Staying grateful is a skill that must be learned – especially for individuals who are new to addiction recovery. Gratitude rarely comes naturally to those who have suffered immensely at the hands of an active drug addiction. Entering into drug addiction recovery means completely changing your perspective – your perspective of yourself and of the world around you. At Princeton Detox and Recovery Center, we believe whole-heartedly in the importance of staying positive, and we believe that staying grateful is a necessary skill that can be learned very early on in the overall recovery process.

A study published by Psychology Today titled “Science Proves That Gratitude Is Key to Well-Being” explores the relationship between staying grateful and staying happy. The study suggests that those who act grateful will eventually become grateful, and that gratitude is the key to long-term, consistent happiness. You may have heard the phrase “fake it until you make it” – if you have not yet heard this phrase, you certainly will once you enter into the world of addiction recovery. Essentially this means that if you engage in the same thinking patterns or behaviors time after time, the things that you are thinking or doing will start to become a part of your nature. Even if you are not a grateful person by nature, pretending that you are – faking it – will eventually lead to the actual development of gratitude-related skills.

Gratitude in Medical Detox

How does one fake it, or pretend they are grateful when really they are still overwhelmed by feelings of helplessness and self-pity? Gratitude lists are a great place to start. At Princeton Detox and Recovery Center, we encourage our clients to participate in a wide range of morale-boosting activities from as early on in the recovery process as medical detox. Once a client enters detox, he or she is shown his or her room and encouraged to rest as much as possible. The physical symptoms of withdrawal are expertly managed by our team of doctors, nurses and clinicians. We do everything in our power to ensure that each and every client is a s comfortable as possible. The main goal of our detox program is physical stabilization. Once a client has been stabilized, we encourage participation in some of the classes and workshops we offer. These include on-site Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, addiction education classes, group therapy sessions and recovery-oriented group activities. If a client comes to us with a mild or moderate substance abuse disorder, the symptoms of withdrawal will likely be short-lived and easily resolved (depending on the substance or substances that were being abused). Rather than spend the remainder of their time in our medical detox facility resting and watching television (which is an option too, of course), we facilitate group activities geared towards initiating the recovery process and preparing clients for the transition from medical detox to inpatient treatment.

During the inpatient portion of our comprehensive drug addiction recovery program, clients are expected to participate in all group therapy sessions and all group activities. Unlike in medical detox, they do not have the option to sit any of their therapy sessions out. In most cases, clients are introduced to gratitude lists in medical detox so that they have some level of exposure, and they delve deeper into this beneficial therapeutic activity while going through inpatient treatment.

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The Importance of Staying Thankful

The National Center for Biotechnology published a study titled “Gratitude and Well-Being.” The study describes gratitude as, “the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself; it is a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation.” The study also suggests that there are numerous therapeutic exercises and techniques designed to enhance thankfulness; exercises that have proven simple to integrate into a comprehensive program of psychotherapy. At Princeton Detox and Recovery Center, we utilize numerous techniques geared towards enhancing overall appreciation, including the daily writing of gratitude lists. Upon going to sleep, clients are asked to write out a list of things they are grateful for. This list might be short or lengthy, detailed or simple. Not only does focusing on something positive before going to bed improve the ability to sleep and lead to a more optimistic attitude the next morning, but engaging in a nightly practice helps to build a lasting and consistent routine.

If a client so chooses, he or she has the opportunity to discuss the things that were added to his or her list in an individual or group therapy setting. In order to ensure accountability, clients are often asked to share their gratitude list in group therapy the next day.

Benefits of Thankfulness

An article published on the website explores the benefits of gratitude, listing a total of 28 scientifically proven benefits. The article splits the benefits up into five separate categories, including emotional benefits, personality-related benefits, social benefits, health-related benefits and benefits that positively affect a person’s career. Some of the most significant positive impacts that gratitude will have (taken from all of the five individual categories) include:

  • Improved psychological health and well-being.
  • A significant increase in self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.
  • A reduction in feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. At some point during active addiction, most individuals feel a deep sense of hopelessness that often leads to suicidal ideations. It has been proven that gratitude practices help keep suicidal thoughts at bay.
  • An improvement in interpersonal relationships, from relationships with friends and family members to romantic relationships.
  • Increased access to social support. It has been proven that individuals who stay positive will have more friends, meaning they will have more friends accessible to help them in times of need.
  • Increased spiritual connection. Spirituality is a main component of every program of addiction recovery. One study suggests that the more grateful you are the more likely you are to be spiritual.
  • Enhanced feelings of optimism, which make life seem easier and less treacherous overall.

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  • A reduction of materialistic tendencies. When an individual learns to be thankful for what he or she already has, there is a reduced inclination to fixate on material possessions.
  • An increased ability to be productive and successful in the workplace. Numerous studies suggest that those who practice gratitude are better bosses, managers and employees.
  • Improved ability to find meaning in work and pursue a career that continuously brings joy. There are few things worse than dreading going to work every day and living solely for the weekend. Staying in a place of thankfulness and positivity helps individuals actively pursue a job that they love.
  • A reduction in work-related stress.
  • A reduction in unpleasant psychological symptoms, such as symptoms of depression or anxiety.
  • Improved sleep; those who write gratitude lists before bed have an easier time falling and staying asleep at night, and also tend to have more pleasant dreams and fewer nightmares.
  • An overall improvement in physical health, including lowered blood pressure and a reduced frequency of illness. Happy people are healthy people!

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    Princeton Detox & Recovery Center and Gratitude

    Learning to stay in a place of gratefulness is critical to long-term recovery, and doing so is one of the skills that we work hard to instill in each and every one of our clients. It is important that clients develop these skills early on in the recovery process so that they can call on them whenever they hit a rough patch in their recovery, which is bound to happen at one point or another. To learn more about our recovery program or to learn more about gratitude and different ways to stay grateful, give us a call today.

    Amanda Hilzer

    Clinically reviewed for accuracy by our Executive Director:

    Amanda Hilzer M.Ed, CAADC, IADAC, ICCS, LCADC, CCS

    Amanda graduated from Lehigh University with both an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Master’s of Education degree in Counseling Psychology and has worked in the field of substance use disorder treatment and mental health treatment as a counselor and as a clinical manager for over 14 years.