The holiday season can bring stress, depression, and anxiety for many. With the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases, financial uncertainty, and fundamental changes to family and social traditions, many feel particularly overwhelmed this year.
The recovery community, in particular, requires additional support during this time. Recovery Ways is committed to being a part of the solution. The team at Recovery Ways is offering a seven-week course of community outreach and support groups via Zoom with specialized expert Recovery Ways facilitators. The second meeting, facilitated by alumni director Alicia Scovill and alumni coordinator Ekko Poster, focused on the role gratitude and service work can play in keeping the holiday blues at bay.
Scovill began the series by showing a video in which research professor and vulnerability expert Brené Brown talks about the relationship between joy and gratitude and offers tips on how to cultivate more joy in your own life. The key, according to Brown, is to pursue a tangible practice, such as a gratitude journal or deliberately sharing what you’re grateful for with others.
After the short Brené Brown film, Scovill shared the findings of a research study that tested the tangible practice. It randomly assigned participants into three groups. Although all three groups received counseling services, the first group was instructed to write one letter of gratitude to another person each week for three weeks, whereas the second group was asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings about negative experiences. The third group did not participate in a writing activity.
What did the researchers find? Compared with the participants who wrote about negative experiences or only received counseling, those who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health four weeks and 12 weeks after their writing exercise ended. This suggests that gratitude writing can be beneficial not just for healthy, well-adjusted individuals, but also for those who struggle with mental health concerns.
In order to give participants more evidence of what gratitude can achieve, Scovill presented Amy Morin’s article, “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude.” Those benefits are as follows:
- Gratitude opens the door for more relationships
- Gratitude improves physical health
- Gratitude improves psychological health
- Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression
- Grateful people sleep better
- Gratitude improves self-esteem
- Gratitude increases mental strength
Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. In his book Thanks, Professor Emmons wrote, “There is the short-term feeling of gratitude, but a long-term disposition of gratefulness. Our groundbreaking research has shown that grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness, and optimism and that the practice of gratitude as a discipline protects a person from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness.”
Alumni coordinator Ekko Poster talked about her personal efforts to learn authentic gratitude. “I used to be never grateful unless I got what I wanted. I was jealous and judgmental.” Now she is giving it away in order to keep it. She is selflessly helping others without expectations. Six years sober, Poster has long realized that service work in recovery can help the giver just as much as the receiver. “We have a purpose in life and it’s helping others,” she said.
You can still join our Holiday Support Series. Here is the remaining schedule.
If you, a family member, or a friend are struggling with addiction and/or mental health issues, Recovery Ways wants to help. We are dually licensed to treat mental health disorders and addiction. Don’t delay seeking treatment because of the holidays. Our admissions coordinators can recommend a plan of action, suggest an interventionist, or speak with your loved one. For more information, please call us at (888) 988-5217.