During this time of year, a lot of people talk about gratitude — for the holidays, for their loved ones, or for their health. Can this attitude actually help in preventing alcohol or drug abuse, and aid in recovery?
Dr. Robert Emmons,”world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude” and professor of psychology at UC Davis, describes gratitude:
The first is simply “an affirmation of goodness.” This just means that we acknowledge or “affirm” that there are good things in the world, and that we’ve received benefits, resources, love, etc. He describes the second component of gratitude as recognizing sources of good things outside of ourselves. The point here is to acknowledge that other people (or a higher power maybe) give us many “gifts” which help us create and achieve the good things in our lives.” Gratitude isn’t just about appreciating what we have in our lives, it’s also about “paying it forward” or being thoughtful about the next person.
Gratitude can be paired with mindfulness to create a daily practice that can slow and center a person’s actions and impulses. Psychology Today describes mindfulness as “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”
Sarah Bowen and her colleagues have developed a program called Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP), and have seen promising results treating substance abuse. This program mixes mindfulness as well as “traditional” substance abuse treatment methods:
MBRP practices are intended to foster increased awareness of triggers, destructive habitual patterns, and “automatic” reactions that seem to control many of our lives. The mindfulness practices in MBRP are designed to help us pause, observe present experience, and bring awareness to the range of choices before each of us in every moment. We learn to respond in ways that serves us, rather than react in ways that are detrimental to our health and happiness. Ultimately, we are working towards freedom from deeply ingrained and often catastrophic habits.
In day-to-day living, attitudes of mindfulness and gratitude can reduce stress, enhance communication ability, and reduce potentially dangerous impulsive actions. All can be beneficial to preventing alcohol and drug abuse and create a much healthy mindset.
Gratitude isn’t just for Thanksgiving — practice it throughout the year and you might see amazing results.
References and Resources
- Can Mindfulness Help Stop Substance Abuse? – Greater Good in Action
- An ‘Attitude of Gratitude’ Aids in Relapse Prevention – Transitions Recovery Program
- In recovery from addiction, ‘attitude of gratitude’ not just a Thanksgiving Day phenomenon – Mark Thomson, MLive
- An Attitude of Gratitude in 2015 – New Bridge Foundation
- What is Mindfulness? – Psychology Today
- Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention – MindfulRP.com
- The Healing Power of Mindfulness – Mindful.org