Gratitude & Your Sobriety
Back in the 1970s, singer-songwriter Mac Davis was a big deal. Among his biggest hits was a song called “Stop and Smell the Roses.”
In the chorus, Davis sings:
You got to stop and smell the roses
You’ve got to count your many blessings every day
You’re gonna find your way to heaven is a rough and rocky road
If you don’t stop and smell the roses along the way
We think that is sound advice for everyone—and particularly for those in recovery from a substance use disorder.
Let’s focus on that second line about counting your blessings every day. We’ll be even more specific than Mr. Davis by suggesting that you should count three blessings every day. Doing so will support your overall mental well-being and help you maintain your sobriety even when times are tough.
Three Is A Magic…er, Scientific Number
Here’s another song from the 1970s that turns out to be relevant. “Three is a Magic Number” was the very first Schoolhouse Rock educational short to air during Saturday morning cartoons. For our purposes here, we suggest replacing “magic” with “scientific,” as in: three is a scientific number. It’s a little harder to sing, but when it comes to practicing this approach to gratitude, it turns out to be a more accurate description.
The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, calls this approach to counting your blessings “Three Good Things.”
The idea is simple: Each evening, take a little time to write down three things that went well or made you happy during the day. They can be big or small things; the important thing is to remind yourself of those moments that brought you a bit of joy during the day. Spending a little time fleshing out the details of the moment and how they made you feel can be a helpful part of the exercise.
Why is this useful? The Greater Good Science Center explains it like this:
By giving you the space to focus on the positive, this practice teaches you to notice, remember, and savor the better things in life. It may prompt you to pay closer attention to positive events down the road and engage in them more fully—both in the moment and later on, when you can reminisce and share these experiences with others. Reflecting on the cause of the event may help attune you to the deeper sources of goodness in your life, fostering a mindset of gratitude.
There is research to back this up, suggesting that a regular practice of stopping to reflect on the good in our lives really can lead to a greater sense of happiness. In turn, that happiness and gratitude can support your mental health and sobriety.
Making the Process Easy
You may be thinking that this reflecting and writing sounds like a fair amount of work. You might be wondering if the benefits are significant enough to justify putting pen to paper on a daily basis.
Fair enough. Indulge us as we turn to one more hit from the 1970s. When it comes to recording your gratitude on a daily basis, you should “Take It Easy” like the Eagles suggested. The song tells the story of a fella with plenty on his mind who nevertheless suggests we all need to take it easy on ourselves.
In keeping with that philosophy, think of the Three Good Things approach not as a task that must be completed but as a moment of respite in your busy life. And make it work for you. If a few quick notes jotted in a notebook is a comfortable place to start, don’t worry too much about capturing every last detail. Or you might keep a document on your computer or tablet that you can add to whenever you are reminded of something for which you are grateful. Or you might find an app designed to make it easy to record three things each day.
Again, you can take on this little gratitude project while still taking it easy.
When You Need Help, You’ve Got a Friend
At Wooded Glen Recovery Center, we are committed to helping people reclaim their sobriety and their lives. If you are struggling with a substance use disorder, you may feel lonely and isolated, but compassionate, personalized care is available—as the 1970s megahit has it—winter, spring, summer, or fall. Wooded Glen Recovery Center offers medically supervised detoxification, a robust rehabilitation program personalized to your needs, mental health services, and a continuum of care that provides support during the early days of your recovery journey. We are grateful for the opportunity to help.