Today, we will be discussing the role of gratitude in recovery and how to cultivate it.
I have, as I’m sure we all have, been on both sides of the gratitude line. We’ve also met people that have been grateful and ungrateful too. The difference between the two states doesn’t have to be huge, but the impact often is. Gratitude can bring a smile whereas ingratitude can provoke a storm.
Addiction can take us down a self-centred and selfish path which can manifest as a lack of appreciation or acknowledgment of the good things in our life, and a failure to recognize the efforts and contributions of others. Ingratitude can show as a sense of entitlement or taking things for granted, and it can lead to feelings of resentment, bitterness, and dissatisfaction. It can also damage relationships, as it can make others feel unappreciated and undervalued.
Gratitude is the practice of intentionally focusing on the positive aspects of life and feeling thankful for them. In essence it’s a choice. In addiction recovery, cultivating gratitude can be a powerful tool for maintaining a positive mindset and avoiding negative thought patterns that if left unchecked or unopposed, can lead to relapse.
Here are some ways that cultivating gratitude can benefit us in our recovery and our life:
1. Shifts focus from negativity:
By intentionally focusing on the positive aspects of life, cultivating gratitude can help us shift our focus from negative thought patterns, such as self-pity or resentment, that can lead to relapse – the “poor me, poor me, pour me drink syndrome”.
2. Promotes a positive mindset:
Cultivating gratitude can help us maintain a positive mindset, which can help us stay motivated and committed to our recovery.
3. Improves relationships:
Gratitude can help us appreciate the positive aspects of our relationships, which can improve communication and strengthen bonds. Think of how gratitude feels when it’s expressed to you.
4. Enhances self-esteem:
Gratitude can help us appreciate our own strengths and accomplishments, which can enhance self-esteem and self-worth. I’ll come back to becoming aware of and developing our strengths in a future lent post.
Without intending to sound patronising (I’m reminding myself of this too), gratitude can be expressed in a variety of simple ways, such as saying “thank you” to someone who has done something kind for us, writing a thank-you note, or performing an act of kindness to show our appreciation. It’s often associated with feelings of happiness, contentment, and satisfaction, as well as with a sense of connection to others and to the world around us.
Practicing gratitude has been shown to have a range of benefits for our mental and physical well-being. Research suggests that regularly focusing on the things we are grateful for can help reduce stress, improve our relationships, boost our mood, and even enhance our immune system and overall health.
Here are some practical ways we can cultivate gratitude:
1. Keep a gratitude journal:
Write down three things you are grateful for each day. You can include this as a section of your regular journaling if you like. This can help shift your focus to the positive aspects of life.
2. Practice mindfulness:
Take time each day to focus on the present moment and appreciate the positive aspects of your life. Take a few deep breaths or brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand to “bring you back into the present”.
3. Express gratitude to others:
Tell the people in your life how much you appreciate them and the positive impact they have on your life.
Helping others can provide a sense of purpose and gratitude for the blessings in your own life. Helping helps the helper.
In conclusion, cultivating gratitude can be a powerful tool for those in addiction recovery. By shifting focus from negativity, promoting a positive mindset, improving relationships, and enhancing self-esteem, gratitude can help us maintain sobriety and lead a fulfilling life in recovery.