Addiction recovery: How can I express my gratitude?
By Matt Elmore, of Gratitude Journey
A common theme that comes up in addiction recovery is the importance of cultivating gratitude. Countless psychologists, therapists, and counselors have recognized gratitude as one of the foundational virtues in the creation of happiness. Gratitude is particularly important in recovery as it empowers addicts to have the motivation to strive forward and protect their sobriety.
In recovery programs, addicts are often asked to reflect on their unfavorable past behavior in order to fortify against relapse. This method is certainly a valid and effective approach. Drugs and alcohol begin to be exposed as a catalyst for issues, rather than solutions. This realization often leads to resentment, as the substance that was supposedly helping the addict cope is revealed to be the cause of their problems. Resentment, a primary trigger for relapse, needs to be counteracted.
Exceptional programs include positive psychology and the encouragement of gratitude to strengthen resolve against relapse. A common practice is to keep a gratitude journal, where a person records the aspects of their life that they are grateful for. Over time, attitudes change from focusing on what’s missing in life to a mindset of abundance. Moods begin to change and the addict sees the importance of protecting their happiness against relapse. It’s even worthwhile to be grateful for the lessons learned from addiction and its eventual leading to a clean lifestyle.
How to Express Gratitude
Unlike thankfulness, gratitude requires no recipient. For example, you can be grateful for your health, the weather, or your favorite food. You can be grateful for grand accomplishments such as work promotions, or you can be grateful for small comforts such as morning coffee. In fact, the appreciation of everything, no matter how small, is what gives potency to the rewards of gratitude. Gradually, the ‘gratitude muscles’ grow and more beauty is seen in the world as a whole.
Here are some common practices for practicing gratitude
1. Keep a gratitude journal
Each day record 1-3 things which you’re grateful for. This can include people, places, objects, moments, and successes. Eventually this practice becomes habit, and the mind shifts into a permanent way of being.
2. Focus on what’s really important
Rather than focusing on material possessions, give attention to the people around you. Personal relationships are universally seen as the key component in long-lasting happiness.
3. Appreciate the small things
Brainstorm even the minute things in life that you take for granted. Imagine what life would be like without certain things. By morning breakfast, you’ll begin to have a renewed appreciation for your bed, hot shower, and snooze button.
4. Share your appreciation – Take some time to reflect on the people that have made an impact in your life and share your gratitude with them.
5. Give back – Consider volunteering as an expression of your gratitude. After time once gratitude shows you that your needs are being met, your capacity to give to others will increase (i.e. Step 12)
Stay with the practice of gratitude for as long as it takes to see a shift in attitude. It only takes 30 days for an action to become habit. The rewards to yourself and your sobriety make it well worth it.
Reference Sources: Gratitude Journey iPhone App – A gratitude journal app. Uses daily reminders to keep you in the practice of gratitude
The Greater Good – Blog articles posted by a UC Berkeley group focused on the psychology of happiness
The Power of Gratitude – Oprah feature on gratitude
Photo credit: seanbjack