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The Importance of Gratitude


We are getting closer to Thanksgiving, a day when people are reminded to give thanks for the positive things in their life. For many people, Thanksgiving is day spent with family and friends, enjoying a delicious overabundance of food. But giving thanks, or gratitude, is a trait that should be practiced year-round, not just one day a year.

Much has been written about gratitude and recovery from substance abuse. For many people in recovery, learning to be grateful is a way to change their world perspective from negative to positive. Instead of focusing on the negative consequences of their substance abuse (damaged relationships, unemployment, poor health, etc.), which perpetuates feelings of guilt and shame, people in recovery are encouraged to focus on the positive things in their life. Positive things can be something as simple as a beautiful sunrise or a great cup of coffee, to something as big as a new home or birth of a child.

Gratitude is a skill important for everyone, not just individuals in recovery. Gratitude has been linked to improved heart health, a better immune system, and stronger relationships.

Cultivating a feeling of gratitude takes practice. Here are some simple things you can start doing today to help you feel more grateful.

  • Keep a gratitude journal. Write down at least one thing everyday that you are grateful for.
  • Do something for others. Volunteer at a food kitchen or rake leaves for an elderly neighbor. Helping others takes the focus off of yourself.
  • Appreciate simple things. Dinner with friends, laughing with your children, or a walk through a park.
  • Focus on what you take for granted. Think about all of the people and things in your life that you take for granted, then imagine your life without them. Take time to appreciate everyone and everything in your life today.
  • Live in the moment. Stop thinking that your life would be better if – if you had more money, if you had a bigger house, if you lost weight – and start living in the moment.