Practicing Gratitude: 5 Simple Tips

“Be present in all things and be thankful for all things”

– Maya Angelou

People who are in recovery, who are working toward healing, and relearning to live in the world as they are, are often familiar with the saying “one day at a time.” Whether it’s healing from trauma, childbirth, addiction, or another difficult life event, those in recovery are often reminded of this saying when they are feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of getting back to themselves.

Because healing takes time, many people in recovery learn to live in this place, the present. In learning to live this way, they are able to live free from the past or the future. But because of this “in the moment” approach, it can sometimes happen that individuals in recovery find themselves disenchanted and disconnected from their joy. (“Just get through today.”)

The reality is, living in the present, one beautiful day at a time, can be an incredibly liberating and rewarding way to exist.

How can you stay in touch with your gratitude, one day at a time? Try these five practices and shift from just surviving to thriving.

1. Fill your life with what makes you happy

In recovery, we can often get lost in the work of healing our wounds. Of course, this is hugely important work and we certainly shouldn’t discount it, but let’s be honest – it is also emotionally draining. Finding ways to fill up the rest of our time with things that bring us joy is paramount in rebuilding our lives in a new and healthy way and to help keep us on track for the long haul. If all the time we spend in recovery is “hard,” it can feel less sustainable to stay on track, and it can take us longer. Finding new fun, hobbies, reevaluating our career choices, rebuilding healthier relationships…all should feel like rewards for doing the hard work of healing.   

2. Rejoice in the little things

Yes, working on your personal growth can feel like a lot of “hard stuff.” Whether it’s emotional or physical therapy, group meetings, one-on-one counseling,…it’s all great personal growth stuff, and all really BIG stuff. Routinely reminding ourselves of the beauty in the small things can keep us grateful for doing the hard work of making change in our lives. We should keep trucking along at all that huge personal growth stuff, but maybe also sprinkle in some sunshine, puppies, cozy socks, pancakes, walks in nature, video games, and whatever else makes us smile.

3. Pay attention

After experiencing any kind of trauma, or making a big life change, we are not necessarily used to paying attention. In fact, it can be all too tempting to avoid the difficulty of facing a new reality, and so we can become quite good at distracting ourselves. Often, when going through something big, people can choose to avoid dealing with change by shifting their attention to things like television, eating, shopping, social media. And in this busy, tech-driven world, it is all too easy to distract ourselves, but with intention, we can turn our gazes inward and stay present in our journeys so we don’t continue to miss out on them. And in actuality, by being intentional about staying in-touch with our gratitude we find we don’t need to distract ourselves anymore. We actually want a front row seat for the beautiful work that’s happening every day in our lives. No distractions necessary.

4. Write it down

 Creating a practice in which we can literally visualize the things that we are grateful for can have a huge effect on internalizing that gratitude and turning it into presence and joy. Starting a journal and nightly writing ritual can also be a great tool for managing anxiety for all the change that’s occurring in your life as well. Creating habits that remind ourselves of the positive outcomes of our hard work can help to keep us on track for the long haul.

5. Say it out loud

One of the hardest things for many people new to recovery is the ability to be vulnerable with others about their journeys, but it also one of the most liberating tenants of recovery and healing a person can participate in. And talking about the hard stuff with others is obviously healing, but so is talking about the positive stuff, too! Coming together as a community to talk about the things we are grateful for can be incredibly uplifting and helpful to keep us reminded of why we are choosing to work hard to get back to our own lives. 


So wherever you are in your recovery journey- if you are just getting started, or if you are many years into your path, know that it is okay to prioritize joy, happiness, healing – and to take stock of all that you have to be grateful for in your beautiful, new life. 

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