Unlocking The Power Of Gratitude This Thanksgiving Season
Especially in the midst of an addiction or in early recovery, it may not always be easy to find things to be grateful for. But multiple studies have shown that fostering an attitude of gratitude comes with a variety of psychological benefits.
People who are more grateful have been found not only to be more optimistic but to be more energetic, more clear-headed, less stressed, and better at coping with life’s challenges. They are more satisfied (including sexual satisfaction), have better relationships, and are more productive. Gratitude can even improve your physical health, with more grateful people having been found to have:
- Better sleep
- Better immunity
- Less inflammation
- Better cardiovascular health
- Reduced pain perception
- Less stomachaches and headaches
- Better cardiovascular health
- Lower inflammation
- Clearer skin
- And reduced congestion.
So, what can you do to get these benefits for yourself? Well, basic as it may sound, gratitude is all about attitude, and about the way you direct your thinking and attention. While we realize that it can sometimes be difficult to break ruminative cycles of thought that may be keeping you trapped in negative, fatalistic thinking, deliberately directing your thoughts toward more positive ideas can help to break that cycle and to replace the negative ones, or at least lessen their impact.
For instance, you should try to spend more time thinking about everything you do have as opposed to everything you do not, or about everything that you have gained in recovery rather than what you have “lost” in giving up drugs or alcohol, all of the new connections that you are making and opportunities that you are gaining rather than any that may have been casualties of your past mistakes. You can focus on all of the progress you are making in your recovery and the things you are achieving rather than on addictive behavior that you may have felt ashamed of, making a conscious choice to combat bitterness and to embrace hope.
And one of the best ways that psychologists have found to turn your attention to these positives is something so simple even Santa can do it: making a list. Both regularly listing all the things you are grateful for and keeping a more in depth gratitude journal can help you to get into the mental habit of making this sort of appraisal. Cliché as it may sound, writing out the things that you are grateful for concretely or even just taking a few moments every morning to think them through for yourself can be a great way to become a little more thankful without it taking much conscious effort.
Another gratitude trick that I’ve found useful is looking for the reason in things by reflecting on the interconnectedness of experience. In the face of profound loss or trauma like that often inflicted by addiction or even just the routine disappointments of everyday life, it’s easy to get bogged down in wondering whether things could have been different, or why things had to happen in the inordinately painful way that they did.
But by thinking through what I’m most thankful for and connecting the dots between some of my worst experiences and the best, I can start to see that, without my darkest and most painful moments, it’s highly possible that I never would have been led to the things and people in my life that I am the most grateful for.
I’m not trying to fall back on anything as facile as “everything happens for a reason,” but it does sometimes seem to me that if even one domino of destiny had fallen to the left instead of right, my world would be completely unrecognizable—and there’s enough I’m grateful for in my life that I wouldn’t want it to be.
Even without such lofty hypotheticals, the plainest evident fact is that while regret will get you nowhere, hope and determination can get you everywhere. You cannot change the past by dwelling on it, but you can shape the future by shifting your focus and by committing yourself wholeheartedly to your sobriety and to becoming the best version of yourself that you can be.
Often, the key to getting or staying sober is believing that you can stay sober and remembering why it is so important that you stay sober, which points back to the importance of knowing, and of routinely reflecting on, everything and everyone that you want to stay sober for. In this way, gratefulness can give you more to be grateful for, a sort of self fulfilling prophecy of incited optimism that can help lead your way to a better life.
But, if you are in the midst of an active addiction, that better life will likely not be possible unless you first take steps to get your substance abuse under control. Joining a sober living community like the Reco Institute and enrolling in our associated treatment program could be just the kick start you need.
The cognitive behavioral therapy and other scientifically backed approaches we offer can help you to challenge negative thinking and embrace a more positive outlook, and our skilled therapists will teach you healthier coping mechanisms that you can use to make your way back to a brighter future, and towards the kind of life worth being grateful for. To learn more, you can call 561-665-5925 anytime or contact us virtually here.