We are trained by society to continually assess what we have and seek more. With frantic minds and hollow hearts, we judge, analyze and consume material things.

In such a wasteland of greed, superficiality and addiction, the struggle can seem less than worth the effort.

In the shadow of rampant consumerism, depression, anxiety and addiction run rampant. Despite all that we have, it’s never enough. Drugs and alcohol fill the void for a while, but they stop working and create chaos and devastation in their wake.

Why Gratitude?

The definition of gratitude includes a deep appreciation of kindness and benefits already received. This means you make a concerted effort to see all that you do have in your life.

Instead of needing more stuff but never finding lasting happiness in the material things, an attitude of gratitude shifts the focus to what is really important: the people in our lives, the necessities that we have access to, and the ever-present potential to find greater happiness makes us all exceptionally lucky.

On the other hand, toxic thinking causes relapse. People often return to abusing substances thinking that the drug or the drink will ease the pain. However, mood and mind-altering substances only make matters worse.

Gratitude is critical for people in recovery. Substance abuse generally stems from a void or discontent in the person’s life. The deficiency is almost always one that is simply created by perception.

Gratitude eases the self-deprecating thoughts and redirects our outlook. Gratitude involves being thankful, however, it is more than that. It brings peace and grace into the picture.

Maintaining a perspective of gratitude increases your level of happiness. Instead of always needing something else to feel happy, you can stop, relax and be happy with your life.

Researchers have proven that focusing on things you are grateful for improve mood and outlook. In one study, those who wrote about things for which they were grateful became more optimistic and felt better about their lives in general.

Basically, gratitude makes you feel good. When you feel good you do not need drugs and alcohol to get through the day.

Building Gratitude

Building gratitude takes work. The feeling doesn’t come as easily as others like anger or fear. We who relied on drugs and alcohol to deal with stress and life often are exceptionally rusty where gratitude is concerned.

The initial effort to look around and be thankful for what is good and healthy in our lives can feel silly, even ridiculous. Over time, however, the practice of positive self-reflection comes naturally.

There are infinite ways to build gratitude and what works best for one person might not work as well for the next.

Making a gratitude list is one of the most popular ways to change thought patterns to focus on the positive. At the beginning of each day, or in the evening, make a list of 3-5 things you are grateful for. Even if nothing comes to mind, force yourself to examine what happened in the last 24 hours and find the positive aspects.

Redirecting negative thoughts is another great way to build an attitude of gratitude. Whenever you catch yourself thinking in negative, defeatist terms, stop and force yourself to focus on something else.

Hang out with positive people. Spending time around healthy people who reinforce a positive outlook is bound to rub off. Negative thinking is habit forming. Even if you break a cycle within yourself, if you are surrounded by people who are negative you are likely to adopt their perspective.

Appreciate the small things. Even stuff we take for granted, like clean water, can be easy to overlook after a while.

Meditation is great way to slow down and take inventory of our day. Guided meditation or quiet meditation forces you to direct your thoughts in a specific direction without interruption from the stream of thoughts that runs throughout the day.

This is more difficult than it sounds. The fact that it may be challenging is only indicative of its effectiveness.

Give Yourself a Break

Gratitude is an amazingly beneficial mindset once you obtain it; however, all this advice is easier said than done.

Cognitive traps like negative thinking take time to undo and replace with positivity. You may find that you agree to try such things as meditation and list-making however fail to see results. These things take time and how much time depends on the individual. Some people slowly see progress over weeks, while for others it’s years.

Do not give up on the practice because you are not perfect at it. Remind yourself that you just need more time.
Things will reveal themselves over time and the miracle of gratitude will lift you out of despair and into the realm of the sunlight of the spirit.