The Ultimate Guide to Gratitude in Sobriety
What Does Gratitude Mean
What does gratitude mean? Well, according to Dictionary.com, Gratitude is a noun that can be defined as “the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful”. While the official definition is a great starting point, we believe that gratitude has a much deeper meaning especially for those of us in recovery. The purpose of this article is to explain gratitude on a deeper level, how it helps, how you can practice gratitude, and why a person in recovery should practice an attitude of gratitude to help sustain their recovery.
The Benefits of Gratitude
There is an old saying in Narcotics Anonymous (NA), “A grateful addict will never use”. While there are no guarantees in recovery, we believe this slogan and or saying rings true most of the time. Being grateful or practicing gratitude as we prefer to say has many benefits for those both those of us in recovery and those of us who are not. We will be focusing on the benefits for the “in recovery” population throughout this article.
Practicing gratitude can provide a general sense of wellbeing, a healthier mental state, reduced stress, and increased contentment. Collectively these benefits drastically reduce the risk of relapse for a person in recovery.
How to Practice Gratitude
If you have gotten this far in the article you may now be asking yourself, “How do I practice gratitude?”. This is a great question. Unfortunately, while the question is simple, the answer is anything but. Practicing gratitude is an extremely personal endeavor. Therefore, the practice itself and the rate at which one sees the results and benefits materialize will vary greatly from person to person. We have found that there are 5 key gratitude exercises which can help anyone get started on their journey towards gratitude. They are as follows, writing a gratitude list, reading books about gratitude, utilizing gratitude-oriented prayers, utilizing gratitude oriented meditation techniques, and finally writing a letter of gratitude. We will give specific instructions on each of these activities below.
Making a Gratitude List
Writing a gratitude list is a technique used by many successful people throughout history. The idea and theory behind it is quite simple. We become what we focus on. If we focus on the positive, we will attract more positivity into our lives and vice versa. Writing a gratitude list is exactly what it sounds like. You will literally make a list of 5 or 10 things you are grateful for. Some people write a gratitude list each day, others use it more sparingly, you will need to try it for yourself to determine what works. It is important to note sometimes the most impactful gratitude lists are the ones with the simplest and most taken for granted things listed. Please see the example below for further clarification on writing a gratitude list
- My physical health
- My sobriety
- My family
- A roof over my head
- Food in my refrigerator
Recommended Gratitude Books
Reading books on gratitude is another great way to incorporate practicing gratitude into your daily life. This is a good way to pick up other activities that can aid in your journey to gratitude as well as great way to feed the mind positive material. We have included a short list of our top 5 books on gratitude below.
- One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
- 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed my Life
- Gratitude Works!: A 21 Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity
- The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You Are Supposed To Be and Embrace Who you are
- Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy
Prayers of Gratitude
Prayer is another great way to express gratitude. We do not mean prayer in the religious sense necessarily although if you have a religious preference this will do nothing to conflict with it. The prayer we are speaking of here is the spiritual variety, you do not need to be religious to participate. We recognize that prayer is an extremely personal activity and thus will not be giving specific instructions on how to pray or what to say in said prayers. We encourage everyone to explore showing gratitude through prayer on their own and communicate whatever it is they feel is right.
Mediation is another great way to practice gratitude. In case you are not familiar with mediation, it can be defined as “a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.”
There are two primary types of meditations; silent and guided. If you are new to mediating many times a guided meditation can be a great way to start your practice. For a guided meditation on gratitude please click here.
If you are experienced in mediation, we recommend you find a nice quiet comfortable place and allow yourself 10 minutes to reflect on what gratitude means to you, what you are grateful for, and what the best way to express your gratitude is.
Letter of Gratitude
Writing a letter of gratitude is a great way to express your gratitude if there is a specific individual, institution or the like that you are feeling grateful towards. The exercise is very simple and straightforward. If you have never done something like this before that is perfectly fine. Below you will find simple instructions that will have you well on your way.
- Address the person or institution directly. ( Dear ……..)
- Describe in specific terms what this person or institution did for you, how it affected you, and why you are grateful
- Describe how your life has changed since, and reference how you often you remember what they did for you
- We recommend the letter being about a page
- Do not worry about spelling or grammar
- This letter does not need to be sent unless you feel moved to do so. The benefit comes from the writing itself not the sending.
Gratitude Quotes and Affirmations
Here is a list of our top gratitude quotes and gratitude affirmations:
- Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” – Anonymous
- “Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.” – Amy Collette
- “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie
- “Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.” – Henri Frederic Amiel
- “In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- “Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.” – Lionel Hampton
- “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero
- “We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” – Cynthia Ozick
Practicing Daily Gratitude
Practicing gratitude is much like brushing your teeth, the benefits increase drastically if it is done daily. We say this in jest, but the sentiment is true. Practicing gratitude is a surefire way to increase the quality of both your recovery and your life. We encourage everyone to practice gratitude as often as possible and to reap the benefits that come along with that.
As always, if you are someone you know are struggling with alcohol or substance abuse, we are here to help! We are available 24/7/365. For a free and obligation free consultation with one of our treatment specialists please call 855-698-3554 or for a direct line call 201-663-2914.