Developing Gratitude This Holiday Season in Addiction Recovery

Content review by Derek Wilksen, CEO

The holiday season can bring about a mix of emotions for just about everyone. However, this is especially true for those in addiction recovery. Despite this season emphasizing celebration and joy, it tends to be triggering for those working to maintain their sobriety.

Every season of life and the year brings about new challenges and room for growth in recovery. Whether or not an individual chooses to celebrate the holidays, their existence will inevitably motivate people to reflect on the skills they have learned throughout their treatment journey. As individuals reflect on these skills, they can consider what skills they would like to dedicate more time to strengthening throughout this holiday season.

One particularly valuable skill that recovering individuals may consider is gratitude. While they may have started to practice this skill during rehab, it is easy to leave it on the back burner as newly sober people go about their busy daily life. This holiday season can serve as a reminder to be grateful for all of the opportunities the journey of recovery has brought to life.

What Is Gratitude in Addiction Recovery?

Simply put, gratitude is the conscious state of being thankful. It is both a positive emotion and a skill that requires individuals to evaluate the people, experiences and things that have helped shape the person they are today. Gratitude is one aspect of mindfulness that calls people to pause, notice and then appreciate the things that they may often take for granted.

Practicing gratitude can have many positive benefits on one’s mental and physical health. For example, gratitude is known to improve one’s emotional well-being and aid in stress relief. When someone feels stressed or upset, they are likely dwelling on negatives. They may be focusing on a mistake they made or something upsetting that someone said to them.

Gratitude can reduce distressing emotions by bringing happy and positive thoughts into one’s conscious awareness. In other words, gratitude challenges stress by reminding individuals that there are more positive things deserving of their attention.

The Holiday Season in Addiction Recovery

For some, gratitude may come naturally. For others, gratitude must be practiced constantly until it becomes habitual. Regardless, the holiday season presents a perfect opportunity to practice gratitude, especially for those in addiction recovery.

Understandably, social gatherings pose added pressures for those working to prioritize sobriety. Both attending and hosting social gatherings throughout the year can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many support groups hold sober, social get-togethers throughout the holiday season. This is a great opportunity to not only build new and healthy connections with others but also to foster gratitude toward one’s peers.

The Value of Social Connection and Gratitude During the Holidays

Those who find themselves dreading the holiday season may find it helpful to know they are not alone. Social support plays a key role in facilitating treatment entry and engagement for individuals in recovery. If individuals struggle with symptoms of social anxiety or depression as a result of their substance use disorder (SUD), they can gain confidence in knowing that attending sober gatherings this holiday season can enhance their recovery. Additionally, support group attendance may make all the difference for someone else seeking help for their addiction.

On the other hand, some people may find themselves at a stable point in their recovery journey. They may feel like they have already shown gratitude toward all of the people who have helped them get this far. While this is a wonderful position to be in, make no mistake: one can never practice too much gratitude.

Ways to Practice Gratitude During the Holidays in Recovery

There are many ways individuals can practice gratitude during this holiday season, no matter where they are on their recovery journey. Here are just a few examples:

#1. Give Gifts

The act of giving can bring about great joy for both the giver and the receiver. Gifts do not have to be expensive to be valuable. Homemade gifts sometimes have the highest impact. Additionally, this mentality can help individuals set boundaries on holiday spending so they can show their appreciation for people in their lives without overtaxing themselves.

#2. Volunteer

Volunteering can instill a newfound appreciation for the holiday season. Individuals might consider volunteering at a local homeless shelter or serving their peers in recovery as a mentor or sponsor. Volunteer work doesn’t have to be confined to a time slot. Rather, it can be as simple as offering a service to others.

#3. Open Up

Substance use is an isolating experience. It can take a while for recovering individuals to comfortably open up to their family members, friends and peers. The holiday season can serve as an opportunity for individuals to open up about their struggles with their loved ones. Although this is indirect gratitude, it can show loved ones that one trusts, appreciates and values them. Similarly, it opens up a safe space for loved ones to come to the individual if they begin to struggle.

#4. Remember That Recovery Is a Gift

Gratitude does not have to take a physical expression. The holiday season can help us remember that recovery is a gift in itself. Recovering individuals can take time every day to focus on the positive aspects of recovery, especially when things get challenging. Verbal appreciation for therapists, mentors, family members and other loved ones who have made a positive impact can go a long way.

Casa Palmera is a mental health and addiction treatment facility in Los Angeles that knows how triggering the holiday season can be for individuals in recovery. We encourage you to shift your perspective on the holidays and use this time as an opportunity to practice necessary gratitude. To learn more about your treatment options and how Casa Palmera can help, contact us today.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.