The recovery process is not always easy and many people may hold feelings of guilt and regret due to their past addiction. However, it’s important to realize that recovery is a time to begin fostering gratitude for the progress you’ve made. You’ve recognized and dealt with your substance use disorder and that strength is something to be grateful for.
Being grateful is shown to be helpful for people with mental health disorders like addiction. Gratitude encompasses many things, but it’s rooted in an appreciation for what you have. It’s also an appreciation for the things you no longer struggle with, such as the fear and anger that stemmed from your addiction. As a part of maintaining your recovery, gratitude can help you focus on the life you lead now instead of mistakes you made in the midst of a substance use disorder.
There are many reasons to be thankful in recovery. Viewing life through a lens of gratitude can benefit your life in a variety of ways. This change in perspective can lead you to a better appreciation of your journey. Even scientific studies have shown that gratitude has many positive effects.
1. Gratitude Boosts Physical Health
Being grateful can free you from feelings of restlessness, irritability and discontentment. You’ll not only enjoy a better mental state when these negative feelings are off your back — the physical benefits are substantial as well. Fostering gratitude helps to:
- Build the immune system
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce symptoms of illness
- Reduce the issues associated with aches and pains
2. Gratitude Facilitates Happiness
Sobriety does not mean being miserable and merely coping with day-to-day life. If this were the case, few people would continue a lifelong commitment to being sober. Most find that a better life awaits them after recovery, but many of these people have learned how to be grateful for their journey. Gratitude can help you find consistent happiness and contentment, making you feel more optimistic, enthusiastic and joyful while reducing feelings of depression and anxiety.
3. Gratitude Strengthens Relationships
Relationships often suffer because of addiction, but gratitude is a tool that can help you strengthen old bonds and also create new ones. Many of these people are also the ones who stood by your side while your addiction was active. You can feel grateful that these people care about you, and your recovery journey can reflect the impact they had for you. However, being open about your gratitude is important. When friends and partners freely express their gratitude for each other, they become more satisfied with their relationships.
4. Gratitude Enhances Sleep
When someone is struggling with a substance use disorder, their sleep quality is usually severely impacted. This can lead to many negative side effects, both physically and mentally. Even in early recovery, sleep may not come easy. However, practicing gratitude can allow you to have a better sense of well-being. This can help you fall asleep more quickly and get a better quality of rest.
5. Gratitude Encourages Service
People who are brimming with gratitude are generally more compassionate, helpful and generous than those who are not. When you are grateful, you are much more likely to want to help and support others. This can foster even greater feelings of gratitude for yourself and for other people. Serving others is also a beneficial way to support your long-term addiction recovery.
How Can You Express Gratitude?
Gratitude can be a powerful practice in recovery. There are several simple ways that you can practice gratitude daily.
- Keep a gratitude journal: In this journal, you can write down a few things you are grateful for each day. In your more difficult days, you can flip through your journal and reflect on all the things you are grateful for.
- Write gratitude letters: If someone has impacted your life in a positive way, write them a letter to let them know how much you appreciate them. If you don’t feel comfortable sending a letter, that’s alright too — just expressing your gratitude in a personalized but unsent letter can have great positive effects.
- Reach out to others: Expressing gratitude toward those who have helped you can help you keep a grateful mindset. This is especially important when you reach out to someone that is struggling, regardless of whether they have helped you or not. Gratitude reinforces gratitude.
Addiction recovery is about more than simply avoiding substances. With a grateful mindset, you have the opportunity to lead a happy and fulfilling life free from addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, The Recovery Village is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about treatment plans and programs that can help you begin the path toward a better future.
Wong, Joel; Brown, Joshua. “How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain.” Greater Good Magazine, June 6, 2017. Accessed October 25, 2019.