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Maybe this post should be called, “Practicing Gratitude in Recovery”, since this is a recovery website. But practicing gratitude isn’t only beneficial for those of us in recovery and, furthermore, it has the power to potentially lead someone who’s struggling into recovery. The bottom line is that we can all benefit from a little gratitude in our lives. It just feels good, and it can help us shift our focus to what we’re grateful for right this very minute which we don’t tend to do very often. This simple little perspective shift can give us the will get out of bed in the morning and actually want to make positive changes in our lives.
A solid gratitude practice is also good for our health. It floods our brain with that feel good chemical called dopamine that we love so much, helps us sleep better, reduces anxiety and depression, and a whole bunch of other good stuff. So, if something feels great and is really good for us, why is it so hard sometimes to feel grateful, particularly when things in our lives aren’t going well, and even when they are?
Many addicts are prone to catastrophizing. Our so-called monkey minds go on autopilot, over-analyzing every little thing we possibly can, sometimes even searching for things that are. We don’t always trust it when things in our lives are going well and this can lead to a subconscious need to find something – anything. Weird, right? And this strange mindset which can be pretty typical addict thinking is generally a big part of what led us to drugs, alcohol, and other addictive behaviors. Of course, these are only generalizations and not every addict is created equal, but we do tend to have some similar patterns of behavior. Just sayin’. So, for an addict, practicing gratitude can be a literal life saver and keep us from relapsing. But, once again, it’s great for anyone. Our heads are so polluted with news about all the bad things happening in the world, modern society telling us we need more stuff to be happy, and the list goes on. So, now that we’ve jabbered on about why gratitude is so awesome, here are 10 little tricks to help you get into the habit of practicing it regularly, all while shifting your mindset:
- Meditate. Meditation can help get us into the present moment which is a great way to gain clarity. It’s one of the best ways to begin the day and start with a clean slate, quieting that monkey mind of ours. The is the perfect headspace from which to embrace an attitude of gratitude. If you’re new to meditation, there’s a great intro on meditation basics here, and these guys also make a really cool meditation app. Or, simply do an online search on how to meditate and you’ll find endless links. Meditation has become extremely popular in recent years and it’s an awesome trend. You should have no trouble finding a practice that resonates as there are many different forms to choose from.
- Write a daily gratitude list. This doesn’t need to take more than five or ten minutes out of your day, but its ability to completely shift your perspective is pretty mind-blowing. Just thinking about the things we’re grateful for is, of course, highly beneficial but there’s something about putting pen to paper that makes the act of getting into gratitude that much more impactful. It makes our gratitude practice more active as opposed to just having passive thoughts, and it also gives us a way to go back through our days to remind ourselves of what we’re grateful for if we’re ever in a negative headspace. Also, sometimes just the act of writing the list can help us turn negatives into positives.
- Start your day with a positive intention. This is such an awesome way to hit the ground running from the minute you begin your day. Maybe your positive intention is to not complain for the entire day. It sounds simple, but we dare you to try it. Or, maybe your positive intention is to compliment everyone you interact with today, including your coffee barista, accountant, and of course your friends. These are just a couple of ideas. You choose the intention, but whatever it is, make sure it’s something that you wouldn’t normally do so you can observe how it changes your whole mood. Positivity is contagious. This one intention, whatever it is, may seem small, but watch how this little feel good thing can just snowball into an epic day. You’ll make people smile, and this will put a smile on your face, and the cycle will just continue, making it impossible NOT to be grateful for, like, everything.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Ah, the benefits of a good night’s sleep. You’ve heard about these benefits before, but do you know just how much they can impact your ability to be happy? And, in turn, grateful? It’s easy to go down a rabbit hole of doom and gloom if we haven’t had enough food, human interaction, or sleep. These three things are like the trifecta of goodness (or gloominess if we don’t get enough of them).
- Eat healthy. Yep, this kinda goes hand in hand with the above. A good night’s sleep, human connection, and a healthy diet. Filling our bodies up with nourishing foods is a great way to not only stay healthy but to keep our dopamine levels high. And we’ve already covered why dopamine is awesome. Healthy food makes us feel good and gives us more energy than over-indulging on processed food, sweets, and other stuff that’s not so good for us. Sure, treat yourself from time to time but by sticking to a MOSTLY healthy diet, you’ll find it much easier to keep that vibe of yours high and stay in gratitude.
- Exercise. Once again, this kinda goes hand in hand (in hand) with 4 and 5, and you probably don’t need a whole lot of explaining with this one, but yes, dopamine is partly responsible. On top of it all, exercising gives you the energy to do more feel good things, and doing feel good things helps you stay, you guessed it, grateful!
- Practice random acts of kindness. This is a fun one, and it can really make someone’s day (including yours). It can be as simple as buying the person’s coffee in line behind you at your local coffee shop, or, if you live in Bali, filling up someone’s motorbike tank behind you at the gas station which won’t cost you much. It’s even more fun if the person has no idea what you did until you’ve already left, because they’ll know you weren’t looking for praise or attention. You were just being your awesome, gracious, generous self. It also doesn’t need to cost you anything. You can email a friend you haven’t talked to in ages just to tell them how awesome they are and that you’re thinking about them. Or send your mom a card via good old fashioned mail. For no reason. Random acts of kindness get us out of our own heads and focused on others which definitely helps our gratitude levels big time. It’s also just fun.
- Last but certainly not least, be nice to YOU. It’s so easy for us to get down on ourselves for things that aren’t really a big deal. We’re all perfectly imperfect humans just trying to do life the best we can, and being nice to ourselves is where it all starts. Then we have so much more of ourselves to give to the world, and usually being nice to ourselves means we need to already be in a state of gratitude, so it’s a surefire way to flip the script and say to ourselves, “hey, I’m awesome, and I’m grateful for my awesomeness!”
When the weight of the world feels so heavy on our shoulders, gratitude can really help us turn things around. The funny thing is that we’re not physically changing anything. We’re just shifting our mindset. What we find over time, however, is that the shift in mindset that comes from positive practices like getting into gratitude ultimately does create the space for real change to take place in our lives. The right people are drawn to us and the right situations start to appear, and when we feel better, we’re usually more productive. Not to mention the health benefits that can give us the energy and focus to accomplish more and create lives for ourselves that we’re excited to get up and live. So go ahead, try practicing some gratitude. It’ll make you cry (good tears), it’ll make giggle, it might even make you dance, and we promise it’ll brighten your day.
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