How Can I Practice Gratitude More in My Life?

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Sentiments of self-comparison, jealousy, and even self-pity are very common experiences in life. Many of us start to experience them when we are very young, perhaps before we are even fully aware of what they are. For example, think back to the first time you remember wanting what someone else had. It could have started at a very innocent level, maybe dating back as far as preschool or kindergarten when you did not yet know what it means to practice gratitude. 

Maybe a classmate of yours got special attention from a teacher and you found that it took away from your own recognition in front of your peers. Or maybe someone on your athletic team always seemed to outperform you no matter how hard you practiced. It is in times like these that we can experience our very first feelings of self-comparison. While these feelings are certainly confusing when we are young, they can actually be a great learning lesson as you progress further in life. 

The truth is, as we all often discover as adults, self-comparison can be a very hard habit to break. However, overcoming it and learning to practice gratitude instead can have a major positive influence on your overall mental health. The true meaning of gratitude may differ depending on who you ask. However, learning to focus on what you do have instead of what you don't could very well make all the difference in your long-term confidence and happiness. 

At Pathways Recovery Center, we make it a priority to ensure that our clients have every tool at their disposal to ensure they are equipped for a sober life outside of our facility. This includes the ability to direct your thoughts in a purposeful and positive way. Getting into a cycle of self-comparison or being stuck in negative thought patterns can be very damaging. When this gets out of control it can even lead someone in recovery to relapse. 

Gratitude might not be something that comes naturally to you. However, that does not mean that, in time, you can't create a habit out of it. It can take patience and persistence, but before long you may notice that you are practicing it without even having to think about it. This can play a very important role in your recovery journey. 

What Does It Really Mean to Practice Gratitude?

The first time that many young people are introduced to the topic of gratitude is around the Thanksgiving holiday, which is right around the corner. Maybe you're used to going around the dinner table each holiday while each person shares what they are grateful for. But in reality, gratitude is something we should practice all the time, not just for one day out of the year. Gratitude can be shown in a multitude of different ways and goes beyond merely being thankful for the good things in each of our lives. 

When you have genuine gratitude, you are able to recognize and appreciate the positives even when times are challenging. Maybe everything feels like it is going wrong and you're tempted to fall into a hole of self-pity that will be hard to come back from. But when gratitude becomes a habit, your brain will be trained to find the good, despite these things. This can help you to look at life as a glass half full instead of as a glass half empty. 

We can show genuine gratitude for specific things in life, but we can also show it toward other people. This can be done by taking the time to acknowledge even the seemingly small things that others do for you throughout the day. Maybe this is as simple as holding a door open for you or letting you go first in traffic. It may only take a second to show gratitude for these things with a smile, nod, or wave, but this acknowledgment can make a big difference. 

Making it a habit to show gratitude toward others for small acts of kindness doesn't just spread positivity and make the world a better place. It allows you to purposefully acknowledge the goodness of others that you may have overlooked before. This can serve as a reminder to always think positively, which will benefit your overall mental health. 

How Can It Help to Practice Gratitude While in Addiction Recovery?

If you're currently struggling with active addiction, you may be experiencing a multitude of different emotions. Maybe you are feeling angry, hopeless, depressed, lonely, frustrated, or even ashamed. Gratitude may be the very last emotion on your mind, and understandably so. You have likely been through a lot as a result of your substance use. 

Maybe your addiction has caused tension or distance within your relationships with your loved ones. Or maybe it has led to job loss and financial hardships. Perhaps it has even led to you getting yourself arrested or in some sort of other legal trouble. You may feel as if there is simply nothing to be grateful for right now. 

No matter how low you may feel right now, both hope and gratitude can be found in recovery. As you will learn as you navigate this journey, you likely have a lot more to be grateful for than you may realize right now. In fact, you are likely going to find even more to be grateful for the more you heal, grow, and learn from this process. Gratitude plays a crucial role in recovery for a vast number of reasons. 

Substance misuse paints a distorted version of reality. It is often used as a way of taking a break from or even ignoring reality. But when you are sober you have no choice but to be present in the moment and gratitude helps you to do just that. When you are making an effort to practice gratitude you are forced to pause and take stock of your life. You have to reflect, even briefly, about where you are at and how things are going. 

As you go about your recovery journey, you will reach a point where you will find gratitude in each day that passes in which you remain sober. You will find gratitude in how far you have come and in all the positive things that happened in your life since you achieved sobriety. Because substance misuse will no longer be clouding your vision, you will be able to see things as they really are. This will allow you to stop overlooking all the good things you simply didn't see before. 

What Benefits Can Be Associated With Making an Effort to Practice Gratitude?

