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  • Alumni Perspective: Why gratitude makes me happy

    by Alida F. (Munro 2013)

    If the only prayer you said in your whole life was “thank you,” that would suffice.

    ~ Meister Eckhart

    I begin each day by waking and writing three things that I am grateful for in that moment. It can be anything, and I always write down the first three things that come to my mind.

     Blue skies, dew on the grass, birds singing outside my window.

    Positive relationships with my friends and family, hot coffee, walking my dogs. 

    Soft pillows, learning to trust, a safe place to live. 

    This allows me to set out into the day with an attitude of gratitude and it makes me happy.

    This practice was suggested to me while I was in treatment and I can remember rolling my eyes and thinking that it was a stupid idea. How could a simple act of thinking about who and what I’m grateful for make such a big difference in my life?

    But then something funny happened. I took the suggestion and I started writing my gratitude list every morning.  This one simple act reminded me every morning of all the positive things that I have in my life, no matter how small. There were always at least three every day.

    When I was active in my addiction, gratitude was completely foreign to me and I certainly didn’t appreciate any of the little things. I wanted big presents, accolades and applause. Nothing small would do. I wanted only the rewards – with none of the work.

    Today, it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference. Life’s little daily gifts that make me happy and grateful. I hadn’t noticed them before – I wasn’t aware enough to pay attention to the warm breeze or the leaves changing colour. I was fixated on what I could have, rather than what I could experience.

    Adopting an attitude of gratitude helps me to see the bigger picture. If I’m stressed out at work, I can be grateful that I’m employed. If I’m upset that my bills are piling up, I can be grateful that I have a roof over my head. I can recognize that there are lessons presented to me every day – lessons that can teach me patience, acceptance and tolerance.

    Being grateful also reminds me to thank others. “Thank you.” Just two little words that can mean so much. Taking a minute out of my day to tell someone why I’m grateful toward them is important. People like being appreciated for who they are and what they do – it can truly make a huge difference. It costs me nothing, but makes someone else happy. And making someone else happy now makes me happy.

    Before I go to bed every night I thank my higher power for my sobriety and I reflect on what I have to be thankful for that day. When I struggle to find three things that I can be thankful for at night – and sometimes I still struggle – I read this aloud:

    I am thankful that I don’t have everything I desire; if I did, there would be nothing to look forward to.

    I am thankful that I don’t know everything, for it gives me the opportunity to learn.

    I am thankful for the difficult times, for this is when I grow.

    I am thankful for my limitations; they give me opportunities for improvement.

    I am thankful for each new challenge, because it will build my strength and character.

    I am thankful for my mistakes; they will teach me valuable lessons.

    I am thankful when I am tired and weary; because it means I’ve made a difference.

    It is easy for me to be thankful for the good things.  A life that is rich with fulfillment comes to me when I am also thankful for the setbacks.

    About the Authors

    Renascent Alumni
    Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email alumni@renascent.ca.