For many people, the holiday season is a wonderful and happy time of the year. For others, that joy is compromised by stress or loneliness. For those in recovery from a substance use disorder, the holidays can be an especially tricky time, with relapse triggers aplenty: stress, substance-heavy parties and events, loneliness, difficult relationships, and more. A simple way to help relieve some of the holiday challenges is to practice gratitude.
What Is Gratitude?
Simply put, gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness. It can be specific, directed towards something or someone that has done something good for us. Or gratitude can be general, a feeling of warmth towards a deity, the world, or life itself. Gratitude is the thankful appreciation and acknowledgment of the goodness in your life, in any form.
The Benefits of Expressing Gratitude During the Holiday Season
Practicing and expressing gratitude will help you to enjoy the holidays more. It will help you to focus on the positive things in your life, take control of your thoughts and actions, and reinforce your recovery.
According to an article in The Greater Good Magazine, people who are grateful share the following characteristics:
- Are more helpful, compassionate, generous, and optimistic
- Have lower blood pressure and a stronger immune system
- Experience less stress and a better night’s sleep
- Have a clearer thought process
- Feel less depressed, isolated, and lonely
Practicing gratitude has a positive and lasting effect on the brain. In general, people who practice gratitude are happier.
How to Develop an “Attitude of Gratitude”
If you are familiar with any of the 12-Step programs you have heard the term “attitude of gratitude.” It was developed by Alcoholics Anonymous and refers to the 12-Step philosophy of appreciating and being thankful for the good things that happen in your life. Here are some ways to express and practice gratitude during the holiday season and throughout the year.
Appreciate the Simple Things in Life
When someone holds a door open for you at a public place, thank them. Being mindful of simple acts like this helps to develop your gratitude ‘muscle.’ Experience the beauty of nature, share a good laugh, or enjoy a favorite food. Be grateful for the little things that make your life better.
Be of Service to Others
Being of service to others helps build a solid foundation for gratitude in your life. You can help at your 12-Step meetings by setting up the chairs, making coffee, or driving others to meetings. You can be of service in your community by volunteering at a food bank, homeless shelter, or nursing home. There are endless opportunities to serve that will give you a renewed appreciation of life and strengthen your commitment to your sobriety.
Be Grateful for Your Recovery
By being grateful for your sobriety and for those who helped you on the path, you are more likely to stay sober. You’ll be able to stay motivated and work toward your goals. By attending meetings, you are regularly reminded of the struggles of addiction. You learn never to take your recovery for granted. Be thankful for the gift of each new sober day and having the chance to appreciate all the good people and things in your life.
Daily Ways to Express Your Gratitude
There are many things you can do every day to express your gratitude:
- Keep a daily gratitude journal, noting the things you are grateful for, excited about, or proud of.
- Practice loving-kindness meditation, which involves deliberately having feelings of good will towards others and towards yourself.
- Acknowledge your accomplishments, large and small, and give yourself credit for them.
- Acknowledge other people and thank them for helping, supporting, or inspiring you.
- Make a gratitude list of three things you are grateful for when you wake up each morning.
If You Need Help
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, do not wait to get help. Call and speak to a professional at English Mountain Recovery located in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. We will answer your questions and help you get started on your journey to living a clean and sober life.
About the Author:
Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.