Studies have shown that gratitude has many benefits that will make recovery better. Gratitude reduces stress and improves sleep. It reduces illness and strengthens social connection. It helps you focus on what’s good about your life instead of what’s bad. In short, feeling grateful can make you a healthier, happier person. Of course, it takes some practice. If your life feels especially bad right now, finding something to be grateful for might be hard and feeling habitually grateful might seem impossible. Here are some ways to cultivate more gratitude in your life.
Keep a gratitude journal.
Every day, write down three things you are grateful for. Find something different every day. These don’t have to be big things and they may occasionally take some imagination. We all have something to be grateful for but often these things become invisible. For example, did you know that most people have clean, drinkable water flowing directly into their houses? If you happen to be one of those people, take a moment to appreciate how your life would be different if you had to walk to a river or well every time you needed water. Gratitude is often about learning to recognise all the good fortune you’ve taken for granted.
You can include anything in your gratitude journal. You might be grateful to a parent for not giving up on you, even in your darkest times. Or you might be grateful for an especially good lunch. The small things often make a big difference so don’t neglect them.
Express gratitude to others.
People almost universally feel underappreciated. Taking a moment to write a note or thank someone in person for a kindness reinforces your sense of gratitude and is a kindness in itself. Expressing your gratitude also strengthens social bonds making you more emotionally resilient.
Watch out for creeping negativity.
Try a little experiment: go a whole day without complaining or criticising. When you learn to catch yourself before you make critical remarks, you may start feeling like you have nothing to say. It can be shocking to discover that most of what you focus on is negative. Refraining from complaining and criticising will help you realise this and force you to find something positive to say.
Stay involved in meetings.
12 Step meetings are a great opportunity to practice gratitude. You are surrounded by people who listen to your problems and support you. Part of working the steps includes connecting to a Higher Power, a practice conducive to gratitude. Going to meetings, expressing your gratitude to the group and your Higher Power, and doing what you can to be of service are good ways to make gratitude a habit.
Castle Craig is one of the most established and respected addiction rehab centres in the UK. Castle Craig provides consulting psychiatrists who diagnose associated mental illnesses like anxiety states, depression, ADD, PTSD, eating disorders, compulsive gambling, and compulsive relationships. For information, call our 24 hour free confidential phone-line: 0808 256 3732. From outside the UK please call: +44 1721 788 006 (normal charges apply).
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | January 29, 2020