Last updated: 10/25/2018
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Although it seems like a trivial thing, practicing gratitude is taught in many holistic therapies around the world. The simple act of being grateful is in its own way healing. In the eastern philosophy gratitude is known as the key to happiness.
According to the University of California, Berkley, gratitude offers both physical and mental benefits. It can help with blood pressure, heart rate, happiness, optimism, and feelings of loneliness and isolation.This belief is not unfounded. Research on addiction and recovery has proven that being grateful has a positive benefit on overall mental stability and happiness.
In order to understand how gratitude affects addiction recovery you have to realize the benefits of gratitude in general and what it does for a recovering addict. Then you can learn the techniques that will allow you to use it to help you in your recovery.
The General Benefits of Gratitude
In today’s society gratitude is very difficult to understand and even more difficult to achieve. Cultivating a grateful way of living, curbs dissatisfaction in life and circumstances. Some of the overall benefits to gratitude are:
- Being grateful allows you to recognize what you have rather than what you do not. This leads to a sense of satisfaction in your life.
- Grateful people are usually calm reasonable people. They do not accept conflict into their lives. With less conflict, there is less stress.
- Gratitude generally equals a positive outlook. People who express and experience gratitude are generally more positive people.
- Gratitude helps people be positive, positive people open themselves up to more experiences and more opportunities.
In eastern philosophy being grateful is a key to being happy. Most people who practice a grateful style of life agree with this. When someone develops the habitual practice of expressing gratitude for what they have, they tend to stop thinking about what they do not have and concentrate on the things that they do. It makes them more mindful of how much they have without comparing it to others. It stops the jealousy and unhappiness that comes from attempting to keep up with others.
Sobriety and a Grateful Attitude
Many sobriety programs teach you to be grateful for your sobriety. This actually prevents some instances of relapse. When you are truly grateful for something, it is harder for you to do the opposite. In the case of drugs or alcohol, if you are grateful to be off them, you are unlikely to start using them again.
People who are addicted to drugs and alcohol spend are very selfish. They spend a lot of time making sure their own needs are met. Sometimes all they think about is their drug or activity of choice. When someone is only absorbed in their activities, it is difficult for them to see the things around them. A grateful state of being cannot exist with this self absorption. When someone gives themselves over to being grateful they become less selfish. Their recovery tends to be more complete when they stop only thinking of themselves.
When you start being grateful for the people and things around you, you become calmer and more relaxed with yourself. You stop trying to constantly prove yourself to others. This gratitude and giving to others increases self esteem and self satisfaction which in turn helps you recover from your addiction. It changes the way that you view the world around you.
Learning to be Grateful
Although it might seem that it is easy to learn to be grateful for what you have, it is actually very difficult. After a lifetime of being self absorbed being grateful can be quite a challenge. A few things will help you change your way of thinking.
- Practice mindfulness – mindfulness is a state of presence. This means living in the present moment and not thinking about the past or future. One way to be mindful is to stop and think about the things that you are grateful for, your sobriety, your life, your family, your friends.
- Start writing a journal and include the things you are grateful for – this is sometimes called a gratitude journal. It helps remind you of everything that you have. The benefits of a gratitude journal are.
- You have a written reminder of the good things in your life.
- A journal is more concrete.
- You can read over it when your cravings get to you.
- The list reminds you of the little things.
- It helps you focus on what is true and real in your life.
- Do things for others – part of feeling grateful is giving others something to be grateful about. It helps to help others in a number of ways. It fills time and gives back to your friends, family, and community.
Learning to adopt a grateful attitude takes a tremendous amount of patience and practice. According to Harvard Health Publications, gratitude ultimately will help with not only addiction recovery but the rest of life as well. Even the process of learning how to practice gratitude helps you learn the patience that you need to complete your recovery and avoid relapse. Gratitude impacts recovery by reminding you of what you have and what you’ve accomplished. This reminds you of why you adopted sobriety in the first place. It is a way to keep yourself grounded and stable. People who practice a grateful attitude tend to be more peaceful and happy. This happiness helps to prevent relapse and speed your recovery.