An attitude of gratitude can change your life. Giving thanks for things that have happened to you and all the positive things you have and experience can give you strength and can serve to bolster your addiction recovery efforts.
It’s easy to be grateful for the good things in your life, but you may be surprised to learn that giving thanks for the bad things that have happened to you can be helpful, too.
Bad things happen to all of us. As someone in recovery, you may have had more than your fair share of bad experiences in your lifetime. However, looking back upon them as learning experiences, rather than as negative things you’d like to put behind you, will flip the script on the way you view these things, and will help you on your path.
Read on to learn about the ways that expressing gratitude – for both the good and the bad – will give you strength.
Gratitude for Good
We are all reminded to give thanks at Thanksgiving time each year, but it’s crucial that you do so throughout the rest of the year, too. Studies have shown that giving gratitude is not just a good practice, but that it is actually also good for your mental, emotional, and physical health.
There have been hundreds of studies on gratitude over the years and the benefits in all aspects of life are numerous and clear. A review of over forty studies on the topic found that a gratitude practice can improve an individual’s happiness in five main areas. First, recognizing and remembering what you are grateful for can improve your emotional well-being by making you more relaxed, more resilient, less envious, and fostering more good feelings within you overall. It can improve your social well-being by encouraging you to be more social and more kind, and by helping you to develop deeper, more meaningful relationships with others.
Once you start practicing gratitude on a regular basis, you may soon see personality improvements as well. You may find that you become less materialistic, and less self-centered, while experiencing higher levels of self-esteem, optimism, and spiritual connection. In turn, you may find that your career improves as well; workers that are grateful for what they have reach their goals more easily, are better at decision-making, and are more productive than those who aren’t.
Most of all, once you establish a gratitude practice, you will likely experience health benefits, too. People who value gratitude in their lives tend to sleep better, get sick less frequently, have more energy, and live longer.
That’s a lot of benefits! Clearly, there are lots of reasons to count your blessings and to be actively grateful for every single one.
Gratitude for Bad
As stated above, it’s easy to give thanks for the good things in your life. It’s simple to reflect on the good things that happen to you each day and mentally (or verbally) list them and feel joy. You might be grateful for your job, your friends, your family, your health, or your success on your recovery journey. It’s good and healthy to feel gratitude for all of these things, certainly.
However, it’s also vital that you give thanks for the bad things that have happened and do happen to you as well. Staying positive and thankful in light of these things is much more difficult, but as you surely know, sometimes life’s most difficult challenges are also the most rewarding in the end.
By giving thanks for the bad in your life, you will appreciate the good even more. You will be able to fully grasp and understand the learning experiences that often come from the bad things that happen because of you and to you. You will begin to see that you are capable of bouncing back from anything and of going on with your life after even the worst and darkest times. And most of all, if you begin to look at the negative things in your life in a positive way, you will begin to fear misfortune less in the future.
How to Cultivate Gratitude
It’s important that you actively make an effort to consciously express gratitude for both good and bad on a regular, if not daily, basis. It’s good to just think about the things you are thankful for as you move through your life, but if you do so with intent as a practice, you will reap the greatest benefits.
There are a number of ways you can cultivate gratitude for good and bad things in your life in an intentional way.
- Write thank you notes. When something or someone has had a positive effect on you, write a note of thanks. In some cases, you will deliver these notes to an actual person, but in other cases, the event or situation to which you write the note can be somewhat abstract. When you write it to a person, that person will in turn be grateful for your gratitude, which is great. If you write a note of thanks to an abstract concept, you can understand it better and further integrate it into your being more easily.
- List five things a day. Before you go to bed, or when you wake up in the morning, list five things for which you are grateful. You can do this in your mind or write them down; either will work well as long as you do it on a consistent basis. Challenge yourself by making at least one of the five something bad that you experienced that you are now grateful for. Don’t just list the thing – also explain to yourself why you are grateful for it.
- Journal. Journaling is a wonderful practice for so many reasons, but one of them is noticing patterns in your behavior and in your life. If you are having trouble coming up with things for which you are grateful, review your daily entry and past entries and look for things that are important to you.
- Verbally thank others. As a child, you were taught to say thank you when someone did something nice for you, and hopefully you still always remember to do so. It’s a good habit to say thanks, but remember to really mean it when you say it. Don’t just say it out of habit and forget about it. Take time to reflect on the good deeds of others and the ways they have effected you positively – even the seemingly little things.
- Like journaling, there are so many good reasons to meditate, but one of them is that it will help you to develop the quality of mindfulness. When you are mindful, you are more aware of the way you are effected by the world around you. Through close observation, you will be better able to grasp the things that you are grateful for. This works with both the good and the bad.
A grateful life is a good life, and once you begin giving thanks regularly for both the good and the bad, you will begin to reap the benefits right away. Remembering to give thanks for both the good and bad things that happen to you, you will soon become a much stronger person in all aspects of your life, and this will help give you resilience on your path to a life free of alcohol and drugs.
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