In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the characteristics of an alcoholic are one who is irritable, restless and discontented. Whether this is biological or behavioral can only be determined case by case. None the less, research has shown that cultivating gratitude as a practice has profound effects on one’s physical and emotional well-being. Here are some tools you can use to cultivate gratitude:
Gratitude List – Some people like to list all the things they are grateful for like, “My house, my friends, my job, etc…” But, research shows that the more specific you are about one thing you’re grateful for the longer lasting that sense of gratitude will last. So here’s a tip: At the beginning of your day write down something you are grateful for and elaborate on it. Maybe it’s your car. You elaborate by writing, “I’m grateful for my car. That I don’t have to ride public transportation anymore. That I can drive myself to the beach. That all of my friends can fit in it and go to a concert together.” The more details you can add about one thing the greater the gratitude you will have for it.
Ungrateful List – Sometimes it’s important to look at the things we don’t have and be grateful for that too! It could be a physical disability or maybe even a situation that has changed in your life. For instance, you could say, “I am grateful that I no longer work for the Water Company. That I no longer have a boss that underpays me or yells at me. It was hard to get out of that job and I am grateful for my strength.
Gratitude Letter – Expressing gratitude for the people we have in our lives can strengthen our relationships and make us feel more connected. It can also heal past grievances. Take some time to think about someone who has had a profound impact on your life. Write a letter of gratitude to them expressing how much they mean to you.
Prayer – Since gratitude is a practice, it’s nice to do it consistently. Meals are one place many like to remind themselves to count their blessings. Before your meals take a moment to pause and be grateful for all the people and resources it took to create this meal. Farmers, truck drivers, chef’s, waiters, sunshine, soil and running water all have intersected in order to keep you nourished and alive.