Last Updated on February 12, 2018 by Dr. Alberto Solà

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, we are reminded to consider the many things for which we are thankful.  This expression of gratitude each November is a tradition in our country, but there’s no reason to keep it restricted to the weeks around one holiday. We should all take the time to think about the aspects of our lives that give us joy every day of the year.  If you are someone recovering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, then you have even more to be thankful for this year.  Giving thanks and regularly expressing gratitude for the ways you are fortunate can even help to keep you on a clear, clean, sober, and healthy path moving forward.

Why is Gratitude Important?

Oxford Living Dictionaries defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” People who are grateful for what they have, who they are, and what they have experienced generally feel a great deal of happiness in their lives.  Gratitude and positive thinking go hand in hand, and positive thinking can greatly improve an individual’s mental and physical health.  Being grateful helps us to focus on the good, and thereby gives us energy and confidence, which aids in continuous self-improvement.  This leads to more happiness – creating a beautiful cycle.

On the other hand, negative thinking kills our hope and happiness and just brings us down.  People who instead constantly dwell on the past and the negative aspects in their lives almost always find it impossible to reach a state of contentment.  Doesn’t it make sense, then, that the opposite – gratitude leading to happiness – is also true?  If you practice gratitude every day, you will already be on your way to pulling yourself out of a negative rut and will stop the sort of thinking that can be detrimental to your happiness.

Benefits of Gratitude

There are so many benefits to a personal gratitude practice.  First, people who are regularly grateful have stronger overall mental health.  One example of this is a study published in the journal Psychotherapy Research that involved over three hundred adults who sought mental health counseling.  It found that participants who wrote letters of gratitude to important individuals in their lives reported significantly better mental health four and twelve weeks after their writing exercise ended, and this was understood to be linked to their experience of expressing their gratitude.  Further, people who practice and express their gratitude also report lower stress levels, according to the work and research of of gratitude expert Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California at Davis.  Dr. Emmons has dedicated his career to the study of gratitude and the ways in which its practice can improve the well-being of all individuals in their daily lives.

Additionally, practicing gratitude simply makes people happier individuals, and that helps them in countless ways.  Happy people argue less often, don’t compare themselves to others, are more optimistic, have more energy, and have less cluttered minds that help them to think more clearly.  These people tend to have more friends, because they are more confident and people like being around them. People who are happy, content, and who think positively are more likely to take healthy chances, because they believe they will succeed – and then do succeed as a result of that confidence.  This sort of happiness, one of the benefits of a gratitude practice, will overflow into every aspect of a person’s life, and positive feelings will just expand exponentially from there.

Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

So how does one begin a gratitude practice and receive all these benefits?  It’s really very simple.  First, you must shift your mindset and start thinking more positively.  In the realm of addiction recovery, for example, rather than dwelling on the things that your addiction took away, focus instead on the opportunities that recovery has or will open up for you.  Take time each day to appreciate the simple things in life; things you may take for granted like a good meal, a nice view, fresh air, or a smile from a stranger should be considered, cherished, and embraced.  Be mindful of your surroundings, your actions, and your experiences.  Pause periodically and take a deep breath, and consider the wonder of life and the fact that the complexity of everything around us is truly amazing.

To help engrain your gratitude practice in your being and to help it to become a consistent habit, making a point to state three or five things for which you are grateful daily at the same time may help.  You can do this when you awaken, before a meal, or as you lie down to sleep at night.  Some people really enjoy keeping a physical or digital gratitude journal (there are many great phone apps for this purpose).  Writing down things for which you are thankful gives you the opportunity to look back upon them and be reminded of them, and the digital versions even allow you to include a photograph each day or record where you were when you made your daily entry.

Another way to cultivate gratitude is to spend time doing things for other people.  Volunteering can remind us that there are others far less fortunate than ourselves and that even actions that seem small to us can be huge in the lives of others.  Working with animals, children, the elderly, the environment, and the poor can help show us all we have and also inspire gratitude in others that will lead to positive results in their lives as well.

Also, it always helps to ask others what makes them grateful.  Hearing the thankful thoughts and feelings of other people can further ignite these feeling within you, too.  Someone else may be thankful for something in your own life that you had not yet considered.  On the other hand, if you are trying to practice gratitude, it may be best to avoid negative people – their constant statement of all that is wrong in the world will just bring you down and will keep you from fully appreciating all that is good.

Why Gratitude is Important in Recovery

In recovery, practicing gratitude is vital.  This sort of positive thinking will help to keep you on the right track.  Now that you have stopped numbing yourself with drugs or alcohol or both, you can begin to grow on a deep emotional level.  Being thankful for the person that you have become and continue to become each clean and sober day will help to keep you away from the triggers that can lead to relapse.  Further, practicing gratitude helps you look outward, to all the wonderful things that surround you, rather than keeping you focused inward, which can lead to feelings of selfishness and despair.  Reaping all of the benefits of a gratitude practice will take some time, but stick with it, and you will see that it can, in time, help you in your recovery and truly in all aspects of your life.

At Clear Sky Recovery, we want to help you get sober and recover from your addiction.  After an ibogaine experience, you will begin to see things more clearly, and the many things for which you are surely grateful will be more evident than ever.  Please do not hesitate to contact us to learn more about ibogaine treatment and the ways we can help you at our clinic in Cancun.  We are standing by to hear from you, and are excited to discuss with you the ways that ibogaine can help you and your unique situation.