Tag Archive: gratitude

  1. Is Gratitude Becoming an Evidence-Based Practice in Recovery?

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    Is Gratitude Becoming an Evidence-Based Practice in Recovery?

    With the increasing evidence that gratitude heals in recovery, it may not be long before practicing gratitude is considered an evidence-based practice. Until then, encouraging teens in recovery to practice gratitude can help sustain abstinence. How can you get teen clients to be more gratitude-focused? What types of activities beyond the typical gratitude journals can help teens to change their focus from themselves to embody gratitude in their healing process?

    Why Gratitude Is Important for Healing in Recovery

    Changing the perspective and thought processes of teens from negative to positive can help make or break their recovery. Being able to demonstrate gratitude rather than focus on negative thoughts or situations can help to prevent relapse. Learning to focus on the positives in their lives can help with emotional regulation and increase self-esteem.

    Those in recovery who practice gratitude demonstrate higher rates of long-term abstinence, according to a study on “Gratitude, Abstinence, and Alcohol Use Disorders” from 2017. Demonstrating gratitude also helps teens maintain their abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Being grateful and counting your blessings helps to solidify the commitment to recovery and promote long-term healing from substance abuse.

    Is There Evidence for Practicing Gratitude?

    Many of the studies focusing on practicing gratitude are studies involving adults. One study looked specifically at early adolescents, however. The study found that teens who counted their blessings had increased optimism, gratitude, and satisfaction with their lives. They also experienced a significant decrease in negative emotions during the study as well. The study concluded that counting blessings helped to enhance well-being, even at an early age.

    We may be years away from having the research for gratitude being an evidence-based practice in recovery. However, there seems to be compelling evidence that those who are living gratefully and counting their blessings are receiving positive effects. Becoming more grateful contributes to the healing process by improving overall mental health and helping to prevent relapse.

    Helping Teens Become More Gratitude-Focused

    Living a life that is gratitude-focused may be challenging for many teens. Adolescents who have experienced substance abuse may struggle with this challenge even more. Helping them become more grateful and learn to count their blessings can be important for their long-term recovery. Finding ways to motivate their gratitude will offer them new opportunities for healing.

    One of the most commonly used and effective ways is to teach teens to use a gratitude journal. Listing even just one to three things every single day that they are grateful for can offer them the benefits of a gratitude-focused recovery. This is a common technique used in treatment and recovery programs that can be transitioned into a good habit moving forward in their lives. For teens who struggle with writing or do not respond well to journaling, there is literally an app for that.

    The “Three Good Things” app for phones and devices encourages teens to record three things each day that they are grateful for and why they are grateful for them. It also encourages them to share their observations with friends and family, sharing their good feelings. Such an activity is simple, yet one that many teens could easily get into, and is right where they spend so much of their time—on their devices.

    Activities That Help Teens Embrace Gratitude in Recovery

    Other activities that can help teens become more grateful in their recovery include:

    • Making it a habit to say thank you to everyone for even little things
    • Giving compliments to others that are genuine and heartfelt
    • Writing thank you notes for special gifts or help from others
    • Counting your blessings—literally keep a diary, journal, whiteboard, or any other way to keep track of the number of blessings you receive every day
    • A gratitude jar to fill with notes of things you are grateful for, then take them out one by one to recall the things you were grateful for in the moment
    • Acknowledge the efforts of others, whether they are considered successful or not
    • Give back—give service to physically demonstrate your gratitude
    • Have a gratitude challenge or pact with friends to text one another daily about the things they are grateful for
    • Express gratitude through the arts, music, dance, or other talents
    • Make a habit of regularly thanking teachers and other adults who help in their lives

    How Teens Can Look Beyond Themselves for Healing

    While teens often find it difficult to look beyond themselves, being grateful allows them to see and acknowledge others. This takes their focus away from themselves for at least long enough to notice who and what they have in their lives. The more they are able to embrace a grateful attitude, the more they can contribute to their own healing process. The more they embody a gratitude-focused life, the more likely they will continue in their recovery.

