Why Is Gratitude Essential for Lasting Recovery?

For those seeking recovery, many well-known factors can contribute to greater well-being throughout the healing journey. One of these factors is gratitude. A 2016 literature review in the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning shows the plethora of research indicating that gratitude can create various positive impacts. It can significantly improve psychological, spiritual, and physical well-being. Regardless of whether an individual is in early or long-term recovery, being grateful can be instrumental for success.

What Is Gratitude?

According to Psychiatry (Edgmont), the clinical definition of gratitude is “the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself; it is a general state of thankfulness or appreciation.” Despite the research connecting it to well-being, many people do not reap the benefits. They don’t make it a daily practice in their Life.

The Value of Gratitude

Life is full of chaos, uncertainty, and stress. However, it is also full of beauty, discovery, and balance. While many of the stresses of Life are unavoidable, the impact depends on the perspective one has when attempting to navigate them.

News In Health (NIH) explains that making time for gratitude can help improve an individual’s emotional well-being by helping them cope with stressful situations and circumstances. NIH states, “When you make gratitude a regular habit, it can help you learn to recognize good things in your life despite the bad things that might be happening.” In this case, being grateful becomes a way to persevere beyond the hardships and obstacles that may otherwise hold an individual back from wellness.

It is essential to understand that, although it may surface more naturally for some people, gratitude is a skill that must be strengthened over time. Likewise, leaning into it can be uncomfortable at first. This is especially true for those that may have grown up in environments where outward forms of appreciation were uncommon. Similarly, growing up emotionally stifled can make even the simplest words of appreciation impossible. Either way, it is crucial to remember to be kind to oneself when implementing the skill into one’s Life.

How Can Gratitude Influence Addiction Recovery?

In addition to improving general well-being, gratitude is also known to influence addiction recovery in many ways positively. The theme of gratitude has remained consistent throughout addiction treatment and recovery, dating back to the creation of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). This theme has remained consistent in recovery because of the potential to motivate lasting behavior change.

Fostering Behavior Change

When individuals are in active addiction, behavior awareness is not a priority. As individuals bring greater and deeper awareness to their addictive behaviors, they become more in tune with themselves and the world around them. In turn, they become more aware and grateful for the positive supports, experiences, and opportunities that help them sustain their sobriety goal. Gratitude can help individuals foster and maintain lasting behavior change.

According to a Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment report, gratitude can be broken down into state and trait gratitude. State gratitude is short-term or long-term gratitude in response to a specific event. On the other hand, gratitude is regarded as a stable personality characteristic. This includes being constantly aware and appreciative of positive experiences as they surface.

The report found that addiction treatment—and associated gratitude exercises—can potentially increase trait gratitude in those working to achieve and sustain sobriety. It explains, “Life improves with recovery, such improvement is recognized and appreciated, and gratitude is the natural consequence. Relief and thankfulness likely would attend the lifting of the substantial burden of addiction. Therefore, recovery itself might prompt gratitude.” This is because of the effect that gratitude during treatment can have on one’s overall outlook for lasting abstinence.

Valuable Gratitude Practices During Recovery

There are many things that individuals can do to foster and strengthen gratitude throughout recovery. Consider the following examples:

Thanking a Treatment Team

One way to practice gratitude during treatment is by thanking a treatment team. Individuals can thank their therapists and other professionals in many ways, such as verbally or through a written letter. Unexpected “thank-you’s” can go a long way for a team and its clients.


Writing in a journal is a great daily practice to retrain the mind in fostering appreciation and thankfulness. Individuals can make journaling their own by personalizing stories, memories, people, places, and events that have brought them joy and happiness.

Giving Back

There are many ways that individuals can give back to their communities. Consider volunteering or becoming a sponsor for someone in early recovery. It can be gratifying to support someone else in a community that has brought so much healing and love to one’s Life.

Practicing Mindfulness

Gratitude does not always have to be geared toward someone specific. Strengthening this skill can be as simple as dedicating time for mindfulness throughout the day or week. Allowing for stillness can be highly beneficial for keeping the positives in perspective. This is especially important during times of high stress or hardships throughout recovery.

Gratitude is a state of appreciation and thankfulness. Gratitude has been well-researched as a contributing factor for wellness and lasting recovery success. However, learning how to strengthen and incorporate gratitude into recovery can be challenging, especially for those who have not previously utilized it to its fullest potential. Fortunately, 12 South Recovery can provide individuals with the additional guidance and support needed to make gratitude a habit in their recovery journey. In addition, we offer a variety of outpatient treatment programs and services for individuals seeking healing from addiction and mental health disorders. If you or a loved one needs help, please reach out. Contact us today at 866-839-6876.

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