It’s the Season of Gratitude
“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow” – Melody Beattie.
For many of us, 2021 has been a year of challenge and change. As we navigate our own unique recovery journeys, the pandemic has led to increased feelings of isolation, fear, and anxiety, while impacting every aspect of work and life.
That’s why, with Thanksgiving upon us, we wanted to take a few minutes to focus on gratitude. The concept of gratitude is vital during a pandemic when life can feel especially unpredictable.
Gratitude also plays a key role in allowing us to thrive in our recovery. Why? Because practicing daily gratitude provides a deeper connection with ourselves and the world around us. It decreases stress, builds resiliency, and dramatically improves our mental and physical wellness.
Tapping into this powerful mindset can help you solve problems, be more creative, enjoy better sleep, lower blood pressure, and even boost your immune system!
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is defined as “the quality of being thankful, readiness to show appreciation for, and to return kindness.” It’s one of the foundational cornerstones of happiness and optimism. It shifts our focus to what we value, what we can control, and what we can give back to others.
“I’m grateful for learning how to connect with people again after four years of isolation. For finding comfort in honesty, including with myself. For the unconditional emotional support from my peers in recovery that I’ve met in aftercare, on the alumni committee, and in meetings. For the unwavering love and support of family and friends.” – Matt K., Bellwood Alumnus
How can I practice gratitude in my daily life?
Here are a few key tips for infusing your life with more appreciation and thankfulness:
- Keep a gratitude journal. Take a few moments each day to jot down 1-3 things in your life that you’re grateful for. This can include people, pets, places, objects, moments, and successes. As you begin to reflect, you may start to see a pattern emerge which can help you maximize how you spend your time. By journaling your gratitude daily, it will become a habit, and a new healthy coping skill in your recovery toolbox.
- Spread the word. Think about the people that have made an impact in your life and share your gratitude with them either verbally or in a letter.In expressing what they did and what it meant to you, be sincere and specific. Being kind to loved ones, friends, and strangers is a testament to the powerful life transformation you’ve experienced and allows you to spread positivity.
- Stay connected. Feeling socially connected is one of the single most important aspects of recovery. It builds resiliency and reduces stress by allowing us to share our feelings with a support network. Tapping into a recovery network can be especially helpful as it increases accountability and expands our access to resources.
- Pay it forward. When you have a strong sense of gratitude, you grow your capacity to give to others. There are plenty of ways to be generous each day but recognizing these opportunities takes effort and attention. Reach out to someone in a 12-step meeting who you feel may be struggling. Hold the door open or pay a compliment to a stranger when you buy your morning coffee. Small acts of kindness can go a long way.
- Reframe challenges as opportunities. Life is full of challenges, many of which can teach us valuable lessons. Throughout your recovery, you’ve most likely learned life lessons that have changed you for the better. Give yourself some credit for how you managed to endure through tough times. Ask yourself what you’ve learned this week, month, or year. This is a great way to practice gratitude and reflect on your own personal growth.
“I’m grateful for all the opportunities that have come into my life by working the program one day at a time. For waking up every morning looking forward to the day. For the many amazing people I’ve met throughout my journey.” – Leslie B., Bellwood Alumnus
Staying grounded in gratitude during the holidays
Holiday gatherings can bring connection and joy but can also present many triggers for us folks in recovery. Here are a few tips for protecting yourself and your recovery as we head into the Thanksgiving weekend:
- Set healthy boundaries. Boundaries are essential to communicating your needs. This can mean not engaging with a family member who makes you feel bad about yourself or walking away from conversations that are insensitive. If a family member asks why you’re not drinking and you don’t feel comfortable sharing your story, a simple “no thanks” or “I have to drive” will do.
- Practice self care. Self care can come in many forms, whether it’s walking the dog to get some fresh air, listening to music that makes you happy, baking something for the first time, meditating for a few minutes, ending your night with a lavender scented bath, whatever helps to calm and centre you. Plan ahead and build a little self-care toolbox before the event.
- Have a buddy system. If you find family gatherings to be especially triggering, invite a supportive friend or make sure they’re available to communicate by phone. This can also help with accountability.Reach out to your recovery peers to ask what’s worked for them in navigating stressful family events.
- Offer to pitch in. Distract yourself by rolling up your sleeves and participate in preparing the meal or cleaning up after dinner. Offering to help out in the kitchen is a great way to bond and build trust. As a bonus, keeping busy may prevent you from getting cornered into stressful conversations.
- Tap into your gratitude. Thanksgiving is centered around giving thanks for life’s many gifts. Your recovery has given you something to be thankful for and incredibly proud of. Allow yourself a moment to be grateful for what you’ve achieved. This reminder fosters feelings of hopefulness and encourages a continued commitment to recovery.
- Start new traditions if needed. If you’re genuinely concerned that an upcoming holiday family gathering may jeopardize your recovery, start your own traditions. Arrange a sober get together with recovery peers, visit a pumpkin patch, or attend a local meeting.Remember that it’s ok to put yourself and your recovery first.
“I’m grateful to wake up every morning and not think about using. For spending quality time with my kids again. For having my appetite back and feeling motivated to go to the gym. I tell myself that if I improve only 1% each week, I’ll be 52% better in a year!” – Arif J., Bellwood Alumnus