    Evidence indicates that gratitude can promote healing in the lives of teens with addiction. By helping teens become more focused on being grateful in their lives, they can look beyond themselves and find long-term healing in their recovery. The extended residential treatment program that Sustain Recovery offers encourages adolescents with addiction and mental health diagnoses to be active in their own recovery. This includes learning to be more grateful, take control of their lives, and find true happiness. Our program is structured and challenges teens to dig below the surface to face the problems that are masked by substance abuse. Contact Sustain today at (949) 407-9052 to discuss the potential benefits of our program.

  2. Teaching Adolescents Gratitude: Fake It Till You Make It

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    teenager smiling at lady

    Let’s face it; gratitude is not something that a typical adolescent is known for. With the changes in their bodies and in their lives, as well as the decisions they are facing, it really should not be a surprise that adolescents spend most of their time thinking about themselves. This becomes even more true for those who abuse substances. The concept of gratitude may not even be in their vocabulary, let alone their lifestyle. Acknowledging or expressing gratitude may come naturally to some, but for most people, it is a learned skill.

    How do you take someone who thinks primarily of themself and get them to look outside themselves and be grateful for the people and blessings in their life? The answer is not always quick or easy. However, gratitude is a healing tool that has many benefits both now and throughout life. For adolescents who are in active substance abuse and/or have mental health diagnoses, they may have to “fake it till they make it.”

    Why Gratitude Helps in the Healing Process

    While the word gratitude represents different things to different people, a generalized concept of gratitude would be appreciating what is valuable and meaningful to the individual. What you are grateful for and what your child is grateful for will likely be very different, but the result is the same: by recalling, acknowledging, or expressing gratitude, positive feelings are generated, which in turn help to improve mood and heal emotionally and physically.

    Behaviors associated with substance abuse and mental health diagnoses often are the result of negative thinking, experiences, and self-image. Gratitude can help to create positive thoughts and feelings, reframing or replacing the negative thoughts and experiences to help heal and create new behaviors and find greater satisfaction in life. Being grateful can also help to improve self-image when your adolescent actively seeks to find the positive things in themself and in their life.

    Benefits of Teaching Adolescents Gratitude

    Parents may embrace the concept of a grateful teen for their own honor and satisfaction, but for the adolescent, developing grateful habits also increases their own self-image and life satisfaction. In addition to the healing benefits for adolescents who have abused substances or had mental health diagnoses, seeing their cup half full not only gives them a more positive outlook on life but also increases their ability to enjoy their life, from the mundane daily tasks to the bigger events and milestones.

    Making Gratitude a Daily Habit

    The saying “You are what you think” has merit. By putting gratitude into action on a daily or regular basis, your adolescent can develop a true sense of gratefulness. Some of the ways to form grateful habits include:

    • Say thank you – make an effort to simply say thank you to parents, friends, teachers, and others when something is given to or done for them
    • Keep a gratitude journal – write at least five times per week about at least one thing per day to be grateful for
    • Count your blessings – instead of counting sheep, at the end of the day, count all of the blessings received that day
    • Give genuine compliments to others – the act of noticing something specific that someone else has done creates positive feelings for both parties
    • Write thank-you notes – particularly after receiving gifts or help from others, take the time to put gratitude in writing

    Finding the Silver Linings

    Adolescents who have experienced trauma, loss, substance abuse, or mental health diagnoses may have a lot of negative experiences and memories that contribute to negative thinking. Practicing gratitude allows them to see the silver lining even within those past experiences. They can learn to look back at what they learned, how far they’ve come, or how they have taken control of their lives to avoid those negative experiences in the future.

    Finding the silver linings in their experiences allows them to reframe negative experiences and appreciate what they have, how they have changed, and most importantly, who they are now because of their past. This, in turn, creates neutral or positive feelings surrounding these events or memories, which helps adolescents to heal and move forward.

