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Why Gratitude is Uniquely Important for Recovery

Posted by on in Alcoholism
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Myself, and many others, have discussed the scientific benefits of practicing or incorporating gratitude into daily life. A quick recap: it improves well-being, linked with higher achievement, makes you a better friend. improves sleep, benefits the physical heart & immune system, and it does wonders for our mental health. Are there any other reasons needed to start practicing gratitude right away?! It helps keep away anxiety and depression and can improve self-image and efficacy. These are important aspects of healthy daily living for everyone, but for someone in recovery they can be life changing.

Why Gratitude: The Difference Maker?

Discover how the practice of gratitude, as simple as five minutes each day, can improve recovery. Not only can it reduce the amount of cravings to use drugs and alcohol, but it is also make our lives more enjoyable and reduce feelings of depression. Why is gratitude so much more important for recovering addicts & alcoholics than the average person? Because active addiction drains us of our ability to empathize and tends to keep us focused on the negative aspects of ourselves and others. Our families and friends often get in the way of our addiction, which irritates and causes negative feelings.

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Perhaps the most common mental problems that people trying to quit drinking and drugging is depression, anxiety, and poor physical health. The dark prison of addiction makes its captives pessimist, aggressors, suicidal, manipulators, etc. It is estimated that almost 58% of people entering treatment qualify for ‘situational’ depression or anxiety. Years of addiction has literally caused the symptoms of chronic and genetic depression to occur. The good news? In recovery, as we get sober, most of these things go away with effort. Gratitude is one of the easiest and dramatic ways to start reversing the damage that addiction can cause to our outlook on life.

5 Unique Benefits of Gratitude for People in Recovery
  1. Gratitude As a Reminder: When we practice gratitude, such as making a list, it can help remind us of our dark past we care from when we did not have much. There was one point in my life where I had no car, drivers license, bank account, or friends (mainly due to my addiction). When I recognize my gratitude today for my friends and my car it helps me feel blessed to be sober.
  2. Gratitude Breeds Relationships: In addiction, we often isolate or use drugs/alcohol to socialize and form relationships. In sobriety its important to find out how to do these things without chemicals. Well, a 2014 Emotion study found that saying “thank you” or even smiling at a stranger for holding open a door can lead to more relationships in the future. So whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or you send a quick thank-you note to that co-worker who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead to new opportunities.
  3. Gratitude Makes Us a Nicer Person: Believe it or not, people who practice gratitude frequently score higher in test of likability and empathy. A 2012 study from University of Kentucky found that grateful people  were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They also experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and decreased desires to seek revenge.
  4. Gratitude Improves Self-Image: A recovering alcoholic or addict with a high self-image? Sounds dangerous right? This benefit of gratitude is based on the idea that gratitude reduces how often we compare ourselves to others. When we are grateful we don’t covet our neighbors things or become prideful and feel superior to them either. So improving our self-image, with gratitude, can actually reduce our ego!
  5. High Gratitude Correlates With Lower Stress: In early recovery stress can be the thing that sets someone off on a relapse. Thousands of addicts and alcoholics have run to their old coping mechanisms, alcohol or drugs, when stressed. Unfortunately, stress is a part of life. Some people are able to stay away from stress, but life happens. Illness, accidents, financial problems, breakups, and more can lead to high levels of stress. People who practice gratitude are much less likely to grab for a bottle or pill when stress comes knocking.

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