Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

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Starting the day with an Attitude of Gratitude is a simple recovery tool of enormous power. A growing body of evidence from Positive Psychology researchers confirms that making a daily list of things for which you feel grateful can significantly improve your attitude, performance, and emotional resilience. These findings are the basis for a number of evidence-based techniques currently used in addiction treatment to improve mood, promote feelings of well-being, and build emotional resilience.

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We take so much for granted

It is easy for people in United States to lose sight of just how good we have it, particularly when compared to other countries in the world. The U.N. consistently reports that the average American enjoys a higher quality of life, as measured by life expectancy, global health, & standard of living than 95% of the world’s population. Here are just some of the things many of us take for granted:

Safe permanent housing

Clean water to drink

Fresh, healthy foods

Clothes to wear

Safety from physical harm

Safety from political persecution

Access to the best health care in the world

Freedoms assemble, free speech, religious practice, etc.

Economic opportunity

World class technology


If I’ve got it so good, why do I feel so bad?

In our addiction, we lived lives of isolation, deprivation, and resentment.   The rapacious nature of addiction slowly eroded our ability to feel, cultivate relationships, and enjoy the abundance that surrounded us. We became selfish, self-centered and focused on filling the hole inside us.   This emotional black hole only grew larger and more powerful over time. As it did, we became consumed with what we didn’t have and lost sight of what we did.

Regaining our Perspective

Writing a daily gratitude list helps us adjust our attitude by reminding us how good we really have it. Focusing on what we are grateful for shifts our perspective in profound ways. We replace the “stinking thinking of our addictive mindset with a realistic appraisal of all we have in our lives for which to feel grateful.

Creating a Daily Gratitude list

Try this simple exercise and see what happens. Find a quiet spot and write down 10 things for which you feel grateful.  To help stimulate your thinking, here are some people, places, and things you may want to include.

Your physical health, the use of your legs & arms, fingers and toes.  The use of all five of your senses, your ability to think, to feel, to exercise, to improve your physical well-being.

Your recovery, sober support network, parents, children, siblings, and friends who love and support your efforts to stay sober.

Access to world-class healthcare, clean, nutritious food, clean water, well-constructed housing, political freedoms, and economic opportunity.

Gratitude for people who inspire you: family members, close friends, historical figures, politicians, scientists, singers, painters, dancers, sculptures, adventurers and entrepreneurs. Visionaries, spiritual leaders, people who devote their lives to better others.

Your incredible quality of life: Imagine yourself walking down the street and notice the diversity of goods & services available to you. You can purchase a shirt, get a massage, buy a frozen yogurt or a manicure. You can check out a local art gallery, park, museum, or simply grab a bite to eat at your favorite restaurant. Before you know it, your list will be full. And so too will you be filled with a renewed sense of gratitude, abundance, and well-being!

Double your Gratitude by Book-ending

Bookending is a way to frame the beginning and end of your day in gratitude.  Before you go to bed at night, take another look at your list. Reflect on all you have to be grateful for.   Think about other things that happened during the day for which you feel gratitude. Be sure to add them to your new daily gratitude list in the morning!


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