There is always a lot of talk everywhere about gratitude being a powerful tool in recovery. I remember when I first got sober I started following a lot of wellness boffins on Twitter and they were always going on about it.
Tweets like;“The daily practice of #gratitude is one of the conduits by which your wealth will come to you” and “Listing what I am grateful for is a practice that contributes to a sense of joy and peace” and “Begin with #gratitude and watch the #Miracles flow your way” would pop up in my feed daily. At first I skimmed past them without paying much attention (probably did a bit of eye rolling to be honest).
Dire Need of Tools…
But as my sober life went on, I started realising I was in dire need of some new tools to help me deal with life in the raw. I finally succumbed and decided to give gratitude a go. But how to do it? How exactly do you work gratitude into your life in a way that makes any difference?
At first I decided that every morning before I got up I would lie in bed and think of two things I was grateful for. That lasted for about one day and then I forgot.
Then I decided to try and follow Elizabeth Gilbert’s example (I saw this on Facebook) and start a ‘Happiness Jar’. In this jar I would regularly put little pieces of paper with things I am happy about or grateful for written on them. I managed to do this irregularly for about two weeks then stopped.
Here’s What Cracked It…
The thing that finally cracked it for me was my kids. I was locked in battle with my 9-year-old one day, yelling at him, “Stop looking at everything like it’s bad!!” (I know yelling at my kids is not a very zen thing to do but I’m not always a zen mother I admit.) When I had a sudden thought – he needs to practice gratitude himself! He needs to be reminded to look at all of the good things in his life (of which there are many), and not all the imagined bad things (of which there are few).
So that night when I was tucking him up in bed I told him we were going to start doing ‘Three Things’. I explained to him that every night from now on we were going to list out three things from our day – or our lives in general – that we are happy about or grateful for. I felt a bit geeky as I explained this to him, like I was some sort of touchy-feely parent from the 1970s, but low and behold he got the concept straight away, started acting super keen, and played along! And so we kicked off what is now a longstanding and very lovely family tradition.
The Tradition Spread
It has spread to number three son as well (I’ve tried to get number one into it but he won’t play ball. I think you’ve got to get it going with kids while they’re still young).
Every night – they won’t let me forget! – I tuck my two younger boys up into bed and we do our ‘Three Things’. Many items are repeated, “I had a good day at school” is often heard said, as is “I’ve got the best family/dog/house in the world”. I often say “I’m grateful that I get to be your mum”, and lately, realising that it’s good for me to keep this one foremost in my mind, “I’m grateful that I’m sober”.
There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that having this positive bedtime routine has benefited all of us who play along. It’s the accumulative affect that makes it so powerful, rather than the individual evenings. Finding things to feel positive about night after night after night reminds us that life is pretty good, even though it hurts and is tough a lot of the time. Even on my worst days I can usually come up with something. (“I’m grateful for the fridge that keeps our food cold”).
There’s ALWAYS Something!
That’s the amazing thing, there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for, yet in times of stress and grumpiness I would never naturally be bringing them to mind on a daily basis.
So, I have to admit that the person who tweeted, “Listing what I am grateful for is a practice that contributes to a sense of joy and peace” was bang on the money. Listing what I’m grateful for is a practice that contributes to me feeling joy and peace.
Such a simple and seemingly non-consequential thing to do, yet our nightly ‘Three Things’ habit is now a very powerful tool in my toolbox, and a contributing factor in my ongoing ability to cope with life in the raw…