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Gratitude is Crucial in Recovery

When someone is grateful, they’re willing to express kindness because they recognize what something – or someone – has done for them. Similar to appreciation, gratitude occurs when we affirm the goodness we’ve received in life. Previous scholars have noted that gratefulness ties us to the outside sources of goodness that have provided us with gifts – no matter the size – to enhance our daily lived experiences.

Gratitude is a powerful force for many in recovery because it’s all about understanding how lucky, blessed and/or gifted to have the support, tools and help that we’ve received along the way. When we practice gratitude, we are truly happy and are sending out wonderful wishes out into the world; rather than expecting that we’d receive good things, or assuming that someone would help us, we acknowledge the beautiful chance of having something good happen in our lives.

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12-Step Programs and How They Promote Gratitude

Gratitude is a major component of 12-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). In 12-Step programs, it’s commonly talked about that spiritual awakenings are meant to carry out good deeds into the world – to help others connect with the message of a Higher Power, and to help so many other people recover from addiction as well.

Many in addiction recovery would say that by the end of their program, they likely feel thankful for their journey; it is through this gratitude that they can now become useful in others’ lives, and many people go on to provide much of their guidance and wisdom to others. Gratitude uplifts these types of practices and helps us to ground ourselves; previous studies have found that, in regards to 12-Step programs, gratitude can help in the following ways:

  • Higher levels of gratitude predict greater participation in 12-Step practices, AA promises, post-traumatic growth, and social support
  • The more gratitude individual members feel, the less likely they are to experience health issues and negative emotions

Overall, people who practice gratitude regularly experience a better quality of life. There are numerous ways that practicing gratitude can positively influence us and those around us; not only can it strengthen our relationships with others, but it can provide us with a load of other physical, psychological and social effects, too.

The Amazing Benefits of Gratitude 

Researchers claim that gratitude is a relationship-strengthening emotion that requires us to see how we’ve been supported. When we practice gratitude, we experience a host of wonderful benefits such as. 


  •   Less aches and pains
  •   Lower blood pressure
  •   Strengthened immune system
  •   Better sleep
  •   Increased exercise 


  •   Higher levels of positive emotions
  •   Greater alertness and vitality
  •   Greater joy potential
  •   Optimism and happiness


  •   Experiencing greater compassion towards others
  •   Ability to forgive more easily
  •   More social
  •   Less feelings of loneliness and/or isolation

The powerful effects of gratitude often stem from recognizing that it wasn’t us – that it was something outside of ourselves – that helped us to get to where we’re at today. For those in recovery, gratitude could be towards a number of people: peers in recovery, a sponsor, a therapist, healthcare team, family, friends, coworkers and more can all make major ways in the successes that we reach throughout life’s milestones.

Gratitude tunes us into the present moment – rather than focusing on the past or future, it brings us to where we’re at right now and allows us to be happy. It also blocks negative emotions that stem from ungratefulness, such as envy, resentment, and regret. If we really took a closer look at this, it’s clear to see that those signs of ungratefulness truly cannot exist alongside it. When we’re grateful, we’re accepting all of the love we’ve received from another source – and this could also include a Higher Power, such as God.

The Link Between Spirituality and Gratitude

Spirituality is a crucial aspect of recovery for many people because addiction negatively affects the mind, body, and spirit. 12- Step programs at Burning Tree help people strengthen their spirituality; while most people only tend to associate gratefulness with holidays like Thanksgiving, it can truly be practiced every single day.

Start Practicing Today

There is no special occasion that needs to take place in order for gratitude to occur. We can easily reflect on the paths we’ve taken, on the conversations that have inspired us, on the people who have contributed to our recovery and on the small things in life that have helped us get to where we’re at today. Gratitude places us in a position to not only recognize how far we’ve come but to acknowledge people who’ve contributed to our success in recovery thus far.

If you’ve been struggling with substance addiction, don’t wait any longer to seek the help you need. Speak with a professional from Renewal Lodge today.

Dear Renewal Lodge Visitors,

My name is John Bruna, co-founder of the Mindfulness in Recovery® Institute, and more importantly, a grateful member of the recovery community. I am incredibly fortunate to have found my recovery in 1984. Of course, I did not achieve continuous recovery through willpower or my own efforts, but through the guidance and caring support of countless others that selflessly taught me how to live through the 12 Steps.

My journey of recovery brought this once homeless, shame-based, traumatized, insecure young man to a life far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I discovered self-worth, the joy of helping others, the gifts of parenting and grandparenting, and most importantly the ability to live a meaningful and purposeful life with integrity.

One of the greatest gifts of recovery is that I have the opportunity to give back and help others discover their self-worth, dignity, and the skills to fully live lives that they find truly meaningful. This is the inspiration for developing the skills of Mindfulness in Recovery® (MIR) to meet the needs of new generations struggling with alcohol and other substance use disorders. MIR is a set of evidence-based skills designed to help people fully integrate their tools of recovery in ways that are personalized, practical, and in alignment with their deepest values.

While we train counselors and therapists throughout the United States and abroad, I personally have chosen to work directly with the amazing team and clients at Renewal Lodge to develop the model MIR 12-step program for the nation. I choose Renewal Lodge because of the vision of its mission and the dedication of its team. Renewal Lodge is an extremely rare environment in which the staff embodies the very mindfulness and 12-step practices and skills they offer their clients. The results have been beyond my expectations. It is an honor to be here and I treasure my personal time with every client I meet.

With Gratitude,

John Bruna
John Bruna
Director of Mindfulness