Oxford Languages describes gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” If you have been following a 12-Step program, then you may recognize the healing nature of accepting and showing kindness and gratitude. Many people incorporate these ideas into their spiritual and personal beliefs. A 2018 study looking at the link between gratitude and alcohol abstinence found that “among the abstinent, gratitude was positively associated with future abstinence,” making it a valuable tool for relapse prevention for people in treatment.
Practicing gratitude can make it so that you are more likely to see the positives in any situation. You will more naturally focus on the things that go well instead of ruminating over miscalculations or adverse events. There is some evidence that showing appreciation for good things that are done for you or happen to you can help with mood stabilization and overall wellbeing. You can find small ways to incorporate gratitude into your daily routine until it becomes an automatic way of thinking.
Why Gratitude is Important
A 2010 paper from researchers at Wright State University School of Medicine stated that “the majority of empirical studies indicate that there is an association between gratitude and a sense of overall well being.” Numerous studies showed that there is no one recipe for turning gratitude into valuable changes in thought and mood. Everyone is different, and there are several accepted approaches for using appreciation to improve mental health and physical health. You can work with your therapist or self-help group leader to determine which method will work best for your temperament and lifestyle.
For individuals who are committed to change, there are multiple benefits to showing your appreciation and accepting the kindness of others. If you practice gratitude, some of the positive side effects you might notice include:
- Decreased stress levels, anxiety, and depression symptoms
- Lower risk of developing heart disease
- A more positive outlook
- There is some evidence that practicing gratitude releases dopamine and serotonin, leading to feelings of happiness
Gratitude and Your Brain
A 2015 study on the correlation between neuroactivity and gratitude found a direct link between areas of the brain that affect empathy, morality, fairness, social bonding, and thankfulness when someone experiences gratefulness. They also found that gratitude could lower pain levels and stress responses. The more you practice being appreciative of others and their actions, the greater any potential positive effects.
Become Part of a Positive Community
You may find it hard to remain in a positive frame of mind if you have a community of people and social media input that is constantly negative. Instead of confronting your friends or social group and trying to get them to change, it can sometimes be better for your mental health to simply find communities already built on a foundation of support and encouragement. There are plenty of online forums and groups designed to create positive communities. You can also look in your local community and see if there are any volunteer or other self-less-based activities that attract people who tend to be kindhearted and gracious.
6 Ways You Can Practice Gratitude
The National Institutes of Health suggests the following six activities for practicing daily gratitude. You can use these or other exercises to promote appreciation and kindness in yourself and your community.
- Send a Thank-You Note: Send thank-you notes or letters to people in your life who you appreciate and who have done good things for you in the past. These can be simple messages of thanks to express your gratitude.
- Say it in Person: You can visit that person if you feel comfortable giving thanks in person. Many people find this form of interaction extremely rewarding.
- Share Happy Memories: Consciously remember happy, kind moments and interactions in your past. Share them with someone to enhance the positive effect. Sometimes sharing your own happiness with others can give the memories greater weight.
- Be Mindful of Good Moments: Make an effort to notice good things as they are happening and appreciate them. By doing this, you can train your brain to focus on the positive instead of the negative in everyday life.
- Talk With Loved Ones: Give a daily report of good things that happened throughout your day with a trusted friend, loved one, or you can do it weekly with your therapist.
- Make a Gratitude List: Journal or write down in a list form the things you are grateful for and any good things you have experienced in the distant or recent past. By tracking these things, you can encourage yourself to feel happier and more content.
We all experience good things every day of our lives. However, the big and small moments of kindness often get overshadowed by seemingly ever-present stress and worries. You can learn to move your focus away from the negative so that the good moments become highlighted in your mind and memory. You deserve to be happy, and practicing gratitude can do this by changing the lens through which you see the rest of the world. The staff at Everlast Recovery Centers encourages clients to enjoy the good things that happen and share them with others. You can do this in many ways, including sharing your appreciation for things people have done for you. Our team of trained and compassionate therapists can teach you exercises that will lead to higher levels of positivity. Learn more about our facility and empathetic approach to care by calling Everlast Recovery Centers today at (866) 338-6925.