For individuals living with or recovering from addiction, practicing gratitude may be highly effective. One study found that individuals who completed a daily exercise of writing down three things they were grateful for “experienced lower levels of negative mood and greater levels of feeling calm and serene” (Krentzman, 2015). In turn, the study noted that “the control group had no change” (Krentzman, 2015).
For addictions counselling professionals, knowing how to harness the power of gratitude can provide significant benefits for clients. Here are some of the ways gratitude can inform recovery.
Graduates of Addictions Counsellor Courses Can Use Gratitude to Highlight Positive Moments
Recovery from addiction is not a straightforward process for all. Factors like negative mood, stress, depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental and emotional difficulty have been known to increase the likelihood of relapse (Foster, n.d.), and individuals recovering from an addiction may be predisposed to these types of negative emotions (Holistic Recovery Centers, 2016). Furthermore, professionals have also noted that, “There will have been a reason why the individual fell into addiction in the first place; that reason will probably still be there when they get sober” (AlcoholRehab.com, n.d.).
Engaging in gratitude exercises, then, can be a useful method of reducing the risk of negative thought patterns exerting undue influence over a recovering individual. Journaling, meditation, and other exercises facilitated by a graduate of addictions counsellor courses can help promote feelings of gratitude, assisting clients to find focus and avoid relapse.
It is important to note however, that for many, relapse may still occur. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapse in recovery from drug addictions may happen for as many as 40 to 60 per cent of individuals (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014). Given that clients may see a relapse as a sign that they have failed, it can be especially important for counsellors to frame the situation in a more positive manner. Gratitude exercises can be a useful reminder of new relationships or successes, and can encourage future recovery efforts. Indeed, the mere fact that an individual is making the effort to recover is something worthy of celebration and gratitude.
Gratitude Can Promote Patience, Willpower, and Self-Care
For an individual recovering from addiction, exploring gratitude with the assistance of a professional with addictions counsellor training can provide a wealth of other benefits. According to DeSteno, negative emotions like sadness can exacerbate feelings of impatience (DeSteno, D., Li, Y. And Lerner, J., 2014). These feelings can encourage clients to choose short-term satisfaction over better long-term goals, which DeSteno says is “related to all kinds of bad outcomes, from credit card debt to addiction.” (Sifferlin, A., 2016). Indeed, the study determined that “sadness exacerbates… impatience even when the sadness is unrelated to the… decision at hand” and that “gratitude reduces impatience” (DeSteno, D., Li, Y. And Lerner, J., 2014).
In addition to improving patience, gratitude can also encourage self-care and strengthen willpower. According to Hill, Allemand, and Roberts (2013), “gratitude is linked to traits indicative of better physical health, including conscientiousness, emotional stability, and optimism.” In turn, gratitude can promote self-care behaviours such as seeking medical care and engaging in physical activity (Hill, P., Allemand, M. and Roberts, B., 2013). It has also been found that “conscientious individuals reported greater medical adherence” (Hill, P., Allemand, M. and Roberts, B., 2013) and that, according to Thompson, “gratitude replenishes willpower” (Ducharme, J., 2017). For individuals recovering from addition, each of these benefits can help in avoiding relapse and maintaining sobriety.
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AlcoholRehab.com. (n.d.). Staying Motivated in Long-term Sobriety. Retrieved from http://alcoholrehab.com/addiction-recovery/staying-motivated-in-long-term-sobriety/
DeSteno, D., Li, Y. And Lerner, J. (2014). Gratitude: A Tool for Reducing Economic Impatience. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797614529979
Ducharme, J. (2017) “7 Surprising Health Benefits of Gratitude” Time. Retrieved Apr 12, 2018 from http://time.com/5026174/health-benefits-of-gratitude/
Foster, L. (2012, December 28). Understanding Addiction Relapse (N. Jones MD, MPH, Ed.). Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/addiction/understanding-addiction-relapse.aspx
Hill, P., Allemand, M. and Roberts, B. (2013) “Examining the Pathways between Gratitude and Self-Rated Physical Health across Adulthood” Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 54(1), pp 92-96. Retrieved Apr 12, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3489271/#!po=64.5455
Holistic Recovery Centers. (2016, October 28). Can You Get Addicted to Negative Thinking? Retrieved from https://holisticrecoverycenters.com/addicted-to-negative-thinking/
Krentzman, A., Ph.D. (2015, June 12). Positive Psychology and Addiction Recovery. Retrieved from https://cehdvision2020.umn.edu/blog/positive-psychology-addiction-recovery/
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014, July). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery
Promises Treatment Center. (2011, November 11). 5 Steps to Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude in Addiction Recovery. Retrieved from https://www.promises.com/articles/5-steps-to-cultivating-an-attitude-of-gratitude-in-addiction-recovery/
Sifferlin, A. (2016) “Here’s an Easy Way to Become More Patient” Time. Retrieved Apr 12, 2018 from http://time.com/4277661/gratitude-patience-self-control/