Gratitude in the Present Moment


Learning to be thankful for the good and the bad that made you who you are today.

This Saturday is World Gratitude Day. It's a day, not unlike Thanksgiving, to remember what you are thankful for in your life. It is important for many reasons to honor the people and events that shaped your life—good and bad. Gratitude is important to mental health because oftentimes when a person struggles with problems such as depression, anxiety or even addiction, the focus of the person becomes so self-centered that recognizing the contributions of others who love us becomes difficult. Gratitude is especially important in relationships, as it reminds us of the reasons we invited people into our lives in the first place.

When we feel depressed, we often find ourselves living in the past. We think about negative things people say to us or about us. We think about negative events and believe that we are hopeless to change.

When we feel anxious, we find ourselves living in the future. We are constantly in fear of what the future might bring. What-if's play over and over in our minds, and we find ourselves exhausted by the possibilities.

With addiction, we find ourselves in a tug-of-war with the past and the future. We use substances to try to fend off the unwanted thoughts of the past and the consequences of the future. 

In relationships, there is sometimes this drive to "reach the next level—as if being in a relationship is like playing a video game. We look forward to the engagement, the wedding, starting a family, creating a business and so on. We focus on dividing up the household chores and how to decorate the living room. We put our energy into building careers and houses and genius children.

But gratitude forces us to focus on the present. It forces us to look at where we are now and how we got here. It reminds us that there are people who helped us and people who loved us. It reminds us of the good in the world and the good in ourselves. Gratitude also reminds us to thank the people or events that harmed us. The pain people or events may have brought to our lives is something to celebrate, because without the struggle we would not know joy. We would not have gained necessary skills. We wouldn't know all our partner's flaws and vulnerabilities, which is where the good stuff truly is. We wouldn't realize just how much the other person has trusted us with and how much we gave up of ourselves.

For those of you struggling with mental health or an addiction problem, or even a rough patch with your partner, embrace your pain as well as each other. Be thanksful for the lessons it taught you, and then let it go. Allow yourself to let the suffering go and offer your deepest gratitude to all that has made you the person, or the couple, you are today.

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This article was originally published at Forward Recovery . Reprinted with permission from the author.