Gratitude and acceptance have become common buzzwords in mental health and addiction treatment. What do these words mean, and how can you start to cultivate them? This article will explain how these practices can change your life and offer tips to get started.
What Is Gratitude?
When you hear the word “gratitude,” you might visualize each family member expressing what they are thankful for around a dinner table at Thanksgiving. Some things you might be grateful for are your progress in recovery and the support system of dedicated family and friends.
Reflecting on the good is important because it can be easy to forget the seemingly “little” things that contribute so much to your quality of life and wellness. Taking them for granted can make you feel like you are constantly coming up short and are never satisfied.
Learning to appreciate the good that already exists in your life can help you cultivate a more positive attitude and resilience to adverse circumstances.
When Gratitude Is Inappropriate
Some people might believe you can also be grateful for the awful experiences. Although, some events may be too tragic to find a way to be thankful for the positive outcomes that follow. Some values take precedent over any good derived from a period of pain and suffering.
A simple example is losing a dear friend or family member to addiction. Through their death, you might encounter new situations or interactions that help you grow in one way or another. Telling yourself that you are grateful in the context of such a loss may be silly and irrelevant. It may not bring any happiness or peace to your life.
Misplaced gratitude can create a pattern of toxic positivity, resulting in denial or minimization of painful emotional experiences that would benefit from being openly confronted and managed, no matter how uncomfortable they may be.
What Is Acceptance?
Where the usefulness of gratitude ends, acceptance begins. You might not be able to feel thankful for the circumstances surrounding or resulting from a loved one’s overdose death, but you can work towards accepting it. What does that actually mean, though?
Acceptance is about learning how to continue to function and live despite the bad things that happened or are happening now. There is no need to try and put a positive spin on it. It is about seeing things for what they are without opinion or judgment. Acceptance is about facing reality and learning to come to terms with it. You know the saying, “It is what it is.”
How Acceptance Feels
Gratitude can bring about warm, fuzzy emotions. Acceptance, on the other hand, may feel very different. It involves consciously releasing the grip on emotions that prevent you from moving forward. These emotions can include hostility, resentment, and regret. It can feel like a burden is being lifted, and suddenly you have more room to breathe and think.
Acceptance Is Not Resignation
Acceptance does not mean you have given up and are helpless in your situation. There is a fine line between accepting reality and resignation, but knowing there is a big difference is essential. When you open your heart up to acceptance, you make a conscious decision to acknowledge the past and present.
You are taking action to change what you can to achieve your goals. This is called “striving” and may be considered the final step in a process that moves from gratitude to acceptance to striving. The popular “Serenity Prayer” sums this balancing act well:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Creating a Happy & Productive Path Forward
By learning to appreciate the good and accept the bad, you will eventually find your peace and the strength to effectively pursue your goals in a world that will always have good and bad days.
Here are some ways you can practice gratitude:
- Incorporate positive language into your linguistic style. You can say to yourself, “Even though I am struggling in treatment, I am fortunate to have found a program that is working hard to give me this gift called recovery.”
- Make a commitment to record your blessings each day. Have you made a breakthrough in therapy? Were you finally able to forgive someone for the pain they have caused you? Be sure to mark these moments down.
- Express your thankfulness to others. Give the person a call, send a letter, or craft an art piece communicating your appreciation for their support and love.
Learning acceptance requires you to be present and mindful of yourself and others to change how you think about and experience troubling scenarios. With these things literally “in mind,” consider the following ways to start accepting reality.
- Notice your grip on the problem. Acknowledge how stressful experiences may have caused you to internalize associated negative emotions or push back against them.
- Remove opinion and judgment. Try looking at the situation through a neutral, objective lens in order to see things for what they are, not how you feel about them.
- Question your thoughts and actions. Ask yourself, “Can I change this? Is it productive to do so?” Recognize some things that are not worth your energy.
Learning how to cultivate gratitude and accept your circumstances can be a challenging journey full of ups and downs. Most changes start within the mind. These critical life practices are often a focus in mental health and addiction treatment due to how profoundly they can change peoples’ lives and support their long-term recovery. Avalon Malibu is an addiction and mental health treatment facility in Malibu, CA. We are accredited by the Joint Commission and nationally recognized by SAMHSA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. We aim to help clients discover their true potential through mindfulness practices based on gratitude and acceptance. These concepts are also embedded in our treatment philosophy. Clients are accepted as they are when they enter our program. Clinicians shape treatment around the unique experiences clients have faced. For more information, call us at (844) 857-5992.