Making a conscious effort to practice gratitude on a regular basis is associated with a multitude of both mental and physical health benefits. In fact, it can even allow you to live a longer and much happier life. Consider some of the following mental health benefits associated with this practice:

  • It can prevent disorders such as anxiety and depression 
  • This practice can help you to better regulate your emotions
  • It can help you to better communicate with others 
  • Gratitude can strengthen your relationships with others by showing that you appreciate them
  • It can reduce your stress levels 
  • This practice can elevate your overall mood 
  • Gratitude can change your mindset and prevent negative thinking 
  • It can cause you to anticipate a good outcome 
  • Gratitude can help motivate you and keep you moving forward 
  • It can improve your ability to cope with things like disappointment, setbacks, and grief

If you are not yet convinced that practicing gratitude in your daily life has so many benefits, consider these important physical health benefits as well: 

  • Lower blood pressure 
  • Greater resistance to sickness
  • Decreased risk of heart attack or stroke 
  • A better relationship with food 
  • Better quality sleep
  • Decreased risk of heart disease 
  • A decreased risk of weight gain and obesity 
  • Better pain tolerance 

It is important to also acknowledge the important benefits that gratitude can have within your relationships around you. Think of the last time you called up one of your friends or family members and told them how thankful you are to have them in your life. Then consider how much this would mean to you if someone were to do this for you. Not only could it make someone's day, but it can bring you both closer together. 

Practicing gratitude can also play an important role in improving relationships within the workplace. Everyone wants to feel appreciated at work, no matter what position they may have within the company. Nobody wants to feel as if they are just there to complete the job and go home. They want to feel that their work is important and valued. 

Take the time to show gratitude to your employees or coworkers. This can help remind them that their hard work is not only seen but appreciated as well. 

Can We Overcome Jealousy Through the Practice of Gratitude?

Jealousy can creep up at any age and affect anyone. It doesn't mean that you have anything to be ashamed of or that you are not aware of the good things in your life. Jealousy is a human emotion that is natural to experience from time to time. However, when you let it get out of control it can really steal the joy from your life and lead to negative thinking. Gratitude can help overcome jealousy. 

Gratitude allows you to focus on what you do have instead of what you don't. Maybe you frequently find yourself looking at what others have and wondering why you can't have those things too. Or maybe it's not even their physical belongings that you are jealous of, but where they are in their life. For example, maybe they got a promotion at work that you felt that you deserved. 

Practicing gratitude does not mean that you won't still experience jealousy from time to time. However, before you get stuck in a pattern of feeling this way, you will be able to remind yourself of all the good that you have in your life. This can completely change your perspective and the way you think about life. You may come to realize that the grass is not always greener on the other side. 

How Can I Make It a Habit to Practice Gratitude?

Maybe gratitude isn't something that comes naturally to you, but you would like to make it a habit. There are a lot of different ways that you can accomplish this. One of the most common ways is through keeping a gratitude journal. This can be a physical journal or even a list that you keep on your phone. 

Gratitude journaling isn't something that has to take a lot of time. Consider setting aside just ten minutes when you wake up or before you go to bed. This way, you will be starting or ending your day on a positive note and in a good headspace. It can end up having an effect on your entire mood. 

Simply take the time to consider and then write down three to five things that you are grateful for. It could be something that you're looking forward to or even something positive that happened that day. Some days it may be harder to think of things to write down than others. On days like these, you don't have to be afraid to keep things simple. 

For example, maybe you are grateful for good friends and family. Maybe what you choose to write down is as simple as food, water, a roof over your head, or even good health. While it might not seem like much, it is more than many people in the world have. Thinking this way can really change the way you look at everything. 

Another great way to make it a habit to practice gratitude is by just being present in the moment. Give your undivided attention to your friends and family when they are talking to you. Take the time to truly savor a meal instead of just rushing through it. Pay attention to the sights and sounds of nature that you typically overlook. 

How Can Giving Back Help Me in the Practice of Gratitude?

One of the best ways to practice gratitude is through giving back to others. When you see the kinds of things that others have to struggle with, it can cause you to pause and take a look at your own life. You may realize that you have it better than you ever realized. Giving back not only makes a positive difference in the community, but it can really improve your overall mental health. 

There are a lot of ways that you can give back on whatever scale that you are comfortable with. You don't have to go far to find people who could use your help. In fact, you can find them all around you within your community. You might not even have to leave your neighborhood. 

At Pathways Recovery Center, we believe that giving back to the community plays a crucial role in the recovery journey. Consider some of the following ideas for giving back to those around you:

  • Write a letter expressing your gratitude to a serviceman or woman
  • Help an elderly neighbor who may be struggling to keep up with their yardwork
  • Go through your closet and donate clothing you no longer wear 
  • Donate canned goods to local food pantries 
  • Consider helping to serve a meal at a soup kitchen 
  • Volunteer at your local humane society 
  • Drop off a meal to someone going through an illness or even just a rough time 
  • Consider volunteering as a mentor for a youth member in the community 
  • Visit an elderly person in a nursing home who may not have anyone to visit them

A very important part of the recovery journey is learning to change the way you think and view the world. Learning to practice gratitude plays an important role in this process and can lead to better mental health. You will likely find yourself feeling quite a bit happier as well. If you are ready to make a positive difference in your life, our team at Pathways Recovery Center is here to help. Our team will work with you as you navigate the beginning stages of recovery. We will also provide you with all the support you need along the way. Give us a call at (888) 771-0966 to learn more. 

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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Pathways Recovery Center Believes That Anyone Suffering From Addiction Can Recover And Experience The Joy Of Life Again. Join Us In Fighting Addiction One Person At A Time.
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