Finding Gratitude For The Process Of Recovery
There are many advantages to cultivating gratitude in recovery. Studies have shown that frequent feelings of gratitude make people happier overall. There are a number of reasons for this. For one, gratitude makes you focus on what’s good about your life. There’s always room for improvement, but if you focus on the parts of your life that aren’t as good as you would like, you will always feel dissatisfied. Gratitude keeps your focus on what’s good. Second, gratitude strengthens your relationships. No one wants to be around people who complain all the time and no one wants to help people who aren’t grateful. Showing gratitude freely makes others feel appreciated and it strengthens your relationships. Positive feelings and healthy relationships are two crucial features of a good recovery. Here are some ways to make gratitude a regular part of your life.
Keep a gratitude journal.
The gratitude journal comes from psychologist Martin Seligman, founder of the positive psychology movement, which focuses not on curing mental illness but rather making people happier. The idea behind the gratitude journal is simple: every night, write down three things that went well that day and why they went well. These could be little things or big things. Maybe you finally landed your dream job, or maybe your partner cooked a delicious dinner. Whatever it is, make a note of it and be as specific as possible. In other words, don’t settle for “I’m grateful for my child,” but rather “I’m grateful my child helped me fold the laundry even though I didn’t ask.” Being specific forces you to think more carefully about the things you’re grateful for and it helps keep your list from getting repetitive and boring. Keeping the exercise fresh increases your feelings of gratitude.
Thank someone at least once a week.
Really, you should thank people whenever they do something for you, even if it’s their job. However, some things warrant much greater appreciation than a simple “thank you.” If someone went out of her way to do something nice, send a note, an email, or go see her in person to tell her how much you appreciated it, even if it’s a long time after the fact. Seligman recommends going even farther. If someone did you a huge favor and you don’t feel like you’ve ever thanked the person properly, write a letter detailing what the person did and what it meant to you. Write several drafts to make sure you expressed yourself well and then deliver the letter in person. This not only makes you both feel good, but it strengthens your relationship. Not every thank you needs to be so involved, but being generous with your gratitude is a good way to make it grow.
Look for the positive.
One of the advantages of gratitude is that you learn to focus more on the positive things in your life. However, if you’re facing some kind of challenge or disappointment, it may be hard to find something to be grateful for. In this situation, try to make a game of it. Take the intermediate step of finding something positive in an otherwise bad situation. Addiction is a great example. No one likes being addicted to drugs or alcohol and no one wants to do the often difficult work of treatment and recovery. However, there are upsides. Addiction typically signals an underlying problem, perhaps depression or PTSD, that you might not have gotten help for if substance use hadn’t become a problem. People who recover from addiction often have to examine their lives in a way most people never do. As a result, addiction and treatment can be a catalyst for positive change.
You may have to coax yourself into finding the positives. You might have to say, “Ok, this is clearly a terrible situation, but if I had to find something good about it, it would be this.” Once you’ve mined these bits of silver lining, you can start to cultivate a sense of gratitude and optimism even in dark times.
It’s easy to slip into an automatic mindset. You get used to the things around you and even if you thought they were pretty good at first, they eventually fade into the background. Indoor plumbing, for example, is amazing. It’s convenient and healthy and almost no one thinks about how great it is that they can easily get a drink of clean water or take a hot shower without having to leave the house or build a fire. There are thousands of such details that escape our attention every day because we’re not mindful of our environment. If you practice mindfulness meditation, you gradually regain the ability to notice these things. You aren’t so preoccupied with worry, rumination, or habitual thinking. You see what’s right in front of you and you have more moments of sincere appreciation.
Volunteering is another proven way to make yourself happier. It can also make you more grateful. For one thing, volunteering often makes you realize what you take for granted. Whether you volunteer at a homeless shelter, a literacy program, or any number of worthy causes, it’s because you have the time, money, or expertise to spare. You’ll be working with people who need something you have, and something you might take for granted. Second, volunteering makes you appreciate the effort that goes into helping others. Others often work harder on our behalf than we realize, especially parents and teachers. Volunteering can give you a different perspective on who has done the most for you in the past.
Take a moment before you eat.
Creating a new habit is easier if you link it to something you already do regularly. For that reason, taking a moment to express gratitude just before you eat is a good way to make the habit stick. This is one reason the custom of saying grace before meals has persisted so long. Even if you’re not religious, it’s nice to take a moment and appreciate the fact that you’re about to consume food that will sustain your life. Relatively few people in human history have had the good fortune to eat several meals every day. Also, there’s no need to limit yourself to being grateful for your food. You can feel grateful for the people eating with you or for something nice that happened since your last meal.
Patrick Hart Consultants helps customize wrap-around treatment and transitional care programs for families seeking support for recovery from addiction, eating disorders, and other mental health conditions. Working with some of the country’s most trusted and renowned treatment programs, our team strives to ensure successful, stress-free recovery for the whole family. We coordinate with every member of a loved one’s treatment team to provide communication, progress, and healing. For more information on our services, call us today: (844) 262-7970