    Why Faking It Leads to a Grateful Mentality

    For someone who has not previously acknowledged, expressed, or recalled gratitude, there is not a magic wand that instantaneously turns their hearts and minds into those of a truly grateful human being. Being grateful is something that happens by acting upon the concept first. The intent may not be completely there in the beginning, but as your adolescent practices gratitude on a regular basis, eventually, they can become convinced by their words and actions and develop a truly grateful mentality.
     The concept of gratitude may not come naturally for many adolescents, but learning to acknowledge and express gratitude can help to heal and increase your child’s life satisfaction. By attempting to express gratitude daily, your adolescent can develop a true sense of gratitude throughout their life. Helping adolescents heal from substance abuse and mental health diagnoses is our passion at Sustain Recovery. We understand that your child’s substance abuse is not the problem but rather their solution to their own pain and problems. We offer extended residential care for those who need more than the standard length of care, and we help your adolescent to reintegrate into their community and family during the treatment process. Our goal is to help the families and adolescents in active substance abuse to heal and connect them with long-term solutions for their recovery. Call us at (949) 407-9052 to determine if our Irvine, California, program is suitable for your family. 

  3. How Gratitude Can Heal Within Families

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    family having lunch

    Substance abuse and mental health issues impact not only the individual person, but they impact the entire family. When your adolescent is beginning to heal, it is important for your family to heal as well. Gratitude is both a quality and a state of mind that can help heal families impacted by adolescents with behaviors related to addiction and mental health issues. When everyone works together to improve upon reflecting on the things they are grateful for as well as expressing gratitude to others, the healing process is enhanced, and the quality of life improves for everyone involved.

    Gratitude Validates and Strengthens Family Bonds

    One of the most obvious ways to express gratitude is to notice and genuinely thank someone for qualities they have, something they have done, or something they have given to you. Outward expression validates the family member and helps them to feel appreciated and loved. When someone feels appreciated for who they are or something they have done for someone, they are increasingly likely to show positivity and kindness to others.

    For the person who expresses gratitude, there is also increased satisfaction and happiness. They, too, are more likely to express feelings of thankfulness again. Additionally, when people are happy, they are more likely to treat others kindly in general. By validating and showing appreciation to one another, goodwill is increased between family members, and family bonds are strengthened.

    Creating Opportunities to Show Gratitude

    When a family is in crisis, it can be difficult to find things to be thankful for. Furthermore, developing habits of gratitude can be difficult when there is so much stress within the family. In primary school, teachers teach children to give each other “warm fuzzies.” They will use cotton balls or pom-poms and place one in a jar each time they notice someone expressing kindness or gratitude toward one another as a visual representation of their words and actions.

    While this exact concept may not work with adolescents, here are some other ideas for modeling and implementing gratitude within the home:

    • Acknowledge and validate efforts made to improve, such as communication, cooperation, good attitudes, and more
    • Remember to say “please” and “thank you” for simple daily gestures, chores completed, etc.
    • Use an erasable marker on a whiteboard or mirror to write genuine compliments for each other
    • Write sincere notes and leave them where they will be found
    • At family meals, have each member say one thing they are grateful for
    • When emotions begin to escalate, take a deep breath, count backward, and find something to compliment or thank the other person for to diffuse the tension
    • As a part of nightly routines, verbally express something you are thankful for to one another
    • Get involved in mental health and addiction recovery programs or other service activities as a family to display gratitude

    Gratitude Journals Family Challenge

    Within therapy and treatment, gratitude journals are a common assignment that is given. Reflecting and noting what we are grateful for helps to improve our mood, outlook, and mindset. Focusing on what we have on a daily basis is a great way to heal personally.

    Taking the challenge as a family to institute a habit of journaling daily can help to increase positivity and good feelings within the home. Initially, you can make it a challenge for which there is a family reward after a week, a month, or more. Making it specific and measurable, such as each of you writing down three to five things each day, will help build a habit that can last long after the challenge is completed.

    Compare and Contrast Your Present and Past

    One of the ways that gratitude heals is to be able to compare and contrast where you are with where you have come from. When negative family memories come up, family members can reflect on and contrast where everyone was mentally and emotionally during those difficult or traumatic times and how much they have learned from those experiences. This growth and progress can also increase harmony within the home. Being grateful for every step of recovery as a family can also create a sense of unity. Acknowledging this growth as a family helps everyone heal together.

