Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year, not only for the fact that eating an obscene amount of pie is completely acceptable, but also because it is a day that is focused exclusively on gratitude and giving thanks for the people, places and things in your life.
In sobriety, I have gotten a whole new understanding on the importance of gratitude. Before I got sober, I had a terrible habit of focusing on the negative things in my life and taking for granted all of the things I had to be thankful for. Changing my perspective and focusing on gratitude has completely changed my life.
Gratitude and Health
Focusing on gratitude not only makes you feel better, it can actually make you healthier.
– Gratitude is an effective tool for managing stress, which can lead to a slew of health problems (according to studies, stress contributes to up to 90% of all doctors visits)
– People who practice gratitude are most likely optimistic. And optimistic attitude has been shown to boost immune function and protect against illness.
– Gratitude can actually increase your life expectancy. A study at the University College London revealed that elderly people who practiced gratitude lived up to 25-30% longer than their counterparts who focused more on the negative aspects of their lives.
– Practicing gratitude increases the feeling of connectedness to the world around you, a key aspect to mental health.
How to Cultivate Gratitude
Cultivating gratitude on a daily basis is a key aspect of having a happy, healthy and productive sobriety. While there are countless ways to cultivate gratitude, a few that have been essential for me are:
Keeping a daily gratitude journal
Every night before I go to sleep, I write down at least 5 things I am grateful for. Even on the most challenging of days, this enables me to end the day on a happy note.
Finding gratitude in challenges
When things don’t go my way or I am struggling with a certain situation, it’s really easy for me to go to a negative place. I know make an effort to find the good and practice gratitude for ALL situations in my life, even ones that don’t seem ideal at the time. This has given me a new perspective on hard times in my life and enabled me to accept them and grow from them rather than wallow in them.
Expressing gratitude on a daily basis
I have some pretty amazing people in my life, and I make it a point to let them know how grateful I am for them all the time. If you’re grateful for a friend listening to you when you were having a hard time, or grateful to your parents for helping you move or grateful to your boss for praising your performance, LET THEM KNOW. Gratitude is best when shared, and it only increases the benefits that you (and others) feel.
While I love Thanksgiving and the fact that society as a whole spends the holiday focusing on being thankful, gratitude is something to be celebrated every day. I have so much to be grateful for – I am grateful for the roof over my head, the food on my table, the amazing people that I have in my life. But most of all, I am grateful for my sobriety – the only thing that enables me to have everything else.
Happy holidays everyone!