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.