Why an Attitude of Gratitude is Good for You!


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Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault

Life can be difficult.  At times, it may seem like there’s no end to the negativity.  Whether it’s an illness, a loss, or depression, it can seem that it’s virtually impossible to dig your way out of it. One thing has been scientifically proven to help you find your way out of feeling depressed: gratitude.

Feeling gratitude can be challenging if it seems there’s nothing to be grateful for, but it can be the most important thing to practice in times of difficulty. This is also exceptionally important for people in recovery for drug addiction, alcohol addiction, or substance abuse. Indeed, maintaining an “Attitude of Gratitude” can be one of the most helpful things you can do – especially in recovery.

What is Gratitude?

The definition of gratitude essentially means being grateful and thankful for all that you have in your life. However, the textbook definition may be one thing, but applying it to your real life is entirely different. What does this actually mean? It means having an attitude of gratitude, which is simply looking at your life circumstances with a feeling of thankfulness.

 That’s an easy thing to try to do, but depending on where you are in your life, it can be challenging. On the one hand, if loved ones surround you, have all the resources you need, a good job, and good health, it can be easy to feel grateful. You have everything you could want – what is there not to feel thankful about? On the other hand, if any of these things are wrong – if you don’t have someone to love in your life, if you’ve been fired from your job, if you have developed a chronic health condition – then feeling gratitude for your life and its circumstances can feel impossible.

 Gratitude and Recovery

 The expression of gratitude is linked with numerous positive benefits, including an increasingly optimistic perspective, a reduction of stress, and a variety of other changes to your brain and neurochemical balance. All of these changes can be vital to your recovery journey.

 The first two items are particularly important. Recovery is hard, and research indicates that some people make multiple attempts to recover from drugs or alcohol abuse before the process is ultimately successful. Each effort to recover requires persistence, resilience, and a fundamental belief that the recovery process works.  If gratitude’s expression is tied to an increase in optimism, it follows that gratitude can help you stick with recovery and eventually build a life in recovery.

Furthermore, an expression of gratitude can help you stop regretting the past. This is called rumination, and it means you are thinking back on the past with regret and longing. This, in turn, can trap you in an unending cycle of depression and pain. It can take time and sometimes a combination of support groups and therapy, but you can turn that rumination into gratitude with patience and practice. This involves a shift in the way you think: For example, instead of being angry about a negative life event, you become grateful for the lessons you learned from your experiences.

All of this can make you a happier, healthy, and more grateful person. This, in turn, can help you recover from your substance use disorder.

 Gratitude and the Brain

 According to some genuinely remarkable research conducted by UCLA, gratitude can, quite literally, change the brain. This happens because Gratitude can cause your brain to release chemicals that make you feel better. These neurotransmitters include dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. This, in turn, causes changes to the brain that can result in increased feelings of happiness, joy, and relaxation.

 Gratitude is an action and an attitude to be learned. That means that you can’t simply wish your way into a more grateful attitude.  You can learn how to express gratitude, and with that teaching, you can learn how to be thankful for your experiences. This means Gratitude is something that each person is capable of learning, living, and feeling.

 Health Benefits of Gratitude

 There are, quite literally, dozens of health benefits to holding an attitude of gratitude. These include better physical health, improved sleep, greater life satisfaction, and even lower cell inflammation levels. Additional studies have linked grateful attitudes with other health benefits, including reduced pain levels and increased heart health. However, more specifics are needed before that finding can be definitive.

How do I get an Attitude of Gratitude?

This is probably the most important question of this entire article. Unfortunately, it is also one of the hardest answers because there is no set answer, no single trick that will make you more grateful.  In some cases, the answer to this question may involve unlearning decades worth of negative habits and thought patterns. There’s nothing wrong with learning new ways and attitudes. It’s an exciting journey!

The good news, you can learn to express being grateful.  Gratitude is like any muscle: With exercise, it becomes stronger. Some ways to learn gratitude include:

  • Active recording. Remember, Gratitude doesn’t come automatically. Instead, actively write down or speak about your gratitude. Some even suggest keeping a “gratitude journal” that you regularly update. The more you notice things to be grateful for, the easier it will be to see in the future.
  • Meditation. Many studies have made it clear that meditation can improve your state of mind, and it may be able to help you identify things to be grateful for in your life. There are also specific meditations on gratitude that you can try.
  • Remember, small things lead to bigger ones. Sure, there may be plenty of larger items you can be grateful for, including your health and your family. But what about the little things? That good sandwich you made today? The nice weather? Find small things – and let those turn into bigger ones.
  • Express your Gratitude. Remember, developing an attitude of Gratitude can be facilitated by expressing that gratitude. Don’t just keep your gratefulness inside. Make gratitude and action. Express it. Say thank you. Write thank-you notes. Bring your appreciation to the forefront of your expression, and share it with others. Start a text chat with friends and share three things each day you are all grateful for. Remember, what you are grateful for is unique to you and your experiences.

The evidence is clear: gratitude can directly impact recovery.  Indeed, that’s why the best recovery centers focus on the entire person, rather than the disorder. Programs like ours do more than treat your addiction or co-occurring disorder; they address you holistically, mind, body, and spirit.  We believe that recovery will improve all facets of your life. Remember, you can recover from your addiction, and learning gratitude can help you get there. Call us today for more information on how we incorporate showing Gratitude into the recovery process.

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