Everyone has an idea of what gratitude is, and the phrase “an attitude of gratitude” has made its way into life and popular culture in a variety of contexts.
But what exactly is gratitude? Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, says that gratitude has two essential components. The first is appreciation, or realizing that something has value to you – value that is separate and apart from monetary worth. The second component of gratitude is that of being freely given, not forced.
When you were younger, you were likely trained by parents and grandparents to “say ‘Thank you’” when someone gave you something or paid you a compliment. That encouraged you to recognize and acknowledge when someone cares about you. Eventually, however, you learn to recognize for yourself when the feeling of gratitude wells up. Learning to treasure gratitude is an underrated life skill.
Why Gratitude Assists with Recovery
Genuine gratitude makes people happier, makes relationships better, and can help in recovery from mental illness when practiced along with other treatment methodologies. Evidence is emerging that gratitude benefits people’s physical health as well. Regardless of age or nationality, people with grateful dispositions report fewer complaints about their health than do less grateful people.
Naturally, the question arises of whether gratitude causes good health, or whether good health causes gratitude. Sometimes it seems that the world's constant negativity shrieks for your attention, and it is easy to give in to it. However, researchers at institutions like the University of California Davis are gathering solid data that gratitude can help with physical benefits such as lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety, and even keeping cholesterol levels under control. Gratitude really is a great “weapon” to counter the internal and external threats to your contentment, and that weapon is extremely valuable in the context of recovery from substance misuse.
Cognitive Benefits of Gratitude
Another study, involving people who either wrote in a journal about experiences for which they were grateful, wrote about inconveniences and annoyances, or wrote objectively about events found that after 10 weeks, the ones who regularly wrote about gratitude were more positive and optimistic about their lives than both other groups. They also exercised more and had fewer physician visits.
Many Florida drug rehab programs last for several weeks, depending on the issues being addressed. What better time to start regularly recording your gratitude and developing it into a positive habit? Gratitude, it is believed, is a skill like any other, in that you develop it by regularly practicing it.
Practicing Gratitude When You Do Not Feel It
Face it: nobody feels grateful all the time. There are days when you may not feel the least bit grateful. What then? Here are a few ways to practice your skill of gratefulness when you are having an off day:
- Be grateful for something small, tiny even. Maybe there is a leftover slice of pizza waiting for you in the fridge. Or maybe your hair looks good today. Gratefulness is gratefulness, regardless of the size or importance of what you are grateful for.
- Focus on what you have that cannot be measured: an amazing friend, a grandmother who loves you unconditionally, a dog who greets you with unbridled enthusiasm at home every day.
- Quiet and declutter your mind for a few minutes. People do this in different ways: by turning off the internet, spending a few minutes with a favorite book, or getting the kitchen counter clean so you will appreciate it later on.
Gratitude should be a way of life. That is not to say you must be grateful for everything, all the time. Life has dealt some people especially bad hands, and there is no gain from pretending otherwise. But gratitude is a life skill like any other in that you get better at it the more you practice. It can be a particularly valuable attitude if you are working toward recovery from substance use disorder. If you need to explore your Florida drug rehab options, we invite you to contact us to learn about our healing programs today.