As a brand new year is upon us and the quietness has settled in following the holiday and New Year’s festivities, incorporating Gratitude in our recovery—our daily lives—helps shape our mindset. It not only influences and reinforces us to stay positive, appreciative, humble, and grateful for the good in our lives, but it also chips away at any defensive, guarded walls by letting us be more open and loving, hence more peaceful from within.
“The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context)” ~ Harvard Health Education
In recovery, the 12-step program points out that having gratitude in our recovery and attaining it, and serenity, are two of the most key characteristic of success in the program, informing that “gratitude and serenity are two sides of the same golden coin of sobriety.”
Why is Gratitude Significant in Recovery?
Gratitude is essential for long-term recovery. The journey of abstinence comes with good days and challenging ones. Cultivating a grateful outlook helps people to stay positive instead of seeing relapse as a catastrophe. It reminds us that when things don’t work out, there is still a lot to be grateful for. It helps us to ‘sit’ with our challenges and see the opportunity it yields for improvement. Also, having a grateful heart teaches us to love and respect ourselves—that we are worthy of receiving love—and enables us to give love and respect back to others.
The Greater Good Science Center in Berkeley in California reports from its research that grateful people are more optimistic and have more control of their lives. They can better cope and navigate hurdles that cross their paths, resulting in less manifested stress than people that do not practice gratitude in their lives.
As people start to practice being grateful in their recovery journey, the feeling blossoms, especially as they approach Step 12 and start to carry the message on to others who are struggling with addiction.
Interestingly, some physical, psychological and social benefits that The Greater Good Science Center found when they studied people that practiced Gratitude versus those that didn’t were:
- Stronger immune systems
- Reduced sensing of aches and pains
- Lower blood pressure
- Increased interest in exercise and taking care of health
- Better, more restful sleep
- Increased levels of positive emotions
- Increased feelings of being more alert, alive, and awake
- Increased sense of joy and pleasure
- Increased feelings of optimism and happiness
- Increased desire to be helpful, generous, and compassionate
- Increased feelings of forgiveness
- Increased interest in being outgoing
- Reduced feelings of loneliness and isolation
Starting a Gratitude Journal
Unlike a journal, a Gratitude journal is about writing down the things you’re grateful for. Here are some guidelines to help you start a gratitude journal and how to make it a habit you will easily stick to.
Choose a Journal (decide if this will be a paper journal or will you do a digital journal, where you record your notes by speaking into your phone such as using “memo notes” or an email(s) to yourself).
Set time aside each day to write what you’re grateful for (i.e. making a list in the morning is a great time to kick-start your day). Here is a Gratitude worksheet with some tips you can use, as well as below are some prompters to think about to get you started:
This can include:
- The things you have and are grateful for instead of what you don’t have. This can be about something in your life that is yours now that you didn’t have last year.
- Think about a time when you felt grateful for something someone did for you.
- Thank someone in your head.
- Write a thank you letter to yourself and include what makes you grateful to be you.
- Revisit a recent past lesson learned and how you grew from that experience.
- Reflect on a time you made a mistake and what you learned. What are you grateful for about that learning experience?
- Try to give back to others daily and write down how that makes you feel when you do.
- Pull from Step 10 (taking inventory of your life) and list the growth in your life (feel the gratefulness) and the parts of you where you need to strengthen.
- Give thanks to your spiritual growth in recovery and how that has helped you.
- Reflect on anything new that’s come your way: new friends, new opportunities.
It’s good to revisit your journal to see what you’ve written down that you’re grateful for, especially on challenging days, where you feel like you’re struggling a little more. It will lift your spirits and ‘re-program’ your brain to think more positively, which will ensue happier feelings.
If you feel you need more help, please contact us for more information or for assitance to find the right type of support for your recovery goals.