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Try These 6 Sober Activities to Build Gratitude and Joy in Recovery 

The hardest part of recovery is actually recovery.  Every step of the way is hard because it is about learning how to navigate the journey with a new sense of purpose. Giving up old ways is difficult. Sober activities that build joy and gratitude help make the journey better and build character. Social lives and leisure time before recovery centered around (or mostly around) substance use. Find out why these sober activities are helpful and how to incorporate them into recovery.

We help people with addictions and substance use disorders recover. Get mindfulness training and learn the 12 Steps for deeper healing.

6 Sober Activities to Build Gratitude in Recovery

1. Sober Friends

Many people in the past life will still want to spend time doing what they used to do. This might include drinking and watching sports, going to happy hour, spending time with friends who also drink or use drugs. For people in recovery, even if they are not addicted, being around alcohol or drug use is triggering. It may be too hard to sit at a bar with friends who are drinking and be at risk of relapse. At some point, it may become easier but it also may not. It helps to be prepared for what may happen. Sober activities can be a great way to spend time with some friends, old and new, who appreciate sober ways of having fun and are able to experience those together. 

2. Exercise

Get outside and play some ball, join an indoor league, or find ways to get involved in something physical. It is good to find an activity that heals the mind after such a challenging experience of recovery. Recovery is lifelong so there will always be things to deal with. Exercise can combat mental health issues and other things in recovery. Dealing with it in a healthy way is better than sitting around and watching television or not getting out to see people. Isolation can drive people’s depression and risk of relapse. Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day is helpful for people in recovery.

3. Group Activities

Recovery can be isolating when lots of old friends go away. People in recovery often find it hard to develop new social connections. Getting in a sports league is helpful to meet new people and find healing. This can be anything from sports to recreation clubs to book groups and more. Find that niche and dive right in.

4. Go Traveling

Being with other like-minded people in sobriety can be helpful. When traveling to new places, whether it is a staycation or going far away, there are sober groups, places, or friends to travel with. Draw up a bucket list and decide where to go. Getting out to see the world can bring a new perspective to life. Be sure to have a back-up plan in the back pocket to get help if triggers come up. 

5. Volunteer

Healthy sober activities are about finding ways to build the part of the brain designed for happiness. Volunteering is about serving other people in a selfless way. It is a great way to give back and get out of the house for a few hours a week. Find places that inspire curiosity or connection and build new ways of being engaged civically. It might be with other sober companions from recovery groups or it may be new friends, but be available to engage with those who are different and find some hope in something new and different. 

6. Reading

Getting caught up on reading can be books, magazines, anything that inspires curiosity. It helps to stay in touch with the little pleasures in life. Simple things take time and to read a good book means something is getting replaced with nights out at bars, etc. getting comfortable is important. There is no better way to unwind and take the mind off things than diving into a book and not worry about anything else for the moment.

How Joy and Gratitude Build in Recovery

Two key components, joy and gratitude, build because the person is willing to step outside their comfort zone and do something different. They are engaging with something new and are willing to put in the effort to make it happen. When joy and gratitude are part of a ‘daily diet,’ a person in recovery is going to find they can grow more in recovery. They are less likely to focus on what they don’t have or what they lost than what they have and will feel better as a result. Finding ways to spend free time and connecting with people is scary or frustrating at first, but a person can do it if they are committed. Once a person is out there exploring possibilities, they realize life is full of opportunities to engage and be joyful without getting stuck in the past. Addiction does not have to have the last say when a person can look to the opportunities in front of them and embrace them all to find joy and peace.

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