalized counseling as essential tools for beginning your healing and recovery process. We also believe that recreation and relaxation are critical to helping you achieve success in your addiction recovery process.

You possess what it takes to achieve a successful recovery, but you need the tools to find that success. We offer a tropical resort-like setting where you can work on achieving sobriety. 12 Keys Rehab offers compassionate care and understanding professionals who offer treatment without judgment. We offer a 12-step program, complete with support, along with holistic treatments, physical fitness, nutritional meals, and ample time for relaxation and reflections.

Start developing gratitude today. Contact 12 Keys Rehab if you’re ready to end the loop of addiction and despair and embrace a sober, fulfilling life.

The Addiction Blog