The Importance of Gratitude in Addiction Recovery

Most people in addiction recovery are familiar with treatment modalities and techniques such as talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling and medically assisted therapy. But one practice that is essential for recovery is simpler than that. Gratitude in recovery is a mindset that you can cultivate to transform your life and improve your chances of staying sober.


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What Is Gratitude?

Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness. You can be grateful for tangible things, such as a gift, delicious food or the roof over your head. You can also be grateful for intangible things, such as acts of kindness and support from loved ones.

Think back to a time when you appreciated something that someone did for you. Perhaps a stranger helped you reach an item on the top shelf at the grocery store, and you thanked them. Maybe a family member joined you at a support group meeting when you entered recovery, and you were glad that you weren’t alone.

Can you bring back the memory of how you felt? You may have experienced a momentary connection with that person. Your heart probably lightened and swelled. A smile might have come across your face. These feelings indicate gratitude.

You may wish to express your gratitude for others by thanking them, letting them know that they influenced you positively or doing something nice for them. But even if you don’t express your gratitude outwardly, cultivating this feeling within yourself has advantages in recovery. It’s not the act of saying thank you that’s important; it’s the emotion behind it.

Why Is Gratitude Important In Recovery?

People who struggle with addiction often get trapped in negative thinking. When you’re in active addiction or the early stages of recovery, the substance messes with your reward pathways.

Some drugs produce such a dramatic release of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters that your brain is tricked into believing that the only way you’ll find pleasure again is through the substance. Other things stop making you happy. When the drugs stop producing the same kind of high, you stop being able to access that pleasure too. All of a sudden, nothing feels good. And if you continue to use, you are likely to witness devastation in several areas of your life.

It’s no wonder that developing a positive mindset is challenging in recovery. But staying stuck in the negative patterns can contribute to relapse. A negative mindset is associated with guilt, shame and depression. If you struggle with these emotions regularly in recovery, you increase your risk of using again. Gratitude in recovery helps you establish a positive mindset.

Gratitude in Recovery Enhances Well-Being

Gratitude researchers have observed that people who frequently and regularly list the things that they’re grateful for are more optimistic. They also feel better about their lives in general.

These positive feelings motivate them to take other actions that improve their lives. Gratitude practices are linked with increased exercise and fewer doctor visits.

In one study, participants were asked to write a letter of gratitude to thank someone for a kind action that they had performed in the past. Immediately after expressing their appreciation, the participants were happier. One appreciative thought can improve your happiness by 10%. The boost in your well-being may last up to four weeks from a single act of gratitude.

Gratitude in Addiction Recovery Elevates Your Self-Worth

Gratitude has been found to enhance self-esteem. One of the reasons for this is that it provides a reflection for how you feel about yourself.

If you don’t value yourself, you may feel as though you don’t deserve the good things that come to you. Therefore, you may not allow yourself to receive them, limiting your ability to feel gratitude.

But when you believe that you’re worth it, you open up to the beautiful parts of life. When you allow yourself to receive positivity without judging yourself or others for it, you begin to cultivate gratitude.

As you practice gratitude for what you already have, you reinforce the fact that you deserve those things. This enhances your self-esteem and primes you to accept more positivity, supporting your recovery journey.

Gratitude in Recovery Improves Relationships

Personal, professional and romantic relationships benefit when gratitude is thrown into the mix. Gratitude enhances your sense of empathy. It also improves your emotional intelligence, which is an essential part of recovery.

When you notice the good things that others do for you, you increase your awareness of the good things that you can do for others. This allows you to respond appropriately to other people’s needs as you take care of your own.

Healthy relationships are crucial for recovery. But it can be difficult to rebuild connections and establish new ones when you’re sober. Adding a gratitude practice to the other skills that you’re developing in recovery can help you view relationships in a new light.

How to Practice Gratitude

Practicing gratitude in addiction recovery can be difficult in the early stages. Sometimes, it may even feel forced. It’s ok if it’s not easy to access gratitude when you’re struggling. Still, it’s important to go through the motions. As you practice, you’ll find that it gets easier to embrace positivity even when the majority of your life seems negative.

But the easiest way to practice gratitude is to write down something you’re grateful for. Putting it into writing instead of just allowing the thought to pass through your head strengthens the neural pathways that will help you access gratitude in the future.

Although it won’t take more than a minute or two to do this practice, schedule a regular time for it. You might write it down as soon as you wake up or go to bed. Maybe you’ll write it with your finger on the steamy mirror after a shower. You can also practice with your recovery therapist.

As your gratitude practice becomes more consistent, you can begin to put your heart into it. After you write what you’re grateful for, take a moment to breathe it in. Allow yourself to feel into the emotions and sensations that come with gratitude. Over time, you’ll be able to enter this space without thinking about it, infusing your recovery with positivity and optimism.

Burning Tree West infuses this practice into all aspects of recovery. As your mindset improves, the other skills that you develop in recovery will support your growth. Our holistic substance abuse treatment center is dedicated to your long-lasting recovery.


Get Help Now

Call our admissions specialists who can help you find the best treatment center for your needs. If you need help with drug abuse or addiction recovery, we can help you.

(888) 530-9424