Gratitude is the act of expressing appreciation and thankfulness for something that is meaningful or valuable to you. Now that we are immersed in the holiday spirit, it is a good time to discuss how gratitude can be an important recovery tool during this season.
In a world seemingly filled with negativity, the holidays give us a welcome opportunity to look for the positive in our lives and in each other. Cultivating a sense of gratitude actually nourishes our spiritual side, as we become more aware of the many blessings in our lives. Take time this holiday season to express your gratitude using some of these methods.
What are the effects of gratitude on the brain?
It turns out that there is scientific proof that gratitude can cause increased activity in the brain regions that are linked to moral cognition and value judgment. A study from the University of Southern California found that when benefitting from the kindness of others, having a sense of gratitude provokes positive emotions.
Another study looked at the effect or gratitude for individuals in recovery. It found that cultivating a grateful attitude was positively associated with long-term sobriety. The results support the idea that gratitude perpetuates a thankful disposition, which helps sustain sobriety.
5 ways gratitude can support recovery during the holiday season
Let’s consider the many wellness benefits associated with exercising your gratitude muscles during the holidays:
- Supports your health: The holidays are exhausting. By striving to maintain a gracious, positive attitude, your immune system gets stronger. Also, when you are grateful for your blessings, you tend to take better care of yourself.
- Improves mental health: Stress can be heightened during the holiday season. With an outlook of gratitude, you can better manage stress with positivity, helping quiet feelings of stress, anxiety and depression as you progress through the season.
- Boosts self-esteem: Like it or not, the holidays are oriented around gift-giving. When you receive gifts of any kind and then respond by expressing your sincere gratitude, it just feels good. When this becomes a regular habit, your self-esteem gets a little boost.
- Fosters healthy relationships: One good deed deserves another, as the saying goes. Giving fosters giving. There is a reciprocal effect to showing your gratitude toward the people in your life, leading to richer, healthier relationships.
- Cultivates social skills: Cultivating an attitude of gratitude during the holidays naturally leads to more gracious social skills. Something as simple as offering someone a sincere “Thank you so much!” for a kind gesture naturally results in “You are so very welcome.”
3 ways to cultivate a sense of gratitude
Being grateful doesn’t always come naturally. For some of us, learning to practice gratitude takes a little time and practice. Here are some easy tips for cultivating a grateful attitude:
- Write it down: Get into the habit of reviewing your day and listing at least three things that you were grateful for. If you don’t like to write, just record your thoughts on your phone. The point is to acknowledge your blessings, however you like to record them
- Get out of your comfort zone: If it feels a bit uncomfortable to express your appreciation, this tip is for you. Push through that barrier and make an effort to let someone know how much their thoughtful act or gift meant to you. Too shy to verbalize it in person? No worries — just send a nice thank you note instead.
- Demonstrate your gratitude with actions: One of the most effective ways to express gratitude is by returning the kind act with one of your own. No need to say a thing, just reciprocate the gesture by doing something nice in return.
This holiday season will offer plenty of opportunities to practice your attitude of gratitude. You will be amazed at how good it will make you feel.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Our programs are accredited by The Joint Commission, and result in frequent publications of ongoing research into effective treatment methodologies. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call 866-313-6307.