Why Gratitude Keeps You Sober
"Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude" -Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you have been sober for a couple of days so far, chances are you have heard someone say the word 'grateful' in a sentence.
If you have been sober for 1-2 weeks, chances are you have heard the word grateful used in so many sentences you feel overwhelmed by the word and are starting to question whether 'grateful' is a substitute for a word other than 'grateful'.
Gratitude is thrown around a lot in recovery. You hear the hard-core sober men and women say: "Get off your pity-pot and get in gratitude." You hear gratitude is a necessary component of sobriety," and "Write a gratitude list when you get in your head."
Why does everyone talk about gratitude so often?
Because gratitude isscientifically proven to take the focus away from your struggles, shortcomings, and misfortunes, and redirect them to the goodness in your life (source).
So, what is gratitude exactly?
Why is feeling 'warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received' a pillar of sobriety? Because through humility, we find grace despite our chaotic alcoholism and addiction. We are humble to embrace our powerlessness over alcohol and drugs. We are humble to realize that we are not the center of the universe. We are humble to realize that we have caused pain in our own lives and the lives of others because of our disease, and we humble ourselves to apologize for our part.
Once we put down the drink and/or drugs, things noticeably get better outwardly; it becomes easy to get wrapped up in the 'things' sobriety gives us and we rearrange our priorities, placing things above our sobriety. The funny thing about our disease, though, is that it resides in our brain. Right between our ears and directly behind our eyeballs.
So we get the 'things' and we de-prioritize our sobriety, but our heads are still spinning. We become preoccupied with our thoughts and our desires, and we feel that we are entitled to the things we've been given for whatever reason. Before we even recognize the severity of situation, alcoholism and addiction has taken over our brain and convinced us that we don't have a problem and drinking or using normally is possible. In 6 months, maybe even a couple of years, we end up right back in rehab trying to get sober all over again.
What we fail to recognize is that sobriety and recovery have given us everything we have from the shoes on our feet to that new-found confidence we feel in our stride.
Gratitude keeps us humble. Gratitude keeps us sober.
The question that now remains is: "How do we stay in gratitude?"
3 Ways to Remain in Gratitude
Gratitude lists are one of the most powerful ways to remain in gratitude.
A gratitude list is a group of bullet points with things, feelings, people, or places for which you are grateful.
Here's my gratitude list for the day:
- I woke up this morning
- My sobriety
- I didn't allow my anxiety to take over this morning
- I have clothes to wear and shoes for my feet
- I go to do something special for a friend
- I have a job, and one I am truly passionate about at that
- I work with my best friends and family
- I have had quite a packed week thus far, all things that have been given to me because of my sobriety
- The Universe as my higher power
- The beautiful orchids on my desk
- My bright office wall, giving me a little perk every morning
- I could keep going on forever
Tips for writing your gratitude list:
- Avoid numbering your gratitude; it's not about how many gratefuls you can provide, but rather the quality of gratefuls you list
- If you want to keep your gratitude list with you all day, I recommend getting the Gratitude Journal app from the iTunes store; you can add pictures, sounds, and more!
- The best way to be held accountable for remaining in gratitude is to set up a 'deal' with one of your friends, you each send 5 gratefuls in the morning or before bed. Staying grateful with someone else is very powerful!
- Writing your gratitude list in the morning is a great way to start the day off on a positive note
'Thank You' Letters
'Thank You' letters may seem like a practice of the past, since we have text messages and SnapChat these days, but there is something extremely personal and touching about a hand-written note.
You don't have to spend a lot of money for stationary, nor do you have to get a beautiful card from the convenient store, all you need is a piece of blank paper and envelopes.
Some of the most touching 'Thank You' cards I have ever received were on blank paper, with simple words from the heart.
Thank you letters give you the opportunity to share your gratitude for a particular person, situation, or thing, without sending an impersonal text message. Personally, when I'm writing a 'Thank You' card, I get the warm and fuzzies.
Tips for writing thank you letters:
- You can get blank copy paper from Staples for $7 or a pad of lined paper for $3-$4.
- Or, you can get an 8 pack of 'Thank You' cards for $2 from Walmart
- Write from the heart. You don't have to follow a format, and you don't have to be all mushy. Write what you feel!
- Make sure you spell the recipient's name right
"We are prepared for insults, but compliments leave us baffled," -Mason Cooley
Remember the last time you received a compliment from someone? How did it make you feel? Aside from the social anxiety and awkwardness you experienced from just speaking with a human being (I say that because I've been there), it probably felt pretty good, huh?
Giving a compliment feels just as good as getting one.
If you like someone's hairstyle, tell them. If someone is extremely sweet and it made your heart smile, tell them. If you find something that catches your eye, and you have something positive to say about it, just say it.
The quickest way to appreciate the life you live, is by sending out words of appreciation.