Why is Gratitude an Important Practice in Recovery?

Why is Gratitude an Important Practice in Recovery?

On your journey down the path to recovery, cultivating a grateful heart can help transform your perspective on the world and reframe negative thought patterns that can adversely impact your sobriety. Finding ways to show daily gratitude helps you develop an appreciative and humble attitude that can safeguard you against challenges you may face during your drug or alcohol addiction recovery.

What is Gratitude?

Gratitude is the outward show of thankfulness. If you’re grateful for someone or something, you’ll feel the need to appreciate them in one way or another. We often get too caught up with our everyday lives that it slips our minds to express gratitude and reciprocate kindness.

Research has shown that practicing gratitude daily can have significant long-lasting positive effects on a person’s life. Gratitude has been linked with increased positive emotions, increased joy and pleasure, reduced feelings of isolation and loneliness, and higher motivation levels. People who engage in daily gratitude also experience improved physical effects, including improved immune function, lower blood pressure, and more restful sleep.

These science-backed benefits could account for the dramatic impact that practicing gratitude can have on people in the process of addiction recovery.

Gratitude for Your Mind and Spirit

Among the advantages of becoming more grateful during recovery is that it helps to cope with the negative aspects of life. Gratitude becomes a major healing factor that helps with your individual therapy and builds your overall positivity.

When you develop negative thought patterns, they can inform your outlook on the world and make it harder to maintain a sober lifestyle or potentially trigger a relapse.

One of the best ways to overcome negativity and mental restlessness is to become more grateful. Gratefulness increases positivity. When you become mindful of others’ actions, you eliminate any resentment, bitterness, anger, and other negativities that may hinder your recovery process.

A 2020 study shows that always being grateful may alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Being appreciated is among the best things you can do for anyone. When they reciprocate your gratitude, that makes you feel better, and you’ll feel motivated to improve yourself and become a better person.

You also learn to share the same level of love and respect that you have for yourself with others. Your positive nature can help others who are starting their path toward recovery. You will inspire others to adopt a positive outlook, which can be an important tool during group therapy sessions.

Gratitude Makes You More Optimistic

Gratitude Makes You More OptimisticOptimism and gratefulness go hand-in-hand. When you’re optimistic, you see positive outcomes even in the most difficult situations helping you to overcome challenges and triggers that could hinder your recovery process.

Optimism has been shown to change your frame of mind from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. People with a growth mindset believe that overcoming challenges and learning is achieved through dedication and hardwork. This can motivate addicts to work through their recovery program more effectively, even when faced with significant hurdles. For example, rather than viewing relapse as a form of failure, you can see it as a chance to inform your recovery and rework your program.

Gratitude Can Transform Your Neurobiology

When you practice gratitude by expressing kindness toward others or appreciating what you have, it changes how your brain functions. Experiencing gratitude releases the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.

Dopamine causes you to experience feelings of positivity, happiness, and pleasure. Serotonin plays a crucial role in mood regulation, helping you manage negative thought patterns.

Gratitude also causes your body to release a hormone called oxytocin. This substance induces positive feelings like compassion, generosity, and trust. It is vital for forming positive social bonds and promoting connectedness and belonging.

How Do You Practice Gratitude While in Recovery?

Practicing daily gratitude during the darkest moments of your recovery can be challenging. But making small changes to your mindset and incorporating gratitude activities into your daily routine can help you show more appreciation and kindness and boost your recovery.

Focus less on what you don’t have

Practicing gratitude means being thankful for the little things, such as food on the table, a roof over your head, or sunny weather. Focusing on what you don’t have cultivates ungratefulness and resentment. It also fosters less desirable emotions like anger and jealousy.

Make it a daily habit to give more than receive

Generosity is an integral part of gratitude. There are numerous ways to practice generosity, such as volunteering at your local homeless shelter, paying for someone’s coffee, or cooking dinner for a friend. The simplest acts of kindness can help you achieve so much on your path to recovery.

Focus less on people’s bad side

It’s easy to become impatient, angry, and irritable once we focus on people’s worst qualities. On the other hand, you can choose to focus on their best features and accept them for who they are. This will help you be more respectful, develop patience, and formulate an open-minded attitude.

Keep a gratitude journal

Keep a gratitude journal

Set aside a few minutes every day to think about the people or things that bring happiness to your life. You’ll be surprised at just how many items you take for granted. Doing so will also eliminate feelings of anxiety and depression. You’ll also practice more humility and learn to focus on the positive in the darkest situations.

Cultivate a Grateful Mind With Right Path

Gratitude is simply showing appreciation and kindness to people around you and affirming the positive things that you have received. Right Path Addiction Centers can develop positive habits and a grateful mindset that can aid your addiction recovery program and help you down the road to sobriety.


Written by Sergey Zhitar, MD Medical Director

Native of Moldova, Dr. Zhitar is Board Certified in Addiction Medicine as well as Internal Medicine and completed his training at UPMC Shadyside, Pittsburgh, PA in 2000.

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