Gratitude is one of the most important qualities for happiness, acting as a gateway to a healthier emotional view of yourself and the world. People in recovery often struggle to practice gratitude, partly because it works entirely different muscles in the brain than active addiction.
Like addiction, though, gratitude can be self-perpetuating. The regular practice of gratitude gives a person new reverence for life itself, opening them up to new feelings and experiences, which in turn open the door to more gratitude, and so on.
Below are three ways to spark and maintain gratitude in your everyday life.
Be Cool with Imperfection
Many people make the mistake of believing that if they focus their mental energy on all that is lacking or in need of improvement in their lives, they’re living more honestly than those who think everything is always rosy. Not true! Maintaining gratitude allows a person to more clearly see the truth of his or her situation.
And the truth is this: You are not perfect, but you have a lot to be proud of.
Embracing this truth often helps you to face life’s challenges head-on, without wasting time on self-pity, blame, or resentment. As The Power of Now author, Eckhart Tolle advises, “Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.” By quickly accepting the present moment, gratefully, you can get on with doing your best to meet the challenge that the present moment contains.
Staying mindful—that is, staying conscious, aware, alive to possibility—is essential not only to maintaining gratitude but to a lasting recovery from addiction. Mindfulness allows for more constructive, less self-centered behavior because when you spend your energy looking outward instead of inward, you can grow on in ways you never would have imagined.
On the other hand, without mindfulness, it’s very easy to fall back into old patterns of negative thought, which in turn can lead to isolation, which in turn can lead to relapse.
Keep a gratitude journal
This may call to mind images of sensitive scribes writing poetic descriptions of every flower they see, but keeping a daily gratitude journal is a highly effective way to practice gratitude. And one of the great things about keeping a gratitude journal (there’s no rule saying you have to call it that) is that after a few weeks you can look over what you’ve written and get a quick pick-me-up on, especially difficult days.
It may seem difficult at first, trying to come up with stuff you’re grateful for. Don’t limit yourself to “the unwavering support of loved ones” or your health, though those are perfectly nice things to be grateful for. Inspiration can be found literally everywhere: a cup of coffee, a song on the radio, a good night’s sleep. Try to think of stuff that makes you laugh or smile, or shake your head at what a strange, beautiful world we live in.
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Chris Clancy is the in-house Content Manager for JourneyPure’s Digital Marketing team, where he gets to explore a wide variety of substance abuse- and mental health-related topics. He has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist and researcher, with strong working knowledge of hospital systems, health insurance, content strategy, and public relations. He lives in Nashville with his wife and two kids.