Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude in Recovery
The New Year is here. Happy 2017! Like most people, this time of year has got us thinking about setting intentions for the year ahead, forming goals and resolutions to better ourselves to make 2017 our best year yet.
Save more money, spend more time with friends and family, be more vulnerable, eat healthier and the plethora of other targets to set our sights on – are all worthy goals. However, by thinking about the things we want and getting lost in the race to achieve them, we often forget the importance of taking stock of what we have and being thankful for it.
Enter gratitude. Gratitude by definition means “the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful” or “the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Living with an attitude of gratitude is essential for happiness, a healthy emotional view of the self and others, and a successful recovery from addiction.
Those in active addiction, oftentimes display negative attitudes that are self-centred, depressed and mired in resentment. They blame others because they feel their life is unsatisfying or not enough. What is absent in this way of thinking is gratitude and this lack of thankfulness only adds to the unhappiness they feel.
To change one’s toxic behaviours once and for all, a shift of the mind and one’s perspective is necessary. Really, anyone who incorporates a practice of gratitude benefits from the healing powers of positive thinking.
While negativity fuels the disease of addiction, gratitude nurtures recovery by nudging us in the direction of hope and positivity. We all experience fleeting moments of gratitude but we can also make a conscious effort to cherish those moments and help multiply them by practicing an attitude of gratitude. And yes, gratitude can be learned.
Living a life of thanks may be the one resolution you make this year which can alter everything else for the better. Here’s why you should cultivate an attitude of gratitude:
Gratitude reminds you of the positive things in your life
Rather than dwelling on what you don’t have, an attitude of gratitude channels your energy into recognizing what you do have. The people in your life, the roof over your head, the shoes on your feet, the sight that enables you to read this – all of these simple blessings – are just that, blessings.
Gratitude turns bad things into good things
Are you stressed out work? Be grateful that you have a job, that life isn’t boring and life is bringing you challenges that you can learn from. Be thankful that overcoming these challenges and tackling them head on makes you a stronger, more adept person.
Gratitude reminds you of what is essentially important
Its difficult to complain about little things when you’re being thankful for your children’s health, a beautiful sunset, or waking up to another day on this earth. It’s difficult to stress out over paying utility bills when you are grateful that you have shelter from the elements, warmth from the cold and a place for you and your family to rest safely at night.
Gratitude reminds you to say thank you to others
Saying ‘thank you’ to someone can make an immense difference in their life. Whether you call, email or pay a visit to say ‘thank you’ for a specific act of kindness or quality possessed by someone else, this simple gesture can do wonders for making people around you feel valued and appreciated. By taking a few seconds to say ‘thank you’ for something they have done, you can turn a person’s day from ho-hum to awesome. They feel happy and in turn, you do too.
So how do you incorporate gratitude into your daily life? It’s a matter of shifting your mindset and making a conscious effort to practice being grateful. Like recovery itself, developing an attitude of gratitude is a process that takes time and patience.
Gratitude is not dependent on how much money you make or how many material possessions you have. Whether you are rich or poor you can be grateful. To be thankful requires a positive outlook of hope and a change in how we perceive the world. It is also humbling because it forces us truly see our situation for what it is and be constructive with our behaviours as a result.
Being grateful to be clean and sober is motivation for someone in addiction recovery to continue because they see the benefits of their recovery. They want to protect their sobriety accordingly. Gratitude opens the door for humility, truth, and hope, all of which are essential for anyone looking to recover from addictive behaviours.
How to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude
Start a Gratitude Journal
Like a diary, a gratitude journal allows you to record on a daily basis all the things that you are grateful for. Consistency is key. You should record that which you are thankful for daily. Start small, making note of 3 to 5 things that you are grateful for but take the time to truly think about these things and be specific when you write them down.
Rather than simply saying I’m grateful for my health – get detailed about it, like “I am grateful for my ability to walk without crutches or braces” or “I am grateful that I have the strength and coordination to participate in the sports that I love” – that kind of thing. By focusing on specific things in our lives that we have to be grateful for, we are also learning to hone in on the little things that we often take for granted.
As your daily practice of journaling continues and evolves, you’ll find that your lists will also grow and get longer as well because everything else is in proper perspective.
Make a Gratitude Call
Take time out of your week to pick up the phone or send a note to someone who you are grateful for and let them know it. When saying thank you to someone for their act of kindness, whether it is a specific incident you recall, a favour they did, or words of encouragement they shared – you acknowledge how wonderful their presence is in your life. It also makes them feel valued and does wonders for strengthening your relationship. Happiness and gratitude are contagious.
Say a Prayer of Thanks
Whatever your beliefs may be, taking the time to take stock of the things you have to be grateful for and acknowledging them out loud or in your mind, forces you to do just that – say thanks for the things you do have. By developing a habit of ‘praying’ or saying thanks at the end of the day – you consciously practice being grateful for all that occurred in your day. There are numerous gratitude prayers on the web, google one – whether you lean towards the religious or agnostic side of things. Gratitude is a practice that truly does benefit all.
Do something for Others
During active addiction, addicts are typically self absorbed and commonly narcissistic. Humility is an essential part of any recovery program because it promotes gratitude and stimulates the desire to help others. Helping those who need it is far more rewarding a feeling than any drug can provide. Thus, taking the focus off of one’s self and finding a sense of purpose through volunteer work is a great way to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. It helps us recognize that we can affect change, that we are lucky to have that which we have, and that there are people who are thankful for our existence and actions because we’ve chosen to help.
Shift Your Mindset
In recovery, we make the choice every day to give up one way of life and embrace another. It is up to us to remember all the opportunities that our recovery has opened up for us – another shot at life, another beautiful day. Rather than dwelling on things that addiction has taken away, gratitude helps us choose a mindset of abundance where we have empathy, compassion, honesty, and ourselves to offer to others openly and hopefully.