By: Lulu Sveen, LSW
In a meditation one morning, I was told “today is the first day that you will experience like this as well as the last day you’ll experience like this”. This couldn’t be more spot on and really gave me an idea to think on. Today’s experiences might be similar to something we have experienced before but each day brings differences. No two days are similar. Within this is where you can find gratitude.
Gratitude is recognizing moments for what they are (and what they are not) and appreciating their value to you and others. Its also sharing and reciprocating the gratitude you have. Sharing the gratitude is just as important as recognizing it. As human beings, we tend to walk through life by simply going through the motions – going through our days without appreciating the moments that we’ve experienced. This causes lapses in recognizing the fulfilment that life can bring. Gratitude can be in moments big and small. When those big and small moments combine- that’s when life is recognized as full.
Finding a practice of gratitude is especially important for those in recovery. When you’ve come from the deep depths that addiction can bring you, as you’re digging yourself out of that despair, recognizing the small wins in life can make all the difference. Life experiences are meant to be lived and appreciated – the good and the bad. By acknowledging those moments that might seem minimal in the moment but can be monumental in the long run, we open the doors to see the beauty of what every moment has to offer. You never know where life will bring you and those moments that once seemed minimal add up to create big changes. Starting a life in recovery is scary and tough – but shining a light on those wins creates the ability to keep trudging the road.
This is a wonderful day, I have never seen this one before.Maya Angelou
Its especially important to build a gratitude practice from the beginning. It takes time to retrain the brain to think with an attitude of gratitude. Its easier to focus on the difficult situations, the areas that irritate you, the areas that make you sad, the areas that cause distress because those emotions are so strong. But what if the opposites of those emotions became your new foundation? By starting and ending your day with a practice of gratitude – you’re retraining your brain and emotions to focus on the good. Now this doesn’t mean ignore the bad. It means to acknowledge situations for what they are and finding the aspects where you can grow versus be brought down. For example, I have lost both my parents and that brings great sadness and some trauma, but I have learned (over time) that even though they are gone, I am grateful for the time I did have with them and the good memories we were able to create. This doesn’t change circumstances, but it changes the way I look at or view them. It gives the ability to go through life with the gratitude for what I do have. By practicing gratitude – I’m reminded to hold those that I love close – while creating memories with them.
Gratitude practice can look several ways. Its unique to what works for you. My practice is an evening review of my day where I write about 5 gratitude’s. Somedays they are very in depth and some days I only focus on the material items (this is okay). Then I send them to a friend so that I’m held accountable as well as that brings them to reality. Sharing and showing the gratitude is the second part of living a life of gratitude. When you share gratitude, it allows for connections with other. It’s contagious and seeps into the others you are connecting with. When you show gratitude – it allows for those around you to feel the appreciation. It is putting your gratitude into reality versus just a thought in your head.
Your practice is unique to you and your needs just like life as a human in recovery. We have all walked different walks of life and ended up in different places. We have all experienced life differently. We have all ended up where we are for different reasons. But we can come together with the gratitude for life and its experiences – remembering that today is the first day we will experience like this and the last we will experience like this.