It has been said before and it will be said again: recovery is a journey.
From our first tentative baby steps in that walk to meaningful sobriety, we peel back the proverbial layers of our soul and we uncover who we truly are–warts and all. During out lifelong journey of sobriety, recovery and discovery of oneself there are those small miracles and blessings that barely make a blip on the radar screen of our present awareness, yet its’ presence itself works its magic and creates profound change.
Those small miracles or blessings are reminders provide those in recovery a focus to keep a positive attitude and keep moving forward despite the obstacles. This deep peace and contentment is known as gratitude, and it is perhaps the most powerful force that shapes our recovery. The best way to channel the power of gratitude in recovery is through the creation of a gratitude list.
Creating a gratitude list in recovery is an effective relapse prevention tool and is an excellent way to give voice to what you truly feel inside. Before you can commit pen and paper and create your own gratitude list in recovery, it is helpful to know what exactly gratitude is and the importance of gratitude in recovery.
When we think of the word gratitude, it immediately invokes deeply spiritual and mystical overtones. Indeed, gratitude provides fertile soil to nurture profound and deep emotions within us–but we can struggle to define this state of being in simple terms. Simply defined, gratitude is an emotion in in which we express a genuine feeling or attitude of appreciation regarding a benefit we have received or are about to receive. To feel gratitude, we acknowledge those things in our life that are truly good. These deeper feelings provide a solid compass to orient us in a positive direction even when life brings unexpected stresses and uncertainty.
Why is Gratitude So Important in Your Recovery?
Truly feeling a deep sense of gratitude is an important component in a strong recovery game.
Why is that?
First and foremost, gratitude reminds you of the good that is present in your life. Even in those moments of barely contained chaos where we get caught up in the grind of daily life, reminding yourself there are people in your life that support and love you brings a deep sense of happiness. Having gratitude can change those obstacles you encounter into opportunities for growth, and you can be grateful for those challenges that are put before you.
Additionally, gratitude is also about thanking others. The simple act of saying thank you or reaching out to a family member or friend shows an appreciation of who they are and what they mean to you. Ultimately, having gratitude reminds you of what is truly important, which is family, friends, health and security, among other things. Ultimately, you must have gratitude towards yourself. It may sound cliché, but it is true—you cannot learn to love, respect and cherish others unless you can do those things for yourself.
Creating a Gratitude List in Recovery: The Basics
Alrighty then….so we have a working definition of gratitude and we understand the importance of gratitude in our recovery–now comes the next step. How do we get from point A to point B and put down onto the written page the gratitude we feel? As already stated, the gratitude list in recovery is an extremely important relapse prevention tool–so how do we start using it?
The following are some basics that will get you going in the right direction.
Get a Notebook…or Use Whatever You Like (Be Creative!)
For starters, buy yourself a spiral notebook that is solely dedicated for your gratitude journaling. It can be either collegiate-ruled or wide-ruled…there are no rules. While you can use a standard-sized notebook, you may also want to consider buying a steno book or a one that can easily fit into a purse or bag. Do you feel artistic? Buy yourself a sketchpad (more on this later). You can even buy a large calendar with large boxes in order to write down your blessings or what you feel grateful for in a particular day. You can even use your Smartphone, iPad or tablet…again, be creative! This is your jam.
Commit To Writing Something Everyday
Having a medium to express your gratitude won’t help you much unless you find some time each and every day to put these feeling down. Whether it is at the beginning of your day as you are having your morning cup of joe, before bed time or anytime in between when you have a few moments to spare, you need to put something down. It can be just a few words in passing or you can go into detail about a specific event or events during your day. Whatever it is…write it down.
Think Outside The Box
Sure, journaling your gratitude is therapeutic and all–but what if you want to flex your artistic and creative muscles? A gratitude list in recovery isn’t exclusively a written black-and-white affair. You can make your gratitude list come alive by using different colored pens or pencils to highlight a particular mood or feeling, or you can add sketches and doodles–whatever strikes your fancy. Giving a bold representation to the gratitude that you feel can make a bigger impression.
Write Something Down – Even If You Aren’t Feeling It
There will be days where you feel meh. Maybe things are going all wrong during your day, or there may be those days where things just fly by and nothing of note jumps out at you. It is still important to write down what goes down in the waking hours, because there may be something that you can be grateful for. Maybe it was a nice sunny day, or maybe you had a killer breakfast at the corner greasy spoon. These may be trivial or silly examples, but you are training your mind to be more acutely aware of your surroundings.
These are just some basic recommendations to get your gratitude list off the ground. It’s your recovery, and you work it how you see fit.