    Personal Reflection, Outward Expression

    By consciously choosing to reflect each day on the things that you are thankful for, you are more likely to express gratitude outwardly. When even one person in your home makes this change, it can shift the mood in the entire family. Expressions of anger can eventually be replaced with expressions of kindness and gratitude. Creating a more positive environment enhances better communication and ultimately can strengthen family relationships.

    Healing from addiction and mental health as a family can be enhanced by adding more gratitude into your daily lives. As you find more opportunities to demonstrate kindness and gratitude within the home, you can achieve improved harmony, communication, and growth together. Adolescents do not necessarily express gratitude naturally, so parents and family members can model what it looks like to be kind and grateful. Sustain Recovery involves the family in the healing process. Our extended residential care helps adolescents transition back into the family during treatment to prepare them for life afterward. Our staff understand that your child is not defined by substance abuse or mental health issues; they are symptoms of and coping mechanisms for the inner pain that they are experiencing. We help them address issues and heal so they have healthier coping mechanisms and increased self-worth. Call us at (949) 407-9052 to find out if our Irvine, California program is right for your family. 

  4. Experience the Power of Positive Thinking in Recovery

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    positive gratitude teens

    The impact of a person’s thoughts are greater than anyone ever expects. Most people underestimate the power of positive thinking in recovery from addiction. Creating lives with every thought seems amazing but can take time to harness. Learn how to experience the power of positive thinking to aid in recovery.

    Boomerang Effect

    The boomerang effect, also known as the ‘law of attraction’ states that whatever is attracted into a person’s life is a direct result of what is thought about. Whatever is put out will come right back. This seems simple but it is difficult to practice for many people, especially those with enmeshed patterns of behavior such as those with addiction. Changing the way a person thinks can change the experiences a person has from negative thinking to feeling more positive about what is possible. Negative thoughts can become entrenched and are difficult to get rid of without consistent support.

    Negative Thinking and Recovery

    In 12-step programs, negative thought processes are often called ‘Stinkin Thinkin’ and include outward behaviors such as complaining, being judgmental, blaming and gossiping. As the steps are worked, encouragement becomes more powerful as people become aware of negative and positive thought patterns to see how thinking influences the quality of recovery. Being part of a 12-step program isn’t the only way to reap positive benefits. Teaching oneself to recognize positive aspects of one’s thinking and behavior can help develop emotional well-being which has a direct effect on the rest of a person’s life.

    Attitude of Gratitude

    One way to get started with harnessing the power of positive thinking is to become more grateful for what is present in a person’s life. The idea of gratitude is often choosing a topic in recovery that is important and useful. Learning to see life’s challenges as opportunities for positive growth can be helpful. Keeping a gratitude journal can be very helpful such as:

    • Keeping a list of 5-10 things to be grateful for each day
    • Being honest when writing
    • Reviewing the list everyday and finding what showed up and was positive rather than dwell on the negative

    Keeping a gratitude journal is just the beginning. Writing the list down can promote a positive awakening rather than dwelling on the negative. If a person still tends towards the negative, it can help to be aware of personal thoughts and behaviors to practice conscious thinking so as to adjust beliefs to focus on finding tools for positive behavior and living. Recovery from addiction takes a lifetime and is filled with lots of ups and downs but positive thinking can help individuals find peace and harmony with others and the self.


    Sustain Recovery provides help for adolescents who are adjusting to life after addiction. Clients are treated for varying lengths of time based on individual needs and desires for treatment. Call us to find out how we can help your adolescent with addiction recovery.

The people at Sustain Recovery are truly passionate about their work. They put all their love, energy and spiritual strength in to it. They continue to support me today as I continue my ongoing journey in my personal recovery. I now have over a year of sobriety, my own apartment, a job, true friends and a support network that is always available to me. Although all that stuff is great, what matters most today is that I love myself and have the ability to love others. Thank you to all who had a hand and heart in Sustain Recovery

© 2023 OCTLC Inc.