I love sharing tips and advice to help keep you moving forward with your sober goals.
But the truth is, that stuff won’t have much of an impact if you’re approaching sobriety from a negative place.
If your focus is always on everything you don’t have, or can’t have, it can leave you feeling pretty fed up with life. And when you’re in that state of mind, you’re FAR more likely to hit wine o’clock and think “What’s the point?”
As lots of my American friends will be celebrating Thanksgiving this week, now feels like a great time to talk about practising gratitude and how this can benefit your sobriety.
*Pssst. If you’re thinking of skipping this post because it sounds a bit ‘touchy-feely’, stick with me.
I’m not into mumbo-jumbo nonsense either. But if a sceptic like me can be won over, so can you!
Why bother with gratitude?
Our brains naturally have a negativity bias. We’re wired to pay more attention to negative experiences. Back in the days when we were all hunter-gatherers, it was very useful to be constantly scanning the horizon for potential threats – but nowadays, that same behaviour can keep us stuck in a negative feedback loop.
When you’re working on something big and amazing – like stopping drinking – there are bound to be ups and downs, and challenges along the way. If we constantly feel a bit dissatisfied with life, it’s easy to think, “Why am bothering? I deserve a drink.”
Sobriety is a mindset game
The way you feel about yourself – and the way you perceive life – will affect your motivation to change.
For example, you can go out for a meal with friends, and spend the whole time feeling as if you’re missing out because you’re ordering soft drinks rather than cocktails. You can choose to focus on that and view the whole night through that lens.
OR you can choose to live in the moment and appreciate the fact that you’re enjoying a great meal and spending time with friends. That alone is enjoyable, because hey – you like eating food, right? And you like spending time with your lovely friends?
It doesn’t matter what’s in your glass.
You don’t need a mind-altering drug to get you through that situation or make it pleasant.
When we focus on being grateful, we’re reminded that life isn’t quite as difficult as we often perceive it to be. Gratitude is (excuse the pun) what makes the glass half full 🙂
Tests at the University of California found that people who kept a gratitude journal for two weeks felt happier and healthier. They exercised more, they drank less alcohol and their families and friends noticed they were nicer to be around. Plus, the effects lasted for several months.
How to practice gratitude:
Keep a gratitude journal
At the end of the day, write down 5 things or people that you’re grateful for and why. You could jot down five completely different things, or you could get really specific, and write five points about the same thing.
(E.g. I’m grateful for my dog because she shows me unconditional love, she gets me exercising every day, she makes me laugh with her silly antics…)
Or keep a ‘what went well’ list
This is a slightly different take on a traditional gratitude list. Take a few moments to reflect on the day, and write down three things that went well and why.
(E.g. I really enjoyed my exercise class today. Why? Because I felt as if I’d burned off some stress and I’d done something good for my mind and body.)
On some days, you will have to work a bit harder to think of things that went well, or things you’re grateful for – but that’s kind of the whole point!
You’re finding something to appreciate, even when you haven’t had the best of days.
What’ve you got to lose?
We all have negative thoughts from time to time, of course we do. But if you’re not careful, complaining can become a habit, and feeling as if life is less than perfect can become an easy place for your mind to rest.
Really, the only downside to gratitude is that: a) you have to find five minutes to do it, and b) you have to give up some comfy, time-sucking, negative emotions 🙂
Now it’s your turn.
Give this gratitude strategy a test drive in the comments below. Let me know, what are you grateful for today? What’s gone well for you?
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