This morning, I woke up just as I do most mornings.
I poured a cup of strong coffee and walked out onto the porch. The rain was clip clopping down on the pavement, and the sounds of distant trucks and cars colored the soundscape.
It was the dawn of a new day and I looked to the sky and I said, “Thank you.”
My mind immediately jumped to the ones I loved the most. My beautiful little children, my friends, my coach, and my mentors. I pictured each one of their faces in my mind clearly and, once again, I said, “Thank you.”
There are definitely people who do not understand the level of gratitude that I possess just for being alive, and I have even lost some friends over it. I sometimes get the feeling that they perceive me as the do-gooder Pollyanna who is always looking at the bright side, but I do not fault them for this. Unless a person has experienced the horrors of substance addiction firsthand, I am not sure they could be capable of understanding it fully.
Each time it has happened, I’ve silently laughed to myself, “It’s not my fault you’ve never had a drug problem.”
Unless a person has been rushed by ambulance to a medical center an hour away because their local hospital did not have the facilities to save their life, I am not sure they could truly feel the beauty of what I see on this porch every morning. The chipmunks, the squirrels, the awkward and clumsy groundhog trying unsuccessfully to get underneath the house.
Unless a person has felt that sinking feeling, that nauseating fear of not knowing how they are going to feed their addiction, where they are going to get the money—and even if they could get the money, where they’re going to get what they need—unless this is how you have awakened year after year after year, it might be difficult to understand what it really feels like.
And I am sorry for them. I am sorry for the ones who post those defeated memes on Facebook that go on about how people will always screw you over or the ones who post those blogs that complain about the injustices they feel in the dating world, in the working world, and in their own sad, little worlds.
I am certainly not minimizing whatever it is they are going through, I am just pointing out that much of what people go through is based primarily on perception.
And unless you have come out of anesthesia alive, knowing full well that the surgeon wasn’t sure if you were going to, it’s difficult to imagine what that might be like. Unless a doctor has visited you in the recovery room to tell you that you will likely not get another chance like the one you just had, it’s not easy to comprehend how someone can be so positive all the time.
So, I do not fault the one or two people who have walked away from me and my annoying gratitude. I don’t allow myself to feel bad about it, though.
It’s not my fault that they’ve never had a drug problem.
But if you’ve never had the good fortune of a near death experience or hitting bottom with a substance abuse problem, there is hope for you anyway.
If you can find five minutes a day to keep a gratitude journal, science has proven that you can increase your overall happiness by as much as 10 percent. That increase in well-being is exactly the same as doubling your income.
What happens to us psychologically when we keep a gratitude journal is pretty amazing. We trigger a set of responses that make us grateful and keep us, on some level, looking for other things throughout the day to be thankful for. It puts us in what researchers describe as a positive feedback loop—and starting one is a lot easier than you think.
Get yourself a journal. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a $8 hardcover one with pictures of butterflies on the cover from Amazon. Most of my journals are kept in marble composition books that can be gotten at most dollar stores.
The next step is to wake up in the morning and list all of the things you are grateful for. If you’re having trouble thinking of things, I can help you get started. Even if your life is in a complete shambles, you most likely can begin with:
1. I woke up this morning.
2. I am presently not on fire.
3. I have food to eat.
You will find that the longer you keep this up, the more things you will be adding to the list. The reason for this is because it is a verifiable fact that the more gratitude you feel, the better your life becomes—in a tangible and quantifiable way. You will attract more friends and better situations into your life.
Of course, I am kidding when I say, “It’s not my fault that you’ve never had a drug problem.” I would never suggest that you go out and obtain one, much in the way I would never suggest attempting to have a near death experience. Obviously, you can feel a profound sense of gratitude without having gone through this hell.
The main thing is that you, at the very least, try. There is no set of circumstances and no material gain that will affect you in the way a daily gratitude journal will. It is the psychological equivalent of eating a healthy diet. And, in the long run, even better for you.