What are you grateful for? Are you thankful to be breathing and experiencing the beauties of nature? Do you appreciate the smallest joys around you? Is gratitude a part of your daily life? Many believe that gratitude is an essential ingredient for a healthy state of mind, and this is particularly true for recovering individuals. Research shows that gratitude is conducive to recovery from addiction, in both the pre-treatment and post-treatment phases. The difficulty lies in how to develop a habitual attitude of gratitude. For people struggling with addiction and post-addiction cravings, guilt and shame can weigh so heavily on one’s mind that gratitude feels hard to come by.
The Addictive Mindset Keeps Gratitude Out
Addiction is often accompanied by a selfish and even narcissistic way of thinking. You may feel entitled to personal choice. You may defend compulsive or erratic behaviors that disrupt family and friend dynamics. Sometimes you feel rejected from society. Gratitude is not in the vocabulary of individuals who struggle with substance abuse disorder because gratitude is based on humility, while addiction is based on selfish tendencies. The results of these two ways of thinking are often the opposite: people who feel grateful experience freedom, while addicted individuals are bound by impulses that are often beyond their control.
It takes a fundamental mindset change for a newly sober person to learn gratitude. First, you need to rid yourself of self-deception and denial. This is why the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous requires honesty as one of the first steps. Second, you must unwind from over-stimulation to begin appreciating the simple things in life. Because of substances’ chemical influence on the brain, an addicted individual might find it hard to relax. Mindfulness and meditation exercises can help you achieve a state of mind that attends to the minuscule details of life, at which point you can recognize small joys and be grateful.
Nurturing Gratitude During Recovery
Like most healthy habits in addiction recovery, it takes time to nurture a grateful mindset. Practicing gratitude every day in small ways can accumulate abundant benefits. You can be mindful of beautiful things happening around you. From the moment you wake up until you go to sleep, there are many things to be thankful for. Ponder your breathing and laughter, your small comforts and little victories. Walk in nature and rekindle child-like curiosity at the world around you. Life and nature are gifts, and you should not take them for granted. Practice gratitude for these things by spending time appreciating them.
Have you felt gratitude for your sobriety and ongoing recovery? Be grateful for support from your loved ones and your courage and hard work to get better. Your sobriety is not to be taken for granted either, given that recovery is a life-long process. Each day sober is something to be thankful for. You might also be grateful to all the health professionals who strive to make sobriety a reality for you.
Gratitude on a small scale often begets more gratitude and selfless service to others. If you are in early sobriety, the goal of being of service to others might seem far away. You may feel all your energy has gone to unplug from addiction and self-centeredness. Later on, gratitude may be such a healthy habit that you now have the urge to serve others. This is a good sign! Allow this gratitude-motivated service mindset to emerge naturally, but do not overwhelm yourself with grand goals.
Gratitude Is a Mindful Effort
What makes gratitude a beneficial exercise is that it is inherently mindful. Mindfulness can help reverse the brain’s substance-affected processes. Gratitude, mindfulness, and recovery can form a good kind of mutually reinforcing cycle. When you continue to feel grateful about things around you, it will bless your recovery until you enter a more stable phase. Below are a few ways to integrate gratitude and mindfulness into your daily routines:
- Make a gratitude list first thing in the morning.
- Journal down things you are thankful for every night before going to bed.
- Practice a few short mindful meditations during the day.
- Consciously choose to look on the bright side.
- Thank a few people each day.
- Write thank-you cards to loved ones who have supported you.
- Engage in simple service activities to give back to the community.
Many treatment centers offer experiential therapy, including mindfulness and meditation coaching, as well as other relaxation techniques such as art therapy. All these can help boost a positive outlook of gratitude on life.
When was the last time you felt grateful for anything? Has it been a while since you counted your blessings? Gratitude is one powerful signal that you are progressing toward long-lasting wellness. Many recovering individuals have been able to cultivate an outlook of gratitude with the help of health professionals. You can work with counselors and therapists to help you reach that goal, too. At Laguna Shores Recovery, you can find licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists who know how to coach you through recovery with tested strategies. We have a complete medical and residential facility, which offers a range of treatments, including diagnosis, behavioral therapies, 12-step programs, and treatment plans. You do not need to be stuck in anxiety and depression. There are many things to be thankful for in life, especially when you are in recovery. Call us at (866) 906-3203. We are eager to help you regain joy and gratitude in life.
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