Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for. – Zig Ziglar
Why should we think about gratitude in sobriety? Well, when we’re in early sobriety it can feel like we’re fighting a battle. We can also feel angry, sad, depressed and as if we’re the only ones going through this. With everything we’re going through and all the emotions we’re feeling it can be hard to see a way out of the negativity we might be experiencing.
But there is a way out of this which I discovered recently and that is embracing the power of gratitude in sobriety. To be honest I didn’t really understand this concept properly at first. How can saying thank you or feeling grateful for something help us with our sobriety and our life in general?
I started digging a little deeper and doing some research and that’s when I discovered Karl Staib, author and creator of Bring Gratitude. Karl and I had the most wonderful chat and he helped me see that by making the effort to bring gratitude into our lives, we really can shift our perspective, change our mindset and make room for more positivity. That can only be a good thing, right? Especially when we’re going through something which can be as hard as quitting drinking. During our chat, I discovered that Karl is coming up to three years sober so of course we talked about the power of gratitude in sobriety and how keeping a gratitude journal helped Karl in his own journey.
You can watch the full interview below, but I want to share with you the key points that Karl and I talked about.
Usually changes in our lives come from challenges and while some of these might be positive, some of them are not. Karl’s biggest challenge was coming to terms with the fact that his father was dying and as with all of us, when we’re faced with such devastation, Karl found himself slipping into the darkness of negativity, selfishness, a complaining attitude and generally a bleak outlook on life. In order to try and get out of this dark place he turned to his gratitude journal again and this was when he began to experience real change. In just a few short days, Karl’s outlook had shifted completely which made a huge difference to his life. Karl now keeps a daily gratitude journal and shared with me the power of gratitude.
How does keeping a gratitude journal help us?
Committing to a daily practice of gratitude helps ground us, and allows us to see all sides of a situation, not just the obvious negative side if things of this is where we are stuck. Having this renewed awareness helps us to channel our energy and focus on the positives, which in turn increases our happiness and our positivity. There is a great study which shows how people who wrote down three good things each day for a week felt less depressed and happier as opposed to those who didn’t focus on their positive experiences.
Keeping a gratitude journal can help us to get out of our heads in the sense that we take a moment and stop focusing on our inner critic and our negative self talk. Pausing for a moment and writing down what we’re grateful for shifts our attention outwards. Going even deeper and thanking ourselves for what we did well that day or being grateful for any win we had in our sobriety journey gives us inner strength and builds our confidence. In short we can begin to feel good about ourselves again and stop putting ourselves down.
Expressing gratitude, either privately or vocally to other people boosts our feel good hormones even just doing this on a small scale like saying thanks to the shop keeper makes us feel good but when we go deeper and embrace the power of gratitude by making it a regular practice, is when the magic starts to happen.
Gratitude helps us to understand our emotions, learn how to deal with them in a healthy way and not allow then to take over, which in sobriety is a huge deal. When we’re suddenly faced with all these emotions that we got used to masking with alcohol, it is really hard to know what to do about them. (see my blog post)
Practicing gratitude regularly creates a subtle mindset shift so that negativity is not our default setting. The more we practice gratitude, the stronger we make our neural pathways and strengthen our gratitude neurons, making it easier to practice and see gratitude in more situations.
Gratitude also helps us to deal effectively with the struggles and challenges in our life which is often the reason we turned to alcohol in the first place. It can get uncomfortable but it is a process and maintaining the healthy habit of brining gratitude in our lives strengthens us even more, it is a learning process, a healing process , which stops us falling back into bad habits or slipping into negativity.
How can we find things to be grateful about when having a bad day or struggling?
It is important to try and look for something to be grateful for every day and there will be something, often many things, even when things are not going well. In fact it is on these days when we should make finding gratitude a priority. We should focus on the little things, find joy in the everyday moments that we would usually take for granted and celebrate every success.
The gratitude we feel when writing our journal can be transferred to other areas of our life. Being grateful for our sobriety and all that it brings can help us find confidence and motivation in other things we do whether that be our personal relationships, our working life or family life.
When we’re grateful for our own personal qualities, what we’re good at, how we handled a situation or how got through a challenge, increases our confidence and makes us stronger. So, even f you’ve had a terrible day, the fact that you still didn’t drink is a huge thing to be grateful for and that strength and power is down to you.
How to begin a practice of gratitude
Start by writing down three things that we’re grateful for every day and make this a regular habit.
Karl recommends doing this in the evening as this will consolidate your day and keep strengthening your neurons as you sleep. Also making time for yourself to sit in quiet reflection, even just for a few minutes helps you relax and find peace. This is a great way to end your day, even if you feel it’s been a bad one. This in turn makes it easier to fall into a restful sleep and this positivity will be carried over to the next day.
Learn how to find gratitude in the little things. If you’ve had a bad day try to focus on good parts which I know can be tough when we’re struggling but things like being grateful for our morning coffee or the warm bath we had before bed, helps turn our focus away from whatever might have gone wrong or at least give us that space we need to understand all sides of the situation and work through it.
Gratitude gives us a choice, we can either stay stuck in past bad habits, behaviours that don’t serve us and keep a negative outlook or we can choose to shift our perspective, to bring gratitude into our lives and to find joy, even in times of distress.
If you’d like to learn more about the power of gratitude in sobriety with Karl then join us in the Sober Bliss Program where there is a whole lesson dedicated to gratitude. You will learn how to embrace this concept, make it a part of your sober toolkit and you will see why it has such a huge impact on your emotional sobriety and your success in this journey.
If you’d like to work with Karl directly, he is running a Gratitude Master Class on August 31st at 11am Eastern time and you can get a special discount on the class by following this link and entering the code:
Karl also has a free 30 day gratitude challenge starting on September 1st and you can find all the details here. I’ll be there and it would be great to see you too.
Bring even more gratitude into your life with Karl Staib