The Power of Acceptance: Embracing Change for a Brighter Future
Thanksgiving in our society and in most families is a special day to express gratitude for the wonderful abundance of life. For those working a program of addiction recovery, gratitude becomes an essential daily practice, vital to ongoing serenity, sobriety, and life itself. How can something as simple as being grateful with an attitude of gratitude help with addiction recovery?
From a young age, perhaps influenced by media, societal messages, or limiting self beliefs, many develop an attitude based upon lack - looking for what we don’t have. Things that are missing in our lives. Always striving for more.
The simple act of being happy or content with our lot is often overlooked. Maybe even frowned upon.
What if we’ve been ignoring the one thing thatcan boost health and happiness and overall quality of life in sobriety?
Science has now proven that gratitude promoteshealth and wellbeing in many areas of our lives and socially such as bypromoting empathy.
“It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude. It’sgratitude that brings us happiness.”
In this article, we'll explore why gratitude isvital in addiction recovery, and beyond.
Gratitude is a frame of mind. One of grace and thankfulness for what we have in our lives. The word gratitude originates from the Latin word gratia, which literally translates as “grace”. Another meaning of grace is “courteous goodwill.”
If you’ve been around the recovery network for any length of time, you’ll be well aware of the importance of giving back. In fact, this is the basis of Step 12 of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. You will hear reference to the importance of an attitude of gratitude. Goodwill doesn’t just mean giving back, it also means feeling and behaving in a friendly, helpful or cooperative manner.
“Be thankful for what you have;you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you willnever, ever have enough.”
- Oprah Winfrey
Having feelings of gratitude can literally reframe how you see the world. It’s all too common to take things for granted, fear not having enough, feel victimised, and blame other people, places and things for your troubles. But that worldview can be joyless, and not compatible with healthy, sustained sober living in recovery. All aspects of life suffer when you undervalue your life. Gratitude literally has the power to turn your life around.
It can be tempting to think of the mindset of gratitude as woo-woo and not important in recovery.
“Gratitude can transform common daysinto thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinaryopportunities into blessings.”
Gratitude practice has been scientificallyproven to create lasting positive effects on your brain.
Psychologically, the feeling of gratitudeproduces feelings of well-being by producing happy hormones, and physically byreducing blood pressure and promoting better sleep. Other studies on gratitudehave found that simply writing a few sentences about what you are grateful fordaily can result in fewer visits to the doctor.
Another research study followed 411 people whowere asked to write about early memories. The focus was on finding people thathad impacted their lives and then following up with a letter of gratitude. Thepractice was found to result in higher happiness scores - for a whole month.
The first days, weeks and months of recovery andpost-rehab are often the most difficult. Keeping motivated, mindful and beingpatient isn’t always easy. Living life on life’s terms can be a challenge. Ittakes time to change lifelong habits of thought, feeling and behavior.Sometimes these habits or belief systems are engrained from family members andancestors.
It’s important to be patient with yourself. Focusing on things that you can be thankful for is an important and essential tool for early and sustained recovery. The next step is to practice being grateful for everything in your life - yes, even those people and experiences we don't "like". Every experience is an opportunity to be grateful for the lesson it presents and the choice of how to react.
What happens to your body when you stop drinkingalcohol for 30 days after a period of excessive drinking or alcohol abuse? Thetimeline for recovering from drug or alcohol abuse begins within hours as thebody which had become accustomed to the presence of alcohol goes intowithdrawal as it readjusts. This can range from a typical ‘hangover’ to moreextreme symptoms such as seizures requiring medical intervention. The followingfew days can be filled with highs and lows as your body attempts to get itselfback in balance. This can be accompanied with sugar or other carb cravings.
Once you are a week or month into your recoveryyou’ll begin to experience health benefits.
It’s important that you are grateful for thesesmall changes such as in your skin condition, sleep patterns, vitality, andmental clarity. Everything starts to feel better and brighter. Looking out for,and being gratefulfor these changes will keep you firmly on the path of recovery.
A month into your recovery your whole being willbegin to change for the better. Additionally, your risk for mouth, liver andbreast cancer reduces. Body, mind and spirit rejuvenate. Definitely somethingto be extremely grateful for!
It’s easy to look at the negative aspects of asituation. Not because you’re being glum or cynical, it may have just become anengrained thought pattern. We need to train our brains to see things as theyreally are. We need to “re-mind” ourselves of the truth of who we really are. ‘Remind’as in change your mind in thought and belief systems. For that, gratitude playsa massive role.
Rather than thinking about what you lack, how toget more stuff or simply wanting more (power, respect, love, money or drugs).Shift your focus to what you are thankful for.
“Agrateful alcoholic will never drink again”
Simply being grateful for today can be your first step. It’s not easy to stay grateful all the time, that’s why a gratitude practice is vital to keep us on track.
One easy way to shift your focus to an “attitudeof gratitude” is to generously give to others. As noted earlier, gratitudemeans courteous goodwill. Volunteering or giving has been found to increaseself-confidence, offering a sense of purpose and reducing feelings of anxiety,stress, and anger.
A grateful brain filled with thanksgivingproduces both dopamine and serotonin. Neurotransmitters that impact mood, bodytemperature, and reward. Simply put - dopamine and serotonin are the two main neurotransmittersthat make us feel good.
The practice of being grateful strengthens neuralpathways associated with happiness. Feelings of gratitude also produce thehormone oxytocin, a hormone that encouragesyou to form stronger relationships. Oxytocin is also released when a mother hasa baby, similarly promoting feelings of love and connectedness.
Like anything in life, gratitude takes practice.Our brains are continually forming new neural pathways, so why not make themones of happiness and health?
There are several ways you can practicegratitude. The first is simple daily mindful effort. There are also severalpractices that you can take up to keep you focused on gratitude. Here are sevengratitude practices that you can start today:
Write a thank-you noteto someone to share your appreciation for them.
Dedicate a notebook togratitude. Then write out 5 things that you are grateful for, daily.
Write what you aregrateful for, and why, on a note and place it in your gratitude jar daily.
Practice simple acts ofkindness, not telling the recipient that you have performed the act. Simply bekind, with nothing expected in return. Being kind, giving of self, makes yougrateful. It shifts your attitude to one of gratitude.
Think about someone youappreciate and thank them mentally for what they’ve done.
A more traditional wayto practice gratitude is to pray. Express gratitude for what you experience inlife.
Quiet your mind, get present and be grateful for all of the blessings in your life. Practice acceptance of what is, letting go of judgment of right or wrong or good and bad. This helps develop your attitude of gratitude. ‘What is’, simply is. And ‘what is’ is an opportunity to be grateful for whatever ‘it is’ presents. Meditate on that.
Foster an “attitude of gratitude”. It takespractice and diligence. Through the lens of gratitude, life starts lookingdifferent. Problems become opportunities. Inward focused attention shifts tooutward awareness of the abundance of life and possibilities.
Asking yourself what is great about your lifetoday, how you can serve others. Taking up a simple daily gratitude practicecan alter your perception of the world. Not just in your mind. The practice ofgratitude, developing the attitude of gratitude, shifts your feelings tograteful ones, and thus affects your behavior.
Allaspects of your body, mind and spirit improve with a daily gratitude practice.So what are you waiting for? Choose a gratitude practice and start now. One dayat a time.
Developing an attitude of gratitude is just oneaspect of recovery taught at Serenity Vista. Body, mind and spirittransformation is possible for you. Contact us to learn more.
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