“Practice gratitude” is one of those platitudes that seems like it belongs in script on a wall next to Live, Laugh, Love. And while it may sound a bit “hippie” and spiritual, this valuable practice is strongly encouraged by most therapists and counselors. In particular, individuals are urged to practice gratitude in recovery.
So how exactly does someone practice gratitude and know they’re doing it right? Figuring that out is a natural first step in the mindful gratitude journey. Here’s a breakdown of what practicing gratitude is and five concrete ways you can do it.
Defining the Act of Practicing Gratitude
A feeling of gratitude is similar to a sense of solid appreciation. When you practice gratitude, you make a conscious effort to recognize the things, people and actions in your life you should be thankful for. These are the things — big or small — that make you feel lucky and have helped guide you in the right direction.
Making an effort to practice gratitude regularly can have an incredibly positive impact on your mental health. It forces you to appreciate the progress you’ve made, enjoy even the minor things in life and acknowledge everything in life that helps you — such as people, your body, medication and more. Countless studies have found that people who actively practice gratitude report higher levels of happiness and are less likely to suffer from depression.
Practicing gratitude is one of the most popular early recovery topics. It may be there under different names — for example, AA daily reflections. Recovery is a lifelong journey and can come with many challenges. Finding things to be grateful for in recovery helps an individual keep their mind in a positive place. Rather than focusing on mistakes from the past or future challenges, it lets a person acknowledge the good they’ve accomplished so far.
Five Ways to Practice Gratitude in Recovery
Now that you know what practicing gratitude is and how it can help you, here are five easy ways to incorporate it into your recovery journey.
1. Embrace a New Perspective
It can be hard to feel grateful every day, especially as you’re going through all the ups and downs of recovery. But a lot about practicing gratitude is focusing your perspective. You need to be realistic in recognizing that sometimes you’ll have bad days. It might be a little harder to find the thing to be grateful for on those days, but you can find it.
It doesn’t have to be a grandiose feeling of appreciation every day. You can simply feel grateful that you made it through or that you didn’t take your bad day out on anyone else.
As you practice gratitude in recovery, it’s also important to remember the bad times. Even if today wasn’t your best, have perspective on how far you’ve come. Your progress is an achievement, and you can only appreciate the good when you acknowledge the bad.
2. Have a Gratitude Routine
When you first start practicing gratitude, it’ll take some time to make it a regular habit. But there are proactive steps you can take to make it a seamless part of your life as quickly as possible. You can focus on building a gratitude routine into your day. You might write in a gratitude journal or have an alarm go off periodically as a reminder to stop and reflect.
Whatever method you choose, try to set yourself up for success by being realistic. If you’re not a morning person, writing in a gratitude journal first thing is unlikely. Set up your routine to fit comfortably in your life so you can keep up this new habit long-term.
When you’re struggling, you can reach for your gratitude journal or reminders to rebalance yourself. It can remind you of how far you’ve come and all you’ve done to get to this stage of recovery.
3. Focus on Language
A significant part of gratitude is language. As you start to practice gratitude, you’ll notice the power of the words you choose. This should carry over into all the thoughts and conversations you have throughout the day. Try to eliminate negative thoughts and feelings or match them with a positive counterpart.
Changing your language can help you focus on the good in the world, in others and in yourself. When you do this, you’ll start to unconsciously and effortlessly practice gratitude throughout the day.
Start to change the language you use for your addiction. While you may have regrets about your addiction and past, use the power of words to help you move on to a place of acceptance. When you think or talk about your addiction, always follow up with where you are now. Your addiction may have led you down a destructive path, but now you’re choosing to live a better life.
4. Spread the Gratitude
As you start this new practice, you’ll probably discover a lot of other grateful addicts in recovery. People who focus on gratitude tend to do so openly and share it with others. This is for a few reasons. First, there’s a power in sharing gratitude. It makes it feel more concrete when you tell others. Secondly, gratitude is like a smile — if you do it to others, they might do it too!
So much of recovery is helping others who are going through the same struggle. If you acknowledge the past and appreciate the journey in a positive, intentional way, you might teach others to do the same.
5. Practice the Gratitude Motions
As we touched on previously, some days, you simply won’t feel that grateful. That’s bound to happen, and it’s perfectly okay. On those days, try to go through the motions anyway to avoid breaking your new habit. Force yourself to keep up with your gratitude routine, watch your language and try to keep your perspective clear. Often, just by going through the motions, you’ll find yourself feeling grateful by the end of the day.
Gratitude Helps Recovery
Gratitude can be an incredibly useful tool throughout your recovery. It’ll help you stay grounded and remember how far you’ve come. You’ll also notice the small improvements you make, the support you get from friends and family and the beauty of sober living.
FHE Health Can Help You Through Recovery
If you’re looking for support as you conquer your addiction, FHE Health can help. Our addiction treatment facility can provide the support you need through evidence-based clinical practices. You don’t have to do this on your own. Contact us today by calling (833) 596-3502.