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Gratitude Lists: A Tool in Recovery

In twelve step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, experienced members often suggest that newcomers write a “gratitude list” daily to help with their recovery. Sponsors or others in mentorship roles might suggest writing a list of five to ten things for which you are grateful every night; other suggestions might be to come up with one unique list item every night. The anecdotal wisdom is that a grateful addict will stay clean, and it turns out, data backs up this claim.

Recent studies have started to explore the role of gratitude as a resource that enables an individual to sustain long term recovery. Chen’s 2017 article in Addiction Research & Theory uniquely asks about gratitude’s role as “recovery capital.” 1 In 2018, Labelle and Edelstein noted that gratitude has importance in the recovery process, even if more data is needed to understand just how it works.2 Many other studies have noted the correlation as well. A recent study in Poland may provide the first data of its kind specifically about gratitude and recovery: researchers found that people in recovery from addiction who had spiritual coping skills like gratitude stayed clean longer than those without spiritual coping skills. 

At New Paradigm Recovery in Fairfax County, Virginia, we know that a strong foundation for lasting recovery is built holistically.

When individuals in recovery have good mental, physical, and spiritual health, they have the best chances for lasting change.

And whether or not the scientists fully understand just why, we do know that gratitude plays an important role in maintaining the spiritual health needed for recovery. 

If you’re ready to give it a try, find a piece of paper and write what you’re grateful for today. 

 1 Chen, G. (2017). Does gratitude promote recovery from substance misuse?. Addiction Research & Theory, 25(2), 121-128.

 2 LaBelle, O. P., & Edelstein, R. S. (2018). Gratitude, insecure attachment, and positive outcomes among 12-step recovery program participants. Addiction Research & Theory, 26(2), 123-132.

3. Charzyńska, E. The Effect of Baseline Patterns of Spiritual Coping, Forgiveness, and Gratitude on the Completion of an Alcohol Addiction Treatment Program. J Relig Health (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-021-01188-8

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