Addiction recovery is a long and winding journey. There are moments when the recovery process will seem like a stroll in the park, at other times it will feel like a daunting expedition. This is why it is important to incorporate practices into your life that will help you along the way. One of the most important and effective practices is gratitude…
“Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist and death camp survivor
Being grateful for the things you have on any given day is arguably the most important factor when it comes to leading a happy life. There are so many people who walk around each day focused on the negative things that happen – a long line at Starbucks, or traffic on the way to work – and literally forget to stop and smell the roses.
Being aware of, and taking the time to appreciate, the small blessings that we experience each day is an integral part of being happy, minimising stress, and building a solid foundation on which to achieve success in addiction recovery.
Practicing Gratitude in Addiction Recovery
Being grateful for the little things in life may seem self-explanatory, but so many people overlook it on a regular basis. This is why we have outlined a few simple things you can do to begin incorporating gratitude into your life.
1. Keep a gratitude journal
Get yourself a new notebook. Decorate the cover if you are feeling creative. Then, each day take a few moments to write down at least two things that you are grateful for on that day. Write as many and as much as you want, especially if you are having a particularly glorious day, but make sure that two is your minimum. This exercise will help you think outside the box and enhance your ability to identify things that you can be grateful for, especially on a ‘bad’ day.
This practice may seem difficult at first, but remember that you can be grateful for anything — big or small. You may want to include the beautiful flower garden you saw on your walk to work, a warm and sunny day, or a rainbow after the storm or catching up with a friend. Anything you can think of that made you feel happy and grateful to be alive, or anything that you are thankful to have in your life is something that you can include in your gratitude journal. If you find yourself struggling for ideas, there are many websites that offer suggestions on questions to ask yourself, to help come up with things to write down.
When you are feeling down, read over your gratitude journal and remember all of the things that you are or have recently been grateful for. Not only will this cultivate positivity on an otherwise bad day, it is a great way to help prevent relapse by reminding you that life really is beautiful.
2. Practice mindfulness in everything you do
Whether you are washing the dishes, taking the dog for a walk, or working on a project at work, do so mindfully. This means fully focusing on the task at-hand, and clearing your mind of wandering thoughts. Feel the coolness of the water on your hands as you wash the dishes, focus on the sounds of nature as you take your dog for a walk, or remove all possible distractions while you are working.
Practicing mindfulness will help keep your mind from wandering towards the situations in your life that you feel are negative, or the problems you feel that you need to solve. It gives you the opportunity to appreciate and be grateful for each and every moment of your day, for what it is.
Mindfulness can also help calm your mind when you are presented with a stressful situation, allowing you to make a logical, informed decision instead of one formed purely by reacting to your emotions.
3. Embrace imperfection.
Nobody in this world is perfect. However, people have a strange way of focusing more on the things they have done less than perfectly rather than on the things they have done well. Especially for those who are in addiction recovery, there may be days where you feel that you are not living up to your own expectations. Perhaps you could not stop thinking about having a drink, or you did not make time for your recovery meeting that day.
Instead of beating yourself up over the things you ‘did poorly,’ be grateful for the things that you did well that day. Then use these positive feelings to encourage yourself to focus more fully on your addiction recovery plan.
4. Keep a positive mindset
Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, and named by the Watkins Review as the most spiritually influential person in the world, once said:
“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.”
In other words, life will throw situations at you that are out of your control, but you can control how you react to them. Imagine yourself sitting in a restaurant where service is slow and your food is taking a very long time to arrive. Instead of getting angry and impatient, be grateful for the fact that you can afford to dine out and that you have the time to do so. Keeping a positive spin on your situation in times like this will change your entire outlook on life.
Benefits of Gratitude in Addiction Recovery
Something that those in addiction recovery can be grateful for each day is their sobriety. Appreciating how far you have come, as well as all the other little things that you are blessed with daily will put you in the proper mindset to meet otherwise negative situations with positivity. You will be able to conquer obstacles calmly instead of allowing setbacks to derail your addiction recovery progress and set you up for relapse.
By incorporating the above tips to bring gratitude into your daily life, you are setting yourself up for a long and healthy life in recovery. However, if you are having trouble finding things to be grateful for and are slipping towards relapse, be sure to reach out to someone you trust as soon as possible.
Whether it be a sponsor, your addiction counsellor, a good friend or a loved one, the only way to ensure that addiction does not get its hold on you once again is to reach out and share how you feel. Do not be afraid to ask for help. In the meantime, make sure that you take a moment to ‘stop and smell the roses.’ You will be amazed at how quickly a bit of positivity and gratitude in your day can change your life for the better.
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