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The Power of Gratitude in Recovery

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

If you or your loved one is on the journey to recovery, you’re probably aware of the many challenges that come with it. Recovering from an addiction can be a long and difficult process that requires a lot of hard work and dedication. However, there’s one tool that can make the journey easier and more fulfilling: gratitude.

The power of gratitude in recovery lies in its ability to shift your focus from the negative to the positive. Practicing gratitude can help you heal, grow, and transform your life.

Understanding Gratitude

Have you ever felt a warm and fuzzy feeling in your heart when someone does something nice for you? Or when you see a beautiful sunset or a cute animal? That feeling is called gratitude, and it’s one of the most powerful emotions we can experience.

According to the American Psychological Association, gratitude is a sense of happiness and thankfulness when to receiving a gift or experiencing a fortunate event.

It is more than just saying “thank you” or feeling happy. It’s a way of looking at the world with appreciation and wonder. It’s a way of recognizing the good things in our lives, even when things are hard or challenging. It means being thankful for the people, places, and experiences that make your everyday life meaningful and enjoyable.

Gratitude is also an attitude that you can choose to adopt, regardless of your circumstances. It is a habit that you can develop through regular practice and reflection.

The Power of Gratitude: Expressing Appreciation and Cultivating Joy

A grateful person focuses on the good things in life rather than dwelling on negative emotions or negative thoughts. They also acknowledge the gifts and blessings received from other people and express appreciation to them.

You see the kindness and generosity of others who support you, inspire you, and make a difference in your life. You also recognize the opportunities and possibilities that lie ahead of you and embrace them with enthusiasm and a positive outlook.

Here are some ways to express gratitude:

  • Simply smile and thank someone who helped you or did something nice for you.

  • Writing a thank-you note or a card to show how much you appreciate someone.

  • Keep a diary or journal where you write down things you feel grateful for daily.

  • Sharing your helpful feedback or recognition with someone who did a great job.

  • Giving a compliment or a hug to someone who made your day better.

  • Doing something kind or generous for someone else without expecting anything in return.

  • Reflecting on your experiences and emotions and cultivating a grateful attitude.

  • Celebrating your achievements and the achievements of others.

  • Donating to a cause or a charity that you care about.

Importance of Gratitude in Addiction Recovery

gratitude in recovery importance of gratitude Design for Recovery

For individuals or their loved ones grappling with addiction, the struggle to escape the cycle of substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly challenging.

Active addiction can damage your physical and mental health, relationships, finances, and your self-worth. It can also make you lose sight of all the things and people in life you feel grateful for and zoom in only on the problems and difficulties you face. This can lead to a cycle of despair and self-destructive behaviors that may be difficult to stop.

Active addiction can create a lot of negative emotions, such as shame, guilt, or regret, that can linger even after you stop using drugs or alcohol.

That’s why gratitude is so important for people recovering from addiction, especially in early recovery.

You may still struggle with some of these challenges and emotions in early recovery. You may also have to deal with the consequences of your addiction, such as health problems, legal issues, or damaged relationships.

It can be hard to feel grateful in these situations. However, gratitude can help you overcome these difficulties and see positivity in your recovery.

Gratitude can help you concentrate on the positive aspects of your situation rather than dwelling on the negative ones. It can also help you cope with stress, improve mood, and enhance relationships.

How Can Gratitude Help with Addiction Recovery?

Gratitude can have many benefits for people recovering from addiction. Here are some of them:

Increases happiness and satisfaction

Did you know that when you feel grateful, you’re more likely to experience happiness, joy, and satisfaction?

gratitude in recovery what does gratitude look like Design for Recovery

Studies have shown that grateful people experience more positive emotions, such as joy, love, and satisfaction. They also have higher levels of self-esteem, optimism, and resilience. Gratitude can help you appreciate your progress in recovery and the opportunities you have for growth and change. This can help you counteract the negative thoughts and emotions that fuel addiction.

Enhances physical health

Abusing drugs or alcohol can take a toll on your physical health, causing problems such as liver damage, heart disease, infections, or chronic pain.

While medical treatment is essential to address these issues, gratitude may also play a role in improving your physical well-being. Research has found that gratitude can lower blood pressure, improve immune function, reduce inflammation, and promote better sleep. These can help you heal from the effects of addiction and prevent further complications.

Improves your mental stability

Many people who struggle with addiction also suffer from co-occurring mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, or bipolar disorder.

