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Being grateful and feeling gratitude are two different things. There are times when I know I have so much to be thankful for but I can’t always feel the gratitude that often accompanies

the knowing. I am human.

I used to attend a sharing meeting every Thanksgiving with a big group of people in recovery. The meeting would open and anyone that wanted to share would stand at the podium and talk about their gratitude. Most people were so filled with emotion it would be overwhelming at times. Early in my sobriety I was filled with emotion but it wasn’t gratitude. I can remember standing up and saying, “I am not grateful. I am angry. This is the last place I want to be and I will be grateful when this damn meeting is over!” It wasn’t graceful but it was honest. That was enough. Falling into the trap of thinking something is wrong with me if I don’t feel or think like other people is dangerous.

Over the years I’ve found some things I can do to boost my gratitude. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but taking action ALWAYS moves me a little closer to where I want to be.

How to Level Up the Gratitude:

1. Write a gratitude list

When I’m struggling, this is my first line of defense against a negative attitude. Listing even the simplest of things can bring to light the profound blessing in my life. Start with the basics like clothing, food, pets, and friends. You can build from there.

2. Have a conversation with God

Keep it real and be honest. Talking to God is a prayer. I like to talk as if I’m having a conversation with a friend. Let it flow. This can often clear my mind of the mental fog that prevents me from letting in the light.

3. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being aware and being totally present in the moment. It’s easy to jump into the future and become anxious. Take a break several times a day and really try to be present in the here and now.

4. Get organized

Taking a few minutes to make a bed, organize a drawer, or clean a room can surprisingly do wonders for our state of mind. Sometimes those things that don’t make sense or seem unrelated to the solution can bring joy and calmness to the day. Give it a try!

5. Service work

Nothing can help getting our thoughts turned around like doing something for someone in need. Volunteer to bring a Thanksgiving meal to someone, invite friends to dinner, walk dogs at the shelter, or give someone a ride.

6. Call three people every day

This is something I try to do every day and it always works. Reaching out can be so hard when we are stuck in a difficult spot but once we get in the habit it becomes easier. Sharing with others is a wonderful way to find gratitude on a daily basis.

7. Cook something that evokes fond memories

Do you have a favorite pie or cookie that always makes you think of a special place or person? Try making it at home and then share the end product with someone! One of my good friends did this recently and had a wonderful experience.

8. Take a long walk

As we know, exercise releases endorphins which can make us feel happy. Don’t wait until you feel motivated. That might never happen. Get out and do it and you will find the motivation afterwards!

9. Mail a card

The art of mailing a letter or writing someone a personal note is a thing of the past. There is something really satisfying about mailing someone a card. It takes thought and time to find the perfect card, struggle for the words, and then drop it in the mailbox. The person on the receiving end will know how special they are to you.

10. Take pictures

Many times on my walks, I get lost in the moment when I start taking pictures. It helps me find the beauty in the small things and pay attention and notice what is around me at the moment.

This year I am filled with gratitude. Alcoholism took everything from me, but recovery gave me a life beyond my wildest dreams. Thanksgiving is about becoming aware of the gifts and blessings in my life. They are always there. If this holiday is particularly tough for you, please reach out and ask for help. You won’t have to go through it alone.


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