Topic for the week: Practicing Gratitude
My name is Karen and I’m an alcoholic, sober today through the grace of God and AA. Welcome to all.
My efforts to incorporate a daily practice of gratitude ebb and flow. My life feels particularly challenging right now and I know it’s a time I need to be vigilant in my sobriety. Practicing gratitude is something I can do every day and even though it seems such a simple thing, I know that when I’m in a state of gratitude I’m not going to dark places in my head.
Like many of the tools we learn about in AA—aren’t we the lucky ones😊—practicing gratitude can be a powerful tool for anyone. Studies have shown that people who tend to be more grateful have more brain activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, the area associated with learning and decision making. The effects can be long lasting and people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed. A focus on gratitude can take the focus off those toxic emotions of resentment and envy that this alcoholic tends to gravitate towards.
I love this quote from author Melody Beattie ~ “ Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity … it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
I struggle with keeping up a conscious gratitude practice. I know that it’s a journey, not a destination. I know that real gratitude is feeling the emotion, not just saying “thank you” or “I’m thankful for” without any real feeling attached. I’ve tried to keep a gratitude journal and will keep it up for a while, but it can start to feel rote.
In the past months I’ve realized that for this alcoholic it was time to put a gratitude practice front and center. I’ll share a few things I’m trying to help me consciously bring more gratitude into my life.
Sometimes I read what I have written in my gratitude journal aloud. Just as writing it in the journal helps me FEEL it more than just thinking it, saying aloud what I am grateful seems to help me be more present with the practice.
I like to meditate and find the ambience I create can really add to the practice—lighting, a candle, music. I’ve tried this with my gratitude practice a couple of times when I’ve needed something more and it’s been powerful. Kind of a meditative mantra of gratitude.
My children are grown and when we are together at Thanksgiving we spend some time saying what we are most grateful for in the past year. This idea came from the kids and it’s something we all love; the sharing is heartfelt. When we share our gratitude with others it helps us feel connected. For me, that helps with both acknowledging that yes, sometimes my life is tough but I’m part of the shared experience of humanity. Expressing gratitude for what I have to others and expressing gratitude for what they give me helps me to feel connected and I know isolating in grief is not a good place for me to be. I hope to make this practice more than an annual one and am thinking of all the people that are important to me and how much I have to thank each of them for. My goal is to send a couple of these hand-written expressions of gratitude in the mail each month. For me that extra step of making it more than a text or email will help me really think about what they have brought to my life.
Ladies, thank you for listening to me. I would love to hear from each of you on how you practice gratitude.