These conditions can make recovery more challenging and increase the risk of relapse. Research has found that gratitude practice reduces psychological distress, such as stress, anxiety, depression, and anger. Gratitude can help you cope with the difficulties of recovery by boosting your emotional resources and strengthening your coping skills.

Strengthens your addiction recovery

One of the main obstacles to a successful recovery is avoiding triggers and cravings that can lead to relapse. Gratitude can help you overcome these obstacles by shifting your focus from what you lack to what you have.

Gratitude can also motivate you to maintain your sobriety by reminding you of the positive outcomes of recovery, such as improved relationships, personal growth, and self-esteem. Additionally, it can foster a sense of spirituality, which can be a source of strength and guidance for many people in recovery.

Strengthen relationships and social support

Addiction can isolate you from your loved ones and make you feel lonely and misunderstood. But gratitude can help you reconnect with them and express your appreciation for their presence and help.

Research shows that grateful people are more empathetic and compassionate, which means being grateful may improve your communication and trust. You may also be more likely to attract good and supportive people who can help you in your recovery.

Gratitude is not a magic bullet that will cure your addiction overnight. It takes practice and commitment to cultivate a grateful mindset and attitude. But if you do, you will see the benefits in your recovery and in your overall well-being. Gratitude can help you overcome addiction by making you happier, healthier, and more connected.

Debunking Myths and Misconceptions About Gratitude

Scientific studies tell us that gratitude can benefit a person’s recovery experience. However, many people still have doubts or misconceptions that prevent them from practicing it regularly.

Here are some common myths or misconceptions about gratitude and why they are not true:

Myth 1: Gratitude is just saying thank you.

Some people may think that gratitude is simply expressing appreciation or saying thank you to others. While this is one way of showing gratitude, it is not the only way.

Gratitude is also a mindset that involves noticing and appreciating the positive aspects of our lives, such as our health, friends, achievements, and even our problems. It is not just a verbal expression but a mental attitude that can be cultivated and practiced daily.

Gratitude in addiction recovery involves noticing and appreciating the positives in life, including health, friends, achievements, and even challenges. It’s a mindset that can be cultivated daily, shifting focus from negativity to celebrating blessings. This practice supports overall well-being and aids in the journey to lasting sobriety.

Myth 2: Gratitude is just a naive form of positive thinking

Many people think that gratitude is naive or unrealistic, especially in the face of difficulties or hardships. They may believe that gratitude is ignoring or denying the negative aspects of life or being overly optimistic.

However, gratitude is not about pretending everything is fine when it is not. It is about paying attention to both the good and the bad in life without trying to change them.

In addiction recovery, gratitude is about embracing reality while maintaining a positive outlook. It doesn’t deny the challenges, problems, or negative emotions we may face, but it empowers us to navigate them with a broader perspective and a sense of hope. Gratitude enables us to cope more effectively, accepting the present as it is while finding strength and resilience to overcome obstacles.

Gratitude does not and should not make us blind to the problems or challenges we face but rather empowers us to cope more effectively.

Myth 3: Gratitude is selfish or self-centered.

There’s a common narrative that gratitude is selfish or self-centered, as it involves focusing on ourselves and our needs. This may make people believe that gratitude is incompatible with altruism or compassion for others.

However, this cannot be further from the truth. Gratitude is not selfish or self-centered but rather self-compassionate and self-caring.

Gratitude in addiction recovery boosts self-esteem and empathy. It helps us appreciate our worth and the kindness of others. It fosters connection and generosity, enhancing relationships on the recovery path.

Myth 4: Gratitude is hard to practice

You may think that gratitude is difficult to practice, especially when you are facing hardships or difficulties in life. You may feel that you have nothing to feel grateful for or that you don’t have the time or energy to express gratitude.

In addiction recovery, practicing gratitude doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s about adopting a simple and adaptable approach. Gratitude isn’t dependent on having an abundance of things to be thankful for; it’s about recognizing and appreciating the small and ordinary aspects of our lives. Expressing gratitude doesn’t demand a significant time commitment or effort; it’s about finding methods that align with our individual preferences and lifestyles.

Myth 5: Gratitude leads to complacency

gratitude in recovery myth 5 Design for Recovery

Gratitude is often misunderstood as complacency or settling for less. However, it complements the journey by fostering appreciation without hindering personal growth. It empowers individuals to challenge the status quo, improve their circumstances, and transform their lives. Gratitude catalyzes resilience and motivates positive action.

Research suggests that gratitude motivates us to pursue our goals and achieve more. According to Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, people who prioritize gratitude are more successful at reaching their personal goals than those who don’t.

7 Ways to Practice Gratitude in Recovery

Gratitude is not something that we have or don’t have. It is something that we can practice and cultivate every day. By being grateful for what we have in life, we can transform our outlook and attitude and enhance our recovery journey.

Here are some tips that people recovering from addiction can use to incorporate gratitude into their lives and make it a habit:

  1. Start a gratitude journal

gratitude in recovery start a gratitude journal Design for Recovery

One of the simplest and most effective ways to cultivate gratitude regularly is to keep a gratitude journal. All you need is a notebook, pen, or an app on your phone. Every day, write down three things that you are grateful for. They can be big or small, as long as they are meaningful to you.

You can do this in the morning, at night, or anytime during the day that suits you. The key is to be specific and sincere about what you appreciate.

For example, instead of writing, “I’m grateful for my family,” you could write, “I’m grateful for the hug my daughter gave me this morning,” or “I’m grateful for the phone call from my brother who lives far away.” You can also add photos or drawings to make your journal more colorful and personal.

Writing down what you feel thankful for helps you notice and remember the good things in your life and creates a record that you can look back on when you need a boost of positivity.

  1. Express gratitude to others

Another way to practice gratitude during your recovery journey is to tell others how much you appreciate them and what they do for you. You can do this verbally, in writing, or through gestures.

For example, you could thank a friend who supported you during a difficult time, write a note to a coworker who helped you with a project, or give a gift to a family member who made you laugh. Expressing how thankful you are to them makes you feel good, strengthens your relationships, and makes others feel valued.

3. Use gratitude prompts

Sometimes, it can be hard to think of things to be grateful for, especially when facing challenges or difficulties in recovery. In those moments, you can use gratitude prompts to help you find something to appreciate. These are questions or statements that guide you to reflect on different aspects of your life and find reasons to be grateful. For example:

  • What is something that made you smile today?

  • What is something that you learned today?

  • What is something that you did well today?

  • What is something that you enjoyed today?

  • What is something that you are looking forward to tomorrow?

You can find prompts online, generate some using AI, or create your own. You can use them in your journal or just think about them in your mind.

  1. Meditate on gratitude

gratitude in recovery meditate on gratitude Design for Recovery

Meditation is the practice of focusing on the present moment and observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment.

You can practice meditation by directing your attention to something or someone you are grateful for and feeling the emotions that arise from that. You can also use guided meditations that are specifically designed to help you cultivate feelings of gratitude. Online resources for gratitude meditation, such as apps, podcasts, videos, or articles, are also available. Meditation can help you deepen your gratitude and calm your mind and body.

  1. Make gratitude a habit

The key to practicing gratitude in recovery is to make it a habit. The more you do it, the more natural and effortless it becomes. You can set a reminder on your phone or choose a specific time of the day to practice gratitude.

Try setting a consistent schedule for your gratitude activity by doing it in the morning when you wake up or at night before you go to sleep. You can also try practicing gratitude throughout the day by noticing and appreciating the small things in your life that make it better.

  1. Surround yourself with positive people

gratitude in recovery surround yourself with positive people Design for Recovery

Being around people who are optimistic, supportive, and encouraging can boost your mood and inspire you to perform gratitude more often.

You can find positive role models in your recovery community, such as support groups, online forums, or recovery coaches. You can also seek out people in other areas of your life, such as hobby groups, volunteer groups, or spirituality groups. Try to avoid or limit contact with people who are negative, critical, or toxic.

  1. Use affirmations

Affirmations are positive statements that you repeat to reinforce your beliefs and attitudes. You can use affirmations as part of your self-care and for gratitude practice by saying things like “I am grateful for this day,” “I am grateful for my recovery,” or “I am grateful for the opportunities that come my way”.

You can also create your affirmations based on what you are grateful for in your life. Say positive affirmations to yourself in the mirror, or write them down on sticky notes and place them around your home. The more you repeat these affirmations, the more you will internalize them and feel their effects.

Practicing gratitude in recovery is not always easy, but it is always worth it. Gratitude can help you heal from the past, enjoy the present, and look forward to the future. It can also help you connect with yourself and others in a deeper and more meaningful way.

Remember that there is no right or wrong way in cultivating gratitude while in recovery. You can personalize and adapt gratitude practices to suit your unique circumstances and preferences. The important thing is to be consistent in incorporating gratitude into your recovery journey.

Start Your Recovery Journey Today

If you are struggling with addiction and looking for a way to overcome it, you are not alone. Millions of people face the same challenge every day, but there is hope. You can start your recovery journey with Design for Recovery, a sober living home for men that offers a supportive environment and a holistic approach to recovery.

At Design for Recovery, we believe recovery is more than abstaining from substances. It is also about developing gratitude, honesty, responsibility, and other essential life skills that can help you achieve lasting sobriety and healthy living. We provide you with the tools, guidance, and community you need to rebuild your life and reach your full potential.

Don’t wait any longer. Contact us or call us at (424) 327-4614 and find out how Design for Recovery can help you transform your life.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Power of Gratitude in Sober Living

Gratitude is the act of appreciating what you have and expressing it to yourself and others. It can help you shift your focus from what you lack or regret to what you have and cherish. This can reduce negative emotions such as anger, resentment, guilt, and shame, which can trigger a relapse. Gratitude can also increase positive emotions such as joy, happiness, love, and hope, which can support your recovery.

Gratitude can benefit your physical, mental, and emotional health. Some of the benefits of gratitude include the following:

  • Lowers your stress levels and blood pressure
  • Boosts your immune system and reduces inflammation
  • Improves your sleep quality and duration
  • Enhances your self-esteem and confidence
  • Strengthens your relationships and social support
  • Increases your motivation and resilience
  • Fosters a sense of meaning and purpose in life

A gratitude practice can be done in many different ways. Some of the activities for adults in recovery worth trying include:

  • Keep a journal where you write down three things you are grateful for every day
  • Write a gratitude letter to someone who has helped you or inspired you in your recovery
  • Express your gratitude verbally or non-verbally to someone who has done something nice for you
  • Meditate on gratitude by focusing on your breath and repeating a gratitude mantra such as “I am grateful for…”
  • Create a gratitude list, collage, or vision board with images and words that represent what you are grateful for
  • Practice affirmations by saying positive statements about yourself and your life, such as “I am grateful for my sobriety”

A gratitude practice can benefit your sobriety journey in many ways. Some of the ways that gratitude can help you stay sober can help:

  • Remind you of the reasons why you chose to quit drinking or using drugs
  • Cope with cravings and urges by focusing on the positive outcomes of sobriety
  • Overcome challenges and setbacks by recognizing the lessons and opportunities they offer
  • Celebrate your achievements and milestones by acknowledging your progress and efforts
  • Maintain a positive attitude and outlook on life by appreciating the present moment

Incorporating gratitude into your day-to-day while in sobriety is not difficult or time-consuming. You can start by making gratitude a habit and a priority. You can do this by:

  • Setting a reminder or an alarm to practice gratitude at a specific time every day
  • Choosing a gratitude buddy or a group to share your gratitude with regularly
  • Making it a part of your morning or evening routine
  • Finding triggers or cues that remind you to be grateful such as a picture, a song, or a quote
  • Practicing gratitude in different ways and situations, such as before meals, during walks, or before bed

Gratitude can help improve your overall well-being and mental health in sobriety. Showing gratitude can help you:

  • Reduce depression and anxiety by increasing serotonin and dopamine levels in your brain
  • Prevent relapse by reducing cravings and increasing self-control
  • Enhance recovery outcomes by improving treatment adherence and satisfaction
  • Promote happiness and well-being by activating the reward center of your brain
  • Cultivate spirituality and mindfulness by connecting you with a higher power or a greater good

Gratitude is one of the core principles of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step programs. It means being thankful for what you have rather than focusing on what you lack or what you have lost. Gratitude also means acknowledging the people who have helped you, such as your sponsor, peers, family, and higher power.

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Gratitude. Retrieved from

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Armenta, C. N., Fritz, M. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2017). Functions of Positive Emotions: Gratitude as a Motivator of Self-Improvement and Positive Change. Emotion Review.

Emmons, R. (2010, November 16). Why Gratitude Is Good | Greater Good. Greater Good Magazine.

Kim, G. Y., Wang, D., & Hill, P. (2018). An investigation into the multifaceted relationship between gratitude, empathy, and compassion. Journal of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing, 2(1), 23-44.

Layous, K. Health Implications of Gratitude. 261-268.

Mason, H. D. (2019). Gratitude, well-being and psychological distress among South African university students. Journal of Psychology in Africa, 29(4), 354–360.

NIDA. 2022, March 22. Addiction and Health. Retrieved from on 2023, May 10

Watkins, P. C., Woodward, K., Stone, T., & Kolts, R. L. (2003). Gratitude and happiness: Development of a measure of gratitude, and relationships with subjective well-being. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 31(5), 431–451.


Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

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