Practice Perspective

Throughout my time in recovery, I have heard fellow recovering alcoholics talk about their daily gratitude list as an essential tool in their recovery tool kit. In my early years of sobriety, I would say to myself, “That’s nice for you, but that sounds too simple for me. After all, I’m so smart and so special; how could something as mundane as a gratitude list have any meaningful impact on me?"

Several years ago I found myself in a particularly difficult time in my career as an attorney. Despite many years of sobriety, I was becoming more easily agitated at work and at home. Each day brought about new frustrations; people, places, and things were getting to me in a way they hadn’t in a long time. My friends and loved ones noticed and began voicing concerns.

That year I was fortunate enough to attend the annual LAP conference where I enjoyed many helpful seminars and the opportunity to deepen friendships with some of my fellow lawyers in recovery. At some point during the retreat, I heard one of my fellow attendees talk about their daily gratitude list ritual. This time, however, I was open to the idea and asked the speaker how they actually do their gratitude list practice. He described a very simple exercise of taking a minute in the morning—before leaving for work—to write down three things he is grateful for in his life. He must have seen the look of doubt in my face, because he offered the following explanation: “It is the physical act of writing these three things down that carries the gratitude from my head to my heart.”

With that little nudge, I committed to trying this practice for a month. Because I am not a morning person and am typically racing out the door, I found that I could write my list after I parked my car at the office. (After all, sitting in the car for an extra minute wasn’t going to make me late for work.) The results were almost immediately evident. I felt myself become less tense and reactive as the days went by, and within a few weeks I realized how much it helped me to start my day with a present awareness—intellectually and emotionally—of things that were going well in my life. And by paying just a little attention to these things, I became more aware of them throughout the day. As the challenging people, places, and things invariably cropped up during the day, I didn’t feel so beaten down by life that I wanted to push back in anger or run away. I could see the situations for what they were and handle them with a little more grace (and walk away with fewer regrets).

I have continued with the daily gratitude list ever since. It is a wonderful and simple practice which continues to make a difference in my life, at work and at home. I encourage you to give it a try!

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