What are you grateful for today? Now there’s a question that makes you stop and think. Not only that, it’s an instant perspective changer. Let’s dig into how gratitude is awesome and how it can help not only your recovery but the recovery of those around you.
What is Gratitude and How Will It Help Your Recovery?
You hear a lot of talk about what gratitude is and how it can positively contribute to your recovery and your life in general. Even though it’s a simple notion, it’s not always easy. We get caught up in our day-to-day and being more grateful is something that easily falls to the wayside. What does it even mean to be grateful? We love this definition from Dan Mager, MSW on Psychology Today:
“Gratitude is about feeling and expressing appreciation: for all we’ve received, all that we have (however little it may be), and for all that has not befallen us. It functions as an antidote for attachment to what we want but don’t have and aversion to what we have but don’t want. Gratitude is the opposite of being discontented.”
Benefits of Inviting Gratitude Into Your Recovery
Having an “attitude of gratitude” is good for you. That much we know to be true. But did you know that gratitude can actually change your brain? As it turns out, there have been many studies done to prove just that.
Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at UC Davis, has been researching gratitude for almost twenty years. He says that keeping a gratitude list is something that people don’t generally stick to for more than three weeks at a time. However, in a study of more than a thousand people who practiced gratitude daily, the results were overwhelming. He found that people who practice gratitude daily reported consistent physical, psychological, and social benefits.
• Stronger immune systems
• Less bothered by aches and pains
• Lower blood pressure
• Exercise more and take better care of their health
• Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
• Higher levels of positive emotions
• Increased alertness
• More joy and pleasure
• Increased optimism and overall happiness
• Helpful, generous, and compassionate
• More forgiving and outgoing
• Feel less lonely and isolated
How to Implement Gratitude Every Single Day
Welcome a Newcomer at Your Next Meeting
Some people might argue that going to meetings is really only helpful in very early recovery. While it’s definitely an essential part of the early recovery process (there is a reason 90 meetings in 90 days has become one of the go-to sayings of AA and NA) there are still a ton of benefits for the old-timer. Reaching out to a newcomer is a great way to support someone else’s recovery which in turn contributes to yours.
“Seeing people with long-term sobriety gave me so much hope and still does. It shows me this stuff works long-term if we remain willing and keep coming back.” – Kathy
The next time you go to a meeting, talk to someone who looks like they’re struggling or only has a few days clean. Don’t know what to say? Open the conversation by just asking them how they’ve been doing. You can also take it out of meetings by texting at least one person in the program every day.
Whenever You Have Time, Meditate
Meditate. In the morning, on your lunch break, after work, before bed. Anytime of the day that you can take a moment to breathe and clear your mind.
“Take two moments.. however long, depends. To meditate, to feel sounds, smell and just breathe. Twice a day I do this to center myself and to plug into my God as I believe.” – Callie
Write a Gratitude List
Starting your day seeking things to be grateful for and adding them to your gratitude list will promote happiness, keep you in a positive frame of mind, improve your health, and motivate you to stay on track with your recovery.
“I focus on what I DO have not what I don’t and I try to look for the positives in any situation. So, if I’m sitting in traffic I try to stop and be thankful for the car, the gas in my car, the a/c that works in my car.” – Brit, TDH Alumni
Call Your Friends or Family Just to “Check In”
When is the last time you called a family member or friend just to check in? During your recovery (especially during the beginning) you are going to lean on your people for support, guidance, and a shoulder to cry on. It’s the best feeling in the world to be able to return that love. Give your friends and family a call just to say hello. It will show them that you need them, not just in your moments of crisis, but all the time.
“Checking in on loved ones is a great way to show gratitude. Better yet, buying dinner or something for a friend for no reason is one of my favorite ways to do that.” Dan, TDH Alumni
Ask Your Sponsor How They Are Doing
A sponsor is there for you to make navigating recovery a little bit easier. When you have questions that need to be answered, fears to be calmed, or reality that needs a check, they are there for you. Having someone on your side who has a deeper understanding of recovery and what it takes to maintain long-term recovery is amazing. But don’t think for one second that your sponsor has it easy. We all have our troubles. All of us need support and in recovery the work never ends no matter how much time you have. When you’re ready and willing, ask your sponsor how they are doing. It will mean a lot to them and it will help you exercise empathy.
“Thanking the old timers is wonderful but don’t forget to ask them if everything is okay. Time doesn’t mean we don’t have problems any more.” – Robert
Never Stop Learning About Recovery and Life
There is a saying in AA:
When your head begins to swell your mind stops growing.
Often in early recovery, people get really excited. And they get preachy. Which is totally understandable because they just figured out how to live life without substances. But some people take it too far and begin to close their minds. They think they’ve figured it all out and there is nothing more to learn. Don’t even get us started on the slew of AA/NA sayings about ego.
It doesn’t matter how much time you have in recovery, you will never be all-knowing. There is always something to learn.
They key to gratitude is merely being aware. It’s essentially a form of self-awareness. Be humble and always aim to remain teachable.
“I can only remain reachable when I keep my heart and my mind open, when I remember to listen and really hear what another person is saying without letting my own thoughts jump in, and when I take a step back and explore the possibility that trying something new may help keep my program fresh.” – Amy