As the Thanksgiving season draws near, many of us are probably feeling conflicted about what the holidays will be like in 2020. While we may not be able to host large gatherings with friends and family, we can still give thanks. Today on the blog, we’ll explain how an attitude of gratitude can transform your recovery.
1. Counting Your Blessings Changes Your Perspective
In the words of Oprah Winfrey, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
When times are tough, it’s tempting to ruminate on just how bad things have gotten. Coronavirus has turned our lives upside-down, forcing us to abandon or modify holiday traditions, and you may feel angry or resentful about that. However, research shows that focusing on your blessings can actually help you to stop pouring over your misfortunes.
If you’re feeling stuck in a loop of negative self-talk, potential self-sabotage, and anxiety, consider making a list of all the blessings you’re grateful for. It may help you to focus on what matters most.
2. Being Thankful Boosts Your Mood
We’ve already discussed the upcoming combination of COVID-19 and seasonal affective disorder. Members of the PNW recovery community should strive to be proactive about their mental health before winter really sets in. One of the most effective tools for improving your mood is practicing gratitude.
Dr. Martin Seligman, a researcher from the University of Pennsylvania, tested the impact of positive psychology interventions on over 400 students. The most effective exercise? Writing and personally delivering a letter to someone who had never been properly thanked for their kindness. Participants immediately showed increased happiness scores, and the benefits lasted for a month.
If your recovery is in jeopardy, take some time to think about all of the people who have helped you along the way. Have you thanked them for their role in your life? Consider writing letters of gratitude to your friends, family, and the clinical professionals who have changed your story.
3. Gratitude Makes You More Positive
In these tumultuous times, positivity is everything. An attitude of optimism can be hard to maintain in the midst of political unrest, a global pandemic, and holiday chaos. Luckily, studies show that keeping a gratitude journal can help you to look on the bright side of life.
In one experiment, researchers asked participants to write a few sentences each week on particular topics. One group journaled about things they were grateful for that had occurred, and the other wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them. A third group authored posts about all events that had affected them, with no focus on positivity or negativity. After ten weeks, the people who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. They also exercised more and had fewer medical visits than those who wrote about negative life events.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the state of the world, try this experiment yourself. Keep a journal of all the small, good things that happen to you in a day. Gratitude journals are nothing new to those in recovery, but renewing your commitment to recording life’s wins can help to strengthen your sobriety.
4. Showing Appreciation Improves Relationships
Whether we’ve become more distant due to lack of in-person interaction or have been quarantined together for months, the pandemic has also changed relationships for many of us. The resulting tension can jeopardize your recovery and provide a source of stress in your day-to-day life. Fortunately, research has also indicated that relationships are improved when we demonstrate our gratitude.
This principle applies to all relationships, not just romantic ones. For example, couples who thank one another felt more positive towards the other person; they also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about the relationship. Additionally, managers who thank their staff may find that those employees are motivated to work harder.
If you haven’t expressed your feelings to your loved ones lately, take this opportunity to remind them of how much they mean to you. You may open up new avenues of communication while also building up your relationships.
5. Gratitude Reduces Stress
Stress is a major relapse trigger, and for good reason. This mental state is a contributor to many physical and mental problems, including heart disease, asthma, anxiety, depression, headaches, obesity, diabetes, and gastrointestinal disorders, among others. Therefore, it’s incredibly important to manage your internal tension whenever possible.
Over years of researchers, we have found that a positive outlook can reduce your stress levels. People who are grateful do not go looking for problems. When life gives them a challenge, they problem solve; they don’t just assume the worst. Strengthening your optimism and self-efficacy through gratitude exercises can help you to manage your physical and mental health for years to come.
Addiction Treatment in Washington State
Your mental health is critical to your sobriety. By focusing on the best parts of life, you can protect your recovery from any risk of relapse. If you would like support or resources for cultivating gratitude, please contact our admissions team.