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The Role of Gratitude in Recovery

During this time of year, as we partake in holiday celebrations with friends and family, we traditionally stop to meditate on the positive aspects of our lives. Those that study religion – and, on a certain level, human history – know that we have been participating in gratitude practices for millennia. In recent years, psychologists and psychiatrists have increasingly corroborated what we seem to have intuitively known all along – focusing on our blessings can actually improve one’s mental and physical well-being.

At the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ), we are always looking to improve our understanding of harmful behaviors – like disordered sports gambling in Atlantic City or gifting lottery tickets – and how people recover from them. The research that Dr. Alyssa N. Wilson, Ph.D. shared at our last annual statewide conference serves as a prime example of the innovative new developments in therapy that we incorporate into our support for disordered gamblers.

During her plenary session presentation, “Using Acceptance and Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Disordered Gambling,” Dr. Wilson explained the value of reflective cognitive techniques that help disordered gamblers to identify negative emotions and urges and, in the process, overcome them. These methods closely resemble gratitude practices in that they involve stopping to reflect and assess your life in the present moment. By recognizing the people that support us and the boons that we have received – either through hard work or luck – we cement their positive impact on our happiness and health.

Studies show that consistent gratitude practices not only serve to better our subjective state of mind – it also helps us on a physiological level. Besides improving our relationships and general outlook on life, reflecting on our blessings can:

  • Reduce stress
  • Supplement the treatment of depression
  • Ameliorate chronic aches and pains
  • Improve sleep
  • Assist with overcoming trauma
  • Increase willpower
  • And much more

Medical professionals are continuing to find more and more benefits relating to consistent gratitude practice. Note the emphasis on consistency: just like a muscle, gratitude becomes easier and more effective when exercised regularly. Consider keeping a gratitude journal. Alternatively, pick a certain time of day – like when you shower or walk the dog – to reflect on gratitude. When you hitch a new habit to an already existing habit, you have a much better chance at succeeding.

The CCGNJ recommends gratitude practices to everyone, especially disordered gamblers. For additional recovery resources and support, call our gambling help hotline, 1-800-GAMBLER. Alternatively, explore the resources on our website.

At our organization, we like to practice what we preach. To that end, we would like to thank everyone who shares our passion for offering support, treatment, and hope to those that need it most. We rely on the hard work and dedication of many talented individuals as we carry out our mission. For them, we